We have a site that sits in a rural county that has many citizens that qualify for VITA services. However, we have not had many volunteers step up to help. Three people can only do so much--and if you look at the numbers below, you will see that there are more families that would benefit by expanding the program... so where to get volunteers?
My position at The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee Counties is to engage volunteers, and more specifically, get youth engaged in volunteering. So I was trying to think of volunteer opportunities the high school students in LaBelle could do. Our state scholarship, Bright Futures, and many more require volunteer hours. Hmm. Then it hit me, why not get the high school students to do VITA. Duh! It wa a no brainer--take what I am most passionate about and share it with the youth--WOOHOOO!!!
Step 1--find someone at the high school who will get on board with this program. It took a few emails and asking around, but I finally connected with the Economics teacher at LaBelle High--and he seems super psyched to bring this program to his school. We have a meeting scheduled for this Thursday (8/15) Fingers crossed!!!
Update from meeting: Well, the meeting went well in that the teacher is really all for the program and thinks its a great idea; however, he is a new teacher (only in his second semester) and is teaching 3 classes he just feels a little overwhelmed and can't take on an afternoon club. And I totally understand that having been a teacher myself.
Great News though, during the meeting I remembered there was a teacher I had worked with in the past that had transferred to LaBelle High--I can't believe I had forgotten that until I was sitting there. My friend had already left for the day, so through FAcebook Messenger, I contacted her and told her my idea--which she loved, of course. She shared it with her principal, he loves it. So we have to get together and meet. I will update after that meeting. Fingers crossed!
Met with principal--we are a GO!
We will spend October recruiting and start in November, that gives me 8-9 days to train before Winter Break, and 3-4 days to get them through the certification process with extra practice.
My plan for the high school students is to start an after-school club where we meet once a week for mini-lessons and then do a tax return. I figure if I get them into the software right off the bat, I will have them hooked. (it is better than just book work and listening--hands on learning). For example: one day we can talk about types of income like W2's, Social Security, Interest & Dividends---what they are and how to read the forms--then we do a simple tax return with these documents. The next time we can go over retirement income and maybe stocks and bonds, etc.
Once they have a few returns under their belt we can talk about dependents and Child Tax Credits, Credits for Other Dependents, Day Car, etc.... That is the plan anyways.
I would like them to do a service project by the end of the first semester--something for the community.
About the town of LaBelle from bestplaces.net 8/12/2019
-LaBelle has an unemployment rate of 6.0%. The US average is 3.9%.Tax Rates for LaBelle
- The Sales Tax Rate for LaBelle is 7.0%. The US average is 7.3%.
Income and Salaries for LaBelle
- The average income of a LaBelle resident is $15,525 a year. The US average is $28,555 a year.
- The Median household income of a LaBelle resident is $34,315 a year. The US average is $53,482 a year.
Income By Population: approximately 64% of the families make under $66K per year, our VITA income limit
Population: approximately 4,716
While our United Way covers Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties, we have not had a VITA site in Okeechobee yet. Part of the problem being its 2.5 hours away from our offices in Lee County, Florida. To have a site there we need to find volunteers and a site.
For the 2019 tax filing season I had put some VITA volunteer recruitment Facebook posts out in the Okeechobee area seeing if anyone was interested. We had 3 but they backed out--we hadn't secured a site, and it was my first year with United Way so I was trying to do a lot of other things and let it drop.
Not this year though. I emailed a few people asking for ideas then I was told there was a college in Okeechobee, Indian River State College. It took a while to finally connect with someone there, but guess what, we have a VITA site slated for the Spring of 2020. Now all I have to do is get volunteers and drive there and train them (I need a transporter built ASAP!!)
So, needless to say, I am super psyched about this. We have 4 people signed up already and we haven't even actively begun recruiting--its going to be a great year with VITA Okeechobee!!
About the town of Okeechobee from bestplaces.net 8/12/2019
Okeechobee has an unemployment rate of 3.6%. The US average is 3.9%.
Okeechobee has seen the job market decrease by -2.6% over the last year. Future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 40.4%, which is higher than the US average of 33.5%.
Income and Salaries for Okeechobee
- The average income of a Okeechobee resident is $17,667 a year. The US average is $28,555 a year.
- The Median household income of a Okeechobee resident is $38,438 a year. The US average is $53,482 a year.
Income By Population: approximately 70% of the families make under $66K per year, our VITA income limit
Population: approximately 5,596
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: I, Mary Meador, AM NOT a certified accountant or tax law expert. I volunteer with VITA providing free tax preparation for individuals and families whose income is less than $66,000 a year. We deal with simple returns at our sites. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of all the information on this site as tax laws change and I may not have a clear understanding of complicated issues. I am trying to provide basic tax preparation information for our volunteers to get started--remember Publication 4012 is your go-to resource for questions, as well as irs.gov and Publication 17.