WINONA LAKE – The Grace College School of Business prepares for its twelfth year of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The program provides free tax preparation to elderly, disabled and lower-income individuals filing a basic tax return.
This year, to prioritize safety, it will be conducted “curbside” in the lower level parking lot of the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center, 610 Wooster Road., Winona Lake, from Jan. 29 through the end of March.
“Due to the pandemic, we were faced with a decision: Do we conduct VITA this year or not? As we weighed the options, we recognized that many individuals that rely on Grace to assist in their tax preparation — it’s just too important not to provide,” said Dr. Al Grossnickle, associate professor of business and director of the William P. Gordon Institute of Enterprise Development at Grace College.
“However, we want everyone involved to feel safe, so we determined that having a curbside service was the best decision for our community,” he said.
Since 2010, the Institute and United Way of Kosciusko County have sponsored the IRS-endorsed VITA program in our county. The program has brought more than $2.6 million in refunds to Kosciusko County residents since its inception.
Volunteers, including Grace College business students and professors and certified public accountants, make the service possible in Kosciusko County.
Each student enrolled in the Grace College Federal Income Tax class is required to volunteer with VITA for 20 hours, but all business students are able to earn applied learning credits through volunteering. This year, Alissa Jagger and Anna Steely have stepped up to think through a COVID-safe delivery.
Jagger, a second-year VITA volunteer and student leader, explained how the process differs from past years. “Participants will never step foot in the MOCC this year,” she said. “A Grace student will come to the car, receive all of the necessary documents, and take them inside to the tax preparers. While the taxes are being done, participants can wait in their car or run errands while their taxes are being completed,” she explained.
Steely, also a second-year VITA volunteer and student leader, expressed why this opportunity has been beneficial. “I appreciate the opportunity to gain real-life, hands-on business skills and to help people in the community. It’s wonderful to be able to provide tangible assistance to members of the community who can benefit from our help,” she said.
VITA appointments can be made via phone at (574) 372-5100, ext. 5160, or email at [email protected]. Appointments are available on Mondays and Fridays from 12 – 4:15 p.m., Wednesdays from 1-4:45 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.