Time Well Spent

When retirement came calling, a whole new world of volunteerism opened up.

When Ron Kobrenski called it a career last year he suddenly had a surplus of something that had been in short supply for so long: time. The life-long Methuen resident and former software engineer was suddenly on the hunt for ways to fill his days. His investigation led him to United Way and volunteer tax preparation.

“Every tax form to me is like a little problem to solve,” he said. “You take your knowledge and come out with a solution–a correctly completed tax return and, hopefully, a refund.”

Still, there was some trepidation at first.  The U.S. tax code isn’t exactly Candlyand. Hundreds of pages of tax law serve as an imposing barrier for DIYers and, on a greater scale, tax preparers.

“It can be very overwhelming,” Ron says. “This was something I had never done before. But the people at the trainings were great. They make you feel at ease.”

United Way, in partnership with Bank of America, funds free tax preparation services and deploying tax prep volunteers throughout its Financial Stability Center network, which includes Lawrence CommunityWorks, one of Ron’s locations.  The tax prep and budget coaching resources already at the centers, together, make for a formidable bundle of services. The goals: results that can be tracked, individuals who are supported year after year and, ultimately, financial security.

“I’m so proud of them,” he said. “These are folks who are out there working, earning money. Some don’t know about things like the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Credits. There are a lot of good people out there and I was happy to help them.”

So happy, in fact, that the nights he would return from either Lawrence CommunityWorks or the Greater Lawrence Community Council where he served, gushing to his wife about the day’s adventures–a far cry from the early days of skittishness and skepticism.

“It’s been such a rewarding opportunity,” he says.  “I get to meet people at the agencies and people coming in for taxes. And best of all, you don’t have to be genius to do this. I’m not the smartest person in in the world, but with the training and software, just about anyone can do this.”