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Courtesy of Lavender Photography The group of 81 volunteers with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, an outreach of United Way of the River Cities, prepared more than 3,500 tax returns in 2016 free of charge for area residents.

HUNTINGTON - With the tax season safely behind them, the 81 free tax preparation volunteers with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program can relax.

The volunteers, part of the United Way of the River Cities'-led VITA coalition, helped more than 3,500 people and families prepare and file their state and federal taxes this year, free of charge. The volunteer group is the largest in the history of the United Way initiative.

"We have a father-and-son team, a mother-and-daughter team, several husband-and-wife teams, retired professionals, students and people who volunteer after a long day at work. It is an amazing and dedicated group," Ed Davis, director of the Financial Stability Partnership, an initiative of United Way, said in a news release.

Partnerships make

the program work

United Way of the River Cities couldn't make this type of community impact alone. Goodwill Industries of KYOWVA Area, Southwestern Community Action Council, Mountwest Community and Technical College, Beta Alpha Psi Kappa Phi Chapter at Marshall University, Huntington WV Housing Authority, Partners for the Course (a Catholic Charities of WV program), Friends of the Cabell County Public Library, OhioMeansJobs and Ohio University Southern are partners in the program. Together, they saved local residents more than $700,000 in filing fees, according to the news release.

VITA volunteers come

for a variety of reasons

One might not be surprised to learn that a retired CPA, or an accounting student would volunteer to help people with their taxes, but not every volunteer has a financial background. Terry Brumfield did not expect a workplace injury to change his life in the way that it did. The need for light duty work landed Brumfield, a truck driver by trade, at United Way.

"The moment I met Terry I knew that I could teach him to be a tax preparer," Rachel Houston, site coordinator for the Cabell County Library sites and assistant director of the Financial Stability Partnership, said in the release. "He was curious and asked questions, two skills that you need to do taxes."

"I really enjoy getting to know different types of people and learning new things, so this was a perfect fit," Brumfield said in the release. Brumfield was the top performing preparer in the entire coalition, completing 165 federal and state returns.

For more information about the Financial Stability Partnership of the River Cities or the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, contact Ed Davis at 304-523-8929, ext. 103, or ed.davis@unitedwayrivercities.org.

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