Mission Moment — The Tax Man

 Dr. Schwarz — “Hooked on LUM”

schwarz_lee_2010The LUM Tax Assistance Program’s success is due to the quality and passion of our volunteers. One such volunteer is Dr. Leroy “Lee” Schwarz, who is the Louis A. Weil, Jr., Professor of Management, Krannert School of Management, Purdue University. Three years ago, Lee was listening to a local public radio interview when the LUM coordinator for the Tax Assistance Program described the many volunteer opportunities during tax season. He decided that very day to answer the call.

“I was looking for a meaningful way to use my expertise and talents to serve the community,” Professor Schwarz said.

Once Lee met with the LUM coordinator, he realized this was “serious business”. Each volunteer tax preparer must pass one or more tests in order to become certified by the IRS. He was given a thick (2.5 inches) packet and went to work. Lee thinks the IRS certification exams are “tough and tricky” in parts; but he became certified and started working with clients exactly three years ago. He was impressed with how professional and organized the service is. “I was inspired by veteran volunteers like Ann Pelletier and Andrea Schmidt,” Professor Schwarz said.

“I went into this program thinking that I wanted to ‘give’ but wound up getting back so much more than the little bit I gave.”

There were several things Lee learned about the community, LUM, tax preparation, and himself during this process. Some of those are as follows:

  • LUM offers a unique service because of how this program complements other LUM programs like the Good Samaritan Program, Case Management, and the Emergency Shelter
  • LUM volunteers become experts in the specific IRS tax credit allowances that only apply to low income like the “Earned Income Credit”
  • LUM tax volunteers give their clients personal one-on-one counseling and spend as much time as needed to complete the tax return
  • Most individuals and families who use the LUM tax assistance program need their tax return money for necessities like rent, food, work clothes, and car payments and not luxuries
  • Lastly, he realized that the LUM tax assistance program is not providing for luxuries but rather is providing basic sustenance

Lee particularly enjoys being a LUM tax volunteer because of the joy and fulfillment it gives him.

“The LUM tax assistance team is serious about the work, but we have fun too.”

He also enjoys celebrating with his colleagues when they are able to assist a client in getting a large tax return.

Professor Schwarz stated “I love that we have so much fun and good cheer.”

He has many great stories and memories and has discovered he gets back so much satisfaction from this work and has met many good people in the past three years.

Lee has also become slightly “hooked” on LUM in general. In addition to volunteering an average of 15 hours per week during tax season, he is a trained substitute bus driver for the LUM After School Program and a Good Samaritan case advocate once a week, year round. Professor Schwarz also volunteers in the community teaching English and math and promoting literacy.

The LUM Tax Assistance Program is powered by highly skilled and expertly-trained volunteers. Lee’s story is just one of dozens (40+) volunteers who serve each year during tax season. The LUM Tax Assistance Program begins next week and continues through mid-April. We are sincerely grateful for the volunteers and coordinators of this valuable and successful program.

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