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Start Your Week with Kindness: Volunteer filers bring relief to tax season (with video)

1:24 AM, Apr. 1, 2013  |  Comments
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Start Your Week with Kindness is a Daily Tribune Media feature that highlights the kind deeds of people in the community.

Len Strigel sits at a computer in a partitioned area of the Lowell Center, his eyes on a stack of papers and his fingers nimbly entering the information into the computer.

Strigel, 70, is one of several volunteers who have been giving their time two days a week as AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers. For the last few months, they have been hard at work, helping senior citizens and low- and moderate-income residents with their tax returns at no charge.

The filing deadline is April 15 - two weeks from today. As of March 25, the volunteers had filed more than 1,100 returns and expected to hit 1,200 before their last session April 10.

That compares with the 329 returns filed in 2004, said Don Drewiske of Wisconsin Rapids, who started volunteering in 2008.

"Each return is checked with a second set of eyes to make sure the numbers are correct," Drewiske said.

The volunteers have provided assistance to Johanna Schoeppl, 73, of Nekoosa for years.

"This is a very well-informed and professional gentleman," Schoeppl said. "I'm very happy he does my taxes every year.

"I've never had a refund, but that's not his fault," she said with a laugh.

The volunteers schedule up to 64 appointments a day. In addition to the 12 tax aides who are certified through training to file the taxes, there are nine client facilitators who help organize paperwork, and five receptionists.

Volunteers have been plentiful in Wisconsin Rapids, but help is needed at other sites, Strigel said.

"We do have a need for some people to volunteer out of the Nekoosa and Rome area," Strigel said. "We're trying to keep the site live."

The program relies on the volunteers.

"I've very proud of the people here," Strigel said. "We have a couple of people that are up in the 20-year range that they've been with our program."

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