Seniors volunteer to ease taxes

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Nancy Myers answered a call for help in the business office during the summer. She shares many hours of time in the Greencastle-Antrim School District.

A number of residents volunteer for the Greencastle-Antrim School District, in part because serving others is a way of life for them, but also to get a rebate on their property taxes. The unique program, Senior Citizen Tax Exchange, has been around for 20 years as a way to help older folks adjust to tax assessments that are directed to funding the educational system.

Jeff Barnes, 66, retired in 2009 from Manitowoc Crane after 45 years in their employ. For two seasons, he has put in 12 hours at Tayamentasachta, the school environmental center, to earn his credits for a rebate. He cleared brush, mowed, trimmed, removed trash, and cut down small trees to restore some tidiness to the property. He had heard about the program years ago, and registered once he was eligible. A person must live in the district, be at least 65 years old and own a home. If someone cannot actually volunteer, other people may give away their extra hours, since there is a limit on the rebate. Many young parents give their hours to the program on behalf of a specific person, or to be put into the pool. In 2011-12 the average return for 244 seniors was $70.53 A formula takes into consideration the value of the person's home. Renters may also receive up to a $50 check.

Barnes put in the minimum number of hours because he is busy with other activities. He has a long history helping out with Boy Scouts, his church, youth baseball and Ruritan.

"I'm on the go eight hours a day," he said. "As long as I'm physically able, any way I can save $50, I will."

He expects to return this fall to assist at Tayamentasachta.

Nancy Myers, 70, worked for the school district for 24 years, most notably as primary school secretary. She was also a waitress at the VFW for 22 years. After retiring five years ago, she immediately signed up for the exchange program. For the nine months of student attendance, she helps three teachers in the classroom over two and a half days every week. One just retired.

"I've already been reserved by another one," she said.

Myers donates her many extra hours.

"It gives some relief to other people. I volunteer because I enjoy it. I miss the kids."

She also gives of her time to the school in the summer, to the Rescue Hose Company, and her church. She sees her service as a two-way street.

"It's a way of giving back and I like being around people."

Marie Eshleman, 74, wishes she could work at Tayamentasachta more than she does, but her outdoor services are called upon in many places. She has not only tended to the flower beds and entrance areas of the school farm the past five years, but for a long time has beautified Greencastle in general. She takes care of the flowers on Center Square, at the post office and at exit 5 entering town. She wants visitors to have a good first impression of Greencastle.

Recently retired from similar part-time work at Penn National, Eshleman also volunteers for the Rescue Hose Company, American Cancer Society, and Lioness Club. But part of her heart is at Tayamentasachta.

"That's the best thing the school has ever done."

Last year volunteers worked 2,374 hours for the school district, with $17,209.56 given in rebates to senior citizens. The time is valued at $7.25 per hour. The money comes out of the general fund.