CA$H Coalition volunteers prepare 1,070 tax returns
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Aroostook CA$H Coalition, sponsored by The County Federal Credit Union and supported by 15 non- and for-profit partners, has completed another successful season of free tax preparation services for Aroostook County residents.
The program has existed as part of VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and CA$H Maine programming for the last seven years and has grown substantially over the last three years under the leadership of United Way of Aroostook.
This season, volunteer preparers helped 1,070 households file their 2018 income taxes — a 33 percent growth over last year’s 807 clients. A total of $1,152,443 was refunded to the clients taking part in the program. One hundred seventy-two working families received nearly $200,000 in the Earned Income Tax Credit, helping some families move towards financial independence.
“It’s encouraging to think that over $1 million has been refunded to low- and middle-income households here in Aroostook County,” said Sherry Locke, United Way of Aroostook executive director and coalition lead. “That is money that will be used to purchase or repair a car for a family to commute to work, purchase food or medicine for a senior, or to help a young family buy a home.”
Locke credited the program’s volunteers for its success. “This program, and the level at which it operated, was only possible because of the incredible team of 50 volunteers who dedicated almost 1,500 hours of their time to provide a high-quality experience to clients,” she said.
The team consisted of volunteer schedulers, greeters, preparers and opportunity guides. Training for these roles began in late November. Schedulers began taking appointments in mid-January, and greeters, preparers and guides began in early February right up until mid-April.
“These men and women who’ve devoted so much of their time and talent, do so in a friendly, highly skilled way. They treat each client in a professional and courteous manner, said Athena Hallowell, United Way program and volunteer coordinator, who served as coalition asset organizer.
“I’m humbled by their willingness to be a part of this valuable program and enjoyed working with them,” Hallowell said.
As part of the program, clients were offered a one-on-one session with guides trained to connect them to local programs and resources which help meet basic needs and strengthen financial stability. The volunteer guides, who all have a background in financial literacy, are employees of The County Federal Credit Union, sponsors of this year’s Aroostook CA$H Coalition.
“On behalf of the credit union management team and board of directors I want to thank all volunteers for stepping up and donating their time” said Dan Bagley, executive vice president of The County Federal Credit Union.
“All the volunteers have embraced the missions of both United Way of Aroostook and the Credit Union and have delivered an exceptional benefit to all the members of our community with this amazing CA$H Coalition program,” he said. “Circulating the dollars from these returns into our local economy has a huge impact on all of us.”
Volunteer tax preparers completed each return, and site coordinators Tim McMahon and Sandra Bartley checked them for accuracy and quality. Bartley has been part of the program since its inception, and McMahon for three years.
“These men and women, most of them retired, really did great work,” said Bartley. “Tim and I could depend on them to show up and work hard at every session we had. They provided an invaluable service to their community. During our very first year, the program filed just over 150 returns. Now they are doing over 1,000. We just can’t put a price tag on that kind of dedication.”
The CA$H Coalition recently honored all its volunteers with a special appreciation dinner at the Sargent Family Community Center in Presque Isle.
To volunteer for this program next year, please contact United Way of Aroostook at (207) 764-5197.