April 27, 2017 / Helping others boosts confidence of VU Jasper graduate
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JASPER, Ind. - Amber MacPhee, West Baden Springs, is glad she volunteered to help people complete their taxes. In addition to feeling good about helping others, it boosted her confidence in her career goal of accounting.
MacPhee will graduate from Vincennes University Jasper on May 6 with an associate degree in Accounting. She already holds a VU Business Management degree. This spring she volunteered for the campus Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that offers free tax help to people who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide the basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.
“The first day on the site at the Habig Center was less terrifying than I thought it would be. Actually, it wasn’t terrifying at all. The site coordinator was friendly and helpful. Every volunteer was respectful of all the other volunteers as well as the clients. We all helped each other and worked very well as a team. The volunteers who had been there for a few years were very encouraging to the new volunteers, who are mostly students. The friendly, encouraging environment made it easy to enjoy the experience,” MacPhee said.
She assisted in filing 39 tax returns with the most challenging one involving a dual-state situation. The majority of the clients served were retired but a few clients were college students or young adults.
She was one of six students enrolled in the class, Accounting 295-Income Tax Preparation, who volunteered to be part of VITA. Associate Professor Rosalie Hartwick praised the work they did. “As a group they volunteered a total of 165 hours in the community at different IRS tax sites. I met with the students after the tax season and they were so happy with their experience. In the beginning, all of these students were very nervous at the thought of filing actual tax returns. But to see their smiling faces makes my job so fulfilling,” Hartwick said.
MacPhee said most clients were happy and thankful for the services provided by the students. “In fact, one gentleman returned the next day with a cake that read: THANK YOU. I greeted everyone with a smile and asked them about their plans for the day. One lady opened up to me about putting her father in a retirement home because of Alzheimer’s. It was easy for me to relate to her because we had to do the same for my grandfather recently. Many clients talked about their kids, grandkids, and pets,” MacPhee said.
The person who impressed her the most was a retired military veteran who was knowledgeable about income tax preparation because he did accounting for his squadron. MacPhee enrolled in college with the assistance of the GI Bill.
“The biggest challenge to overcome was my own self-confidence. Confidence comes with experience and experience comes with experience. The overall experience of helping file taxes for the lower income and elderly had an uplifting effect. I’m looking forward to the possibility of volunteering again next year,” MacPhee said.
Volunteering comes naturally to MacPhee who serves as a den leader for the local Cub Scout pack, teaches Sunday School for preschool and elementary children, and delivers meals in Orange County to those in need.
“The VITA experience is an excellent way for VUJ students to contribute to the community. If students see what a big difference only one person can make, it should encourage them to seek out other volunteer opportunities in the future. VITA is a great program for the IRS to sponsor and for VUJ to support,” MacPhee said.
When she receives her VUJ associate degree on May 6, MacPhee is confident in her future, thanks in part to valuable experience gained helping others through being a volunteer in VUJ’s VITA program. And the many people she helped wish her all the best.