As tax season heats up, Oakdale Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., has partnered with a neighborhood program to provide tax preparation services for people with low incomes. The program uses trained volunteers at various locations throughout the community.

Volunteer Marilee Roukema has been coming to Oakdale Church for five years, helping walk-in clients understand tax information and processing their forms. “I enjoy helping people with their taxes,” said Roukema.

Volunteers come from Oakdale Church as well as from the surrounding community. After taking a 20-hour class, members like Roukema become IRS certified to process work forms and tax credit bearing information. Clients walk into the church and are helped by one of eight daily volunteers manning the desks.

Tom Bulten, executive director of the Oakdale Neighbors Program, also comes to tax preparation sessions, helping clients as they walk in. Bulten Joined Oakdale Neighbors in 2005 and has since been connecting with communities and churches to provide services. Oakdale Neighbors functions as part of the Kent County Tax Coalition under the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

“We complete 10 to 20 tax returns each day,” said Bulten. “Our goal for the year is to complete 250 tax returns generating $300,000 in tax refunds and credits for low-income families and communities.”

Client Gennie Marlink has been coming to Oakdale for a few years for help with her taxes.

“It’s very organized and updated,” she said.

The most alluring part of providing help to people like Marlink is making sure they receive benefits such as the earned income tax credit (EITC). “The EITC is an important way for us to invest and reinvest in urban areas and neighborhoods,” said Bulten.

About the Author

Kristin Schmitt is a college student at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and a member of Immanuel CRC in Hudsonville, Mich.