Volunteerism is simply freely applying your skills for the betterment of the community. For Bill Wulff, his skill of crunching numbers is helping seniors complete taxes.
For years Wulff has been volunteering his time to do tax returns for seniors and low-income people in the community. Prior to 2010, when he retired from his position as manager of finance and information systems at the Town of Drumheller, he would do a few simple tax returns for those in need. After his retirement, Family and Community Supports Services (FCSS) set up a program where he could dedicate more time to it.
Before that, he would take the returns home and then come back with them completed. Now leading up to tax time, Wulff sets up in the library on Mondays and seniors can make an appointment to have their taxes done.
“It became a lot bigger enterprise after that,” he chuckles. “This made it much easier for me to do it at the library.”
Often these are simple returns that he is able to complete quickly, as many seniors are not earning income, therefore are not paying taxes.
“The reason that a senior or a low-income person has to get their tax return done is to apply for benefits. If you don’t file your taxes, you don’t get your guaranteed income support supplements, your GST rebate or the Alberta government subsidies,” Wulff explains.
While leading up to April 30 is his busy time, he finds he is working on them almost year round.
“If you don’t file by the end of April, your subsidies are cut off at the end of July, so my next big rush is at the end of June,” he said.
His inspiration to help seniors and low-income residents comes from his desire to make sure they get a fair shake.
when he started you had to file manually on paper where he would charge $20. Now a tax return only takes about 15 minutes using computers.
For a short time, they had signed up with a federal volunteer program, however, it was restrictive to seniors who earned a small amount of income. Tax returns could only be filed under the program in March and April. Because of this, they have opted to do their own program.
On top of the returns he does at the library, he also takes appointments at Sunshine Lodge and the manors. Annually he completes about 400 tax returns.
Beyond tax returns, he also volunteers to do audits for local nonprofits, serves on nonprofit boards, volunteers for the MS Walk, and of course, his work at Canada Day lighting up the sky with fireworks.
He finds value in volunteerism.
“It’s something I enjoy doing. I don’t want to sit at home and get addicted to CNN,” he laughs.
“It’s giving back to the community, but it is also the sense of accomplishment of helping someone at no cost. It keeps you young, it keeps you active, it keeps your brain turned on.”