Taxaide volunteers help people with their returns

Shawn Hardy
Bill George, local coordinator for the AARP Taxaide program in Greencastle and Waynesboro, helps Donald and Jane Beaver of Ridge Road, Antrim Township, with their taxes Tuesday at the Greencastle Senior Center.

Last year, volunteers in the AARP Taxaide program helped about 3,800 people across Franklin County and secured a total of $3.8 million in tax refunds.

"That's heck of a lot of coming back into the county," said Joe Schellhase of Fayetteville, who was one of the volunteers at the Greencastle Senior Center on Tuesday.

A team of Taxaides will be at the senior center from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday through April 18. (Taxes are due later this year because of the Easter holiday.)

Tax returns are prepared free of charge for anyone, but the mission is "to serve the low to moderate income families with emphasis on the elderly."

Don Malone, a 20-year volunteer, was recruited after retiring from the telephone company and moving to Penn National from Fairfax, Virginia. He and his wife, Pat, now live at Menno Haven and he jokes the time he spends volunteering gives his wife a break ... although he did give her a box of candy before leaving for Greencastle on Valentine's Day.

Turning serious, he said, "I enjoy it. It gives me a chance to give back to my community."

"Helping people has always been my life's work," said Bill George, local coordinator for Greencastle and Waynesboro, who retired in 1999 as president of Waynesboro Hospital and has been with the program for 18 years.

Taxaides see 25 to 30 people weekly at the Greencastle Senior Center. Volunteers also are regularly available at sites in Waynesboro, Chambersburg and McConnellsburg and go on the road to smaller venues like the Tuscarora Senior Center and nursing homes and to visit shut-ins. Visits to shut-ins can be arranged by calling 717-263-5479.

Terry Fink retired from the Tuscarora Senior Center in July and was in Greencastle Tuesday to have her taxes prepared.

"This is such a wonderful service, I can't do my taxes by myself," Fink said. "It's great to have AARP offer this service."

Elsie Cooper of Fayetteville drives a van and transports autistic children to Greencastle schools. Taxaides have prepared her taxes for about 10 years.

"They are really to be commended," said Mike Vaughn of Greencastle, who was at the senior center site with his wife, Diane. "They donate their time and effort."

"In my lifetime, a lot of people did good things for me," said Schellhase, who spent 40 years in banking and has been involved in the program for 15 years. "It's my turn to do things for others."

Schellhase is both a counselor and a checker.

After clients are met and registered by a greeter, a counselor prepares their tax return and a checker "goes over it with a fine-tooth comb" so there are two sets of eyes on every return, Schellhase said. The Taxaides will file the returns electronically or give the client a copy to mail in.

"I got my taxes done for free other years and I asked if they needed help, then went to a class," said Sandy McGowan of Greencastle, who was on her second day as a greeter on Tuesday. "It enjoy it."

All volunteers must pass the test provided by the IRS. Counselors and management also attend classroom and computer training. They can prepare federal, state, local and property tax/rent rebate returns.

Clients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis and should bring their 2016 tax documents (W-2, 1099R, 1099 Int., etc.), 2015 tax return, property tax receipts and Social Security card and a photo ID.

In addition to Greencastle (717-597-2020) the regular schedule includes:

Eugene Clarke Jr. Center, Chambersburg, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 717-263-5479

American Legion Post 46, Chambersburg, Wednesday and Friday, 8 to 11:30 a.m., 717-267-3585

Otterbein Ministry Center, Waynesboro, Thursday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., 717-263-5479