The Laurens County Advertiser is taking a look at volunteerism, its value to the community and the people who freely give their time and efforts throughout Laurens County.
Laurens County, S.C. – For many years now the United Way of Laurens County has offered free tax return services to residents of Laurens County. While the pandemic has changed the system – no longer are volunteers and clients sitting across from each other – the program has continued to grow, and volunteers completed more than 500 tax returns last year at no cost to the filers.
Mary Carter, the Volunteer Coordinator with the United Way of Laurens County’s Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, had found a capable sitter for her younger children and was heading to her post Tuesday morning as a VITA Volunteer.
“There are at least 20 volunteers who are helping this year with the VITA program,” said Carter. “Some of them are Presbyterian College students in accounting and other areas and this gives them good practice, and others are people who just want to help their community.”
The VITA program is designed so that anyone with household income less than $60,000 can go to one of three locations and drop off their documents with volunteers who have been through IRS training and certified for either basic or advanced tax preparation. The volunteers commit to either 10 or 20 hours a week of volunteer hours, preferably through the entire tax season, Carter said.
By calling 2-1-1, county residents will get appointments to drop off their documentation at either United Ministries in Clinton, SC Empowerment Center’s Laurens location at Bridgeway Drive or SC Empowerment Center’s Gray Court location at Pleasant View School.
A volunteer prepares the tax forms and then assists when the client returns to sign and file them.
It’s a task that some volunteers are surprised they can accomplish, and that included Carter at one time.
A Clinton resident, Carter, a mom of six, worked with the VITA program as a volunteer for several years, then returned this year as Volunteer Coordinator.
“This has been really good for me,” Carter said. “I never thought it is something I’d enjoy and didn’t consider myself a numbers kind of person.”
The IRS certification process made her realize the task is not as daunting as she thought it would be, and she enjoys knowing she’s helping others.
Returns just opened Feb. 1, and they have already been busy.
“It seems to be growing every year,” Carter said.
To schedule an appointment to determine eligibility for VITA tax service, call 2-1-1, and to find out more about becoming a VITA or United Way volunteer, call 864-833-3623.
Story first published on page 1 of the Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022 issue of The Laurens County Advertiser.