Saturday, November 15, 2014

Great Volunteer Opportunities

As we get closer to the holidays, you may be looking for volunteer opportunities. Two great volunteer opportunities are becoming a SHINE volunteer or becoming an IRS tax volunteer. SHINE stands for "Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Elders", a program of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, where volunteers are committed to helping others make informed choices regarding Medicare insurance benefits. 

What is it like being a SHINE volunteer? Here is the story of a SHINE Volunteer Couple, Bill and Marianne Ferrari: 

Marianne Ferrari writes:

"How do two retired executives spend their time after full careers?  After 27 and 23 years, respectively, we decided to take early retirement.   Bill retired several months prior to me and noticed an ad in the local newspaper for SHINE volunteers. Bill completed the comprehensive training requirements and started to counsel individuals regarding Medicare enrollment and health plan choices.  

As I was still working at the time, I couldn't help but notice Bill's passion about this SHINE program. I chuckled to myself because during our careers we had this ongoing rivalry since I was a Human Resources professional and he was an Operations professional. Needless to say, at times we had different perspectives!    Needless to say, several months later when I retired, I knew which organization I wanted to support—SHINE. 

I thought it was right down my alley since my work expertise was employee benefits.  While my work background is most helpful, I was surprised by how much I didn't know.  I immediately recognized the significant amount of technical and community resource information that one needs to understand to add value. I loved the challenge!  Life-long learning was one of my retirement goals and this service was certainly going to fulfill this objective. 

Since Bill and I are both volunteers, we will sometimes discuss challenges and help each other with creative solutions.  We do this in very general terms so as not to divulge confidentiality of cases.  Our health insurance system is complex and many of our clients are low income and in need of financial and other assistance programs.  

At times it takes teamwork to identify opportunities to provide the appropriate assistance.  It also requires patience, compassion, and a relentless quest to resolve issues.  Finally, SHINE has given back to me much more than I ever expected.  I learned that my job will always be important to me and will always be a source of self- identity.  But I've learned to define "job" as more than labor for dollars.  My job is helping seniors with their healthcare needs. The feeling of contribution and learning is much more fulfilling than any job I've ever held."

For Pasco County residents, there is an upcoming three-day program for individuals interested in volunteering with the SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) Program. The training will begin on December 9, 2014 and will be held at Rasmussen College on State Rd 54 in Pasco County.  Transportation costs are reimbursed and meals are furnished.  Visit for an online application.  Contact Sue Samson @ 727/570-9696 x234.

There are two volunteer tax assistant programs: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helps people who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, and it specializes in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

You can find out more about becoming a tax assistant volunteer here. Below is a video about becoming a volunteer income tax assistant:

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