Vanessa has been a stellar volunteer with us for over two years. Some of her accomplishments include becoming certified as an intermediate Volunteer Income Tax Preparer and piloting a project to build our capacity to help clients connect with local social services. We are truly thankful for all the work Vanessa has done for families in Napa County. She is a fantastic advocate and community builder.
How long have you been a volunteer, and why did you initially choose to volunteer with Cope Family Center?
This is my second year of volunteering. I responded to an advertisement to assist with tax preparation because I like to help people and work with finances.
What keeps you coming back?
I get satisfaction from the work and feel appreciated by staff and clients. I may not be earning a paycheck but I am helping put thousands of dollars in people’s ‘pockets’ that need it and that is tremendously rewarding. Money received by families through Cope’s volunteer tax program helps reduce stress by providing for necessities and also boosts our local economy.
How have you seen your volunteer role evolve during your time here?
This year I achieved intermediate level tax certification so I can prepare more complex returns and provide necessary review of returns our clinic prepares. I’m also helping with a pilot program spear-headed by Michelle Laymon of Cope: I assist clients completing applications for services and programs. Our goal is to free up home visitors to focus on bigger picture goals and activities while volunteers help clients navigate systems, processes, and workflows which are not always easily understood, especially when used once or infrequently – we can help with the learning curve.
Do you have one story you can tell us when you felt you were truly making a difference?
I recently assisted a family with four small children obtain needed funds to move into a safer home. I got goose bumps when I heard the funding was approved and the client teared up. She was worried that her kids would be homeless and was grateful for Cope Family Center’s assistance.
What is one challenge you’ve experienced as a volunteer?
It can be a challenge to stay sharp with tax rules and regulations when you don’t use the information regularly – for example we are preparing back tax returns on an as needed basis currently. However the IRS provides excellent training and materials and we can review charts and flow charts as needed. We discuss more complex scenarios with fellow volunteers, Michelle Laymon, and IRS personnel if needed until there is consensus regarding the correct application of tax law.
What do you enjoy about working with fellow Cope Family Center staff and volunteers?
There is a sense of camaraderie due to common goals. People are caring, intelligent, and possess a sense of humor.
What other work do you do in the community?
I’ve been a crime analyst at Napa Police Department and a computer applications developer and information technology director at Napa Valley College. I am semi-retired now and enjoy technical consulting and providing customer service at Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley in Napa, American Canyon, St. Helena, and Sonoma while regular staff take vacation.
What would you say to recommend Cope to friends and family who may want to volunteer?
Cope is a great place to volunteer. Your skills will be matched to needs and you and your efforts will be appreciated. You can choose how much time and energy you feel comfortable donating. Contact Aimee Inglis today!