Submitted by FCSS
Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) salutes and thanks volunteers in the communities the organization serves.
At FCSS, volunteers assist with many programs including Meals on Wheels on a weekly basis year-round, a program called ‘Roots of Empathy’ where a mom and her baby join students to discuss the growth and development of babies, as well as intergenerational programs such as Between Friends.
Former FCSS Volunteer and current staff member Renee White, adds that being a volunteer comes down to feeling that connection to your community. “You tend to care more about what’s happening in your community when you feel connected. It really does help with your own social health by meeting the people.”
“As a volunteer, it gives you a sense of well-being that you’re helping somebody else out and purpose,” White added.
An important volunteer program this time of year for FCSS is the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) where trained volunteers offer free tax return assistance with tax returns to individuals, families, and seniors with modest income and simple tax situations, who meet income criteria.
Cindy Lauwen, FCSS volunteer services co-ordinator said, tax clinics are usually held in-person. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, income tax services are still being offered remotely.
“Either over the phone or by e-mail. People can call my number and we take all of their information over the phone and then file their taxes that way. Our volunteers also have access to auto-fill my return. With consent from the client, it automatically populates all the information the Canada Revenue Service (CRA) would have on file for that client at the time of filing. It makes it really easy for the volunteers and it makes it really easy for the client,” Lauwen explained. Lauwen’s number is 403-915-7063.
According to Lauwen, the tax return service can assist individuals, families, or seniors who meet the income threshold, which is $30,000 for one person.
“Anyone who meets that income criteria, we can assist. We just can’t assist people who have self-employment income, rental income, declared bankruptcy, or people who are deceased in that tax year. We can file a couple’s taxes, but if a partner passed away we couldn’t do their taxes,” noted Lauwen. “Just simple returns.”
Lauwen added FCSS offers the tax return service year-round. “Right now, we have three volunteers who are assisting with taxes. And the federal government has extended the tax deadline to June 1. But, we file taxes whenever people bring them to us.” This is the fourth year FCSS has offered the tax return service.
Clients utilizing the service, Lauwen said, are very thankful and happy with the assistance to file their taxes. “They’re grateful the service is free of charge, because some people can’t afford even the $100 for a simple tax return somewhere else. They need that $100 for groceries, rent, or whatever it might be. They’re very grateful for the volunteer service.”
Volunteers are very excited to help out anyone who needs help and tax return service volunteers undergo a lot of training.
“There’s about 12 hours of webinars they watch every year, because every year the tax information changes. Plus the registration and security clearance they go through is time consuming. Kudos to them for going through all of that, jumping through all the hoops, and taking on this – because it is a big undertaking to get all the training and have all the clearance to be a community income tax volunteer,” said Lauwen.