March 26, 2015
The local United Way Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is on track to serve even more people than last year, according to volunteer and program coordinator Julia Hollandsworth.
Even though the April 15 filing deadline still is more than two weeks away, the lobby of the VITA walk-in site at 4 Liberty St. in Martinsville was packed with people on a recent Wednesday.
Last year, Hollandsworth said, the program — which has been in place in Martinsville and Henry County since 2007 — served 1,877 people. As of last week, she said, VITA volunteers had done more than 900 tax returns, and their goal is to exceed 2,000 before tax season ends.
“We want to help low-income families, senior citizens and students have affordable tax service,” she said. “It’s very expensive, sometimes, to go get your taxes prepared for you. ... We help anyone who has made less than $53,000 file their taxes for free to save them a little money and bring that money back to the area, which also helps our local economy."
The program is saving area residents quite a bit of cash, Hollandsworth said. Based on last year’s returns, VITA saved area residents about $800,000 in tax preparation fees, and more than $2 million in federal and state refunds were brought back to Martinsville and Henry County.
“I know we’ve already brought over $1 million in federal and state refunds back to the area thus far, and we’re only halfway (through tax season),” she said.
People have been so thankful for the service that it has inspired many who have used VITA to come back and volunteer themselves, Hollandsworth said. One of those volunteers, Nell Stolpe, used the service in the past, and now she works as a greeter at the walk-in site.
“She has been one of our best greeters since the time she came in,” Hollandsworth said. “A good number of our volunteers started off getting their taxes done here. ... It’s a wonderful camaraderie. We have people tell us they’re going to use (the money they saved) to pay off bills, they’re going to use the money to better their lives through education or transportation. ... I think the spirit of what we do transfers just as much as the financial gain that they receive.”
Some of the volunteer tax preparers have years of training, she said, but if someone doesn’t have much tax preparation experience, they still can volunteer. VITA works directly with the IRS, which provides training materials and tax certification to volunteers. Others, like Stolpe, can work as greeters or in other capacities.
United Way has several tax preparation sites in the area, Hollandsworth said, but the 4 Liberty St. location is the only first-come, first-served walk-in location. It is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The hours at the walk-in site have been expanded since last year to accommodate people who work until 5 p.m., Hollandsworth added.
To schedule an appointment at one of the other sites, call 403-5976. To volunteer, call the number and ask for Hollandsworth.
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