By Sara Quimby, Staff Writer

Former program volunteer Andrew Altmaier (Photo Courtesy of The United Way)

Former program volunteer Andrew Altmaier (Photo Courtesy of The United Way)

The Western Maine CA$H Coalition offers numerous opportunities for UMF students including free tax preparation as well as volunteer positions involving applicable work experience and free trainings.

Eleni Margaronis is the volunteer center coordinator at the United Way and she shed a great amount of light on the program. “The CA$H Coalition program is open to anyone with a family income under $52,500,” said Margaronis. “The program is open to everyone, even if you’re a dependent.” Not only do those involved in the program get their taxes done for free, information is also provided on tax credits that people may not have known about, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. The program as a whole leads to greater knowledge about how to find and utilize resources and programs in the Farmington area. In addition, financial guidance is offered including information on debt, retirement, education costs, credit, scholarships, and much more.

Margaronis made clear that all students are welcome to participate in the program, and added with excitement that students could potentially find volunteering for this program just as beneficial. “It’s a great work experience opportunity,” Margaronis said. The CA$H Coalition is looking for volunteers in tax prep, which includes free trainings on how to prepare taxes. The free training led a past student volunteer to secure a job with a social security office after his time with the program. Volunteering as an opportunity guide is another option. According to Margaronis, this position would be especially beneficial to social work and rehab majors.

Keli McLellan is a senior Rehabilitation Services major who is volunteering through this program as an opportunity guide. Through this volunteer position McLellan hopes to achieve more experience relating to people skills and professional development. Describing her position, McLellan said, “My position entails looking over intake forms with participants and informing them about available educational and financial opportunities.” She feels the networking aspect of this position will be especially beneficial when looking ahead to future career connections.

When considering her own career path McLellan said, “Eventually I want to be a social worker and this really lays the stepping stones for a case management position where you help people.” McLellan feels she will continue to gain valuable work experience while simultaneously helping people in the community. She encourages students to participate in the program for the free tax preparation as well as the scholarship opportunities. “There is scholarship money out there that students don’t know about and aren’t applying for,” said McLellan. Considering the volunteer aspect McLellan added that the program could always use more volunteers and pointed out that it would be especially beneficial for those students interested in human service occupations.

The purpose of this program is to benefit those in the area.“The whole program idea is to bring more money back into the community,” Margaronis said. Margaronis, the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, CA$H Maine, Women, Work & Community, and the IRS are in collaboration on this program, which aims to get as much money back for those participating as possible. Volunteer Income Tax Assistant (VITA) and the John T. Gorman Foundation fund the program.

For those interested in volunteering, Margaronis said, “The program is still in need of a lot of volunteers to make it better than last year.”

Students interested in this program can visit the Roberts Learning Center Thursdays 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m. and Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. through March 22, 2015. Tax prep appointments can be made through calling (207) 778-7954, and students interested in volunteering are encouraged by Margaronis to call (207) 778-5048.