Marcy Gouge loves helping people. In fact, Marcy, the Assistant National Director for AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, also finds herself volunteering for the program throughout Maryland and DC. But this past year, she decided to take her volunteer work "on the road" while vacationing in Hawaii.
As a tourist, it is easy to only see the "bling" of the high-cost resorts, but just a few blocks from Marcy's hotel on Waikiki Beach, was a Community Center for low-income workers. There, she served with local Tax-Aide volunteers who provide tax-preparation services for these "unseen" resort workers-the cooks, maids and shuttle drivers. Many of the local volunteers are retirees who spend all or a portion of their year in Hawaii, but who still give their time and energy to helping others. They come to the center to do taxes a couple days per week during the tax season.
For five days, Marcy volunteered at sites around Hawaii, assisting older people who live on less than $10,000 per year. "Many of the people who came to the site were over age 80. There were people speaking Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Spanish, Samoan and Hawaiian - it was a real melting pot of America," said Marcy. For them it was a miracle to get their return done for free, and to get benefits of $85 to $150 which are offered only to Hawaii residents (but only if they file their return). One woman commented that the year prior, she paid $200 to a paid preparer to get a $257 refund-she was surprised and thrilled to learn that Tax-Aide could provide the service to her for free.
The experience, was very gratifying, said Marcy. "I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and weather of Hawaii, while at the same time meet the locals, understand the culture and also feel like I had done something important." Since returning, Marcy is encouraging her friends and fellow colleagues to consider becoming a Tax-Aide volunteer. "You will have a great opportunity to use your skills and education to help others in a way that makes their lives better."
To learn more about the Tax-Aide program and how to get involved in your community for the 2013 tax season, click HERE.
Featured photo credit by: grantzprice