Ten years ago after teaching middle school mathematics for thirty years, I retired from the education system and began searching for activities to occupy my “free time”. I was already highly involved in church activities locally and regionally and had participated in several volunteer mission trips to Russia, Alaska, Mississippi and West Virginia projects.
Within weeks after retirement, a close friend and employee of MountainHeart – Summersville told me about the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program offered by their office. Knowing that I had spent my career working with numbers and computers, she asked if I might be willing to volunteer. Then within days I was training and began assisting tax-payers in the 2008 tax season.
Throughout the ten years that I have volunteered I have been blessed with the relationships with the staff at MountainHeart and the hundreds of taxpayers that I have been able to help with their tax returns. From the teenager who had their first paying job to the elderly that only want to claim their senior citizen tax credit from the state. From the single mother working two jobs to support her three children to the widower still grieving for his lost wife. From the struggling couple, both unemployed due to lay offs to the bubbling newlyweds and their newborn baby boy. These are just some of the folks that came into my life during the past ten tax seasons.
Each year as I look through the list of appointments made by our clients, I fondly remember times I have spent with them in the past talking about their lives, their children, their illnesses, their loses and their joys. I leave each day of my volunteering blessed by these people and knowing that I have helped them in maybe only a small way, but they have made me feel so essential to their lives. Often we greet each other as if we have been life-long friends. I have laughed with them, cried with them, listened with concern and advised within my knowledge.
The VITA program has been received in the Summersville area with great enthusiasm. Yet, because of the limited number of working hours and limited number of volunteers, we have not been able to serve all of the taxpayers that could use our assistance. We can only hope that others might come forward and volunteer for the next tax season so that we can expand our free service to more residents of the area. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.
Karen K. Grafton