Associates Jackie Dupon and John Dussman concede that they are not accountants by profession.
John works in sales with the newspaper industry, while Jackie made her career as a physical therapist before retiring.
“But I was a math major before I switched to physical therapy,” Jackie quips. “Years ago, my father did this (offered free tax preparations for seniors). I figured I should follow in the family footsteps.”
Both associates became certified by the IRS as tax preparers and for the second straight year served as volunteers with VITA, or the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, at a clinic they set up at St. Viator Parish in Chicago.
The program offers free tax help to people who need it, especially persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers, who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. Volunteers like Jackie and John provide free, basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.
Last year, volunteers at St. Viator helped 35 parishioners, while this year they helped 52 individuals file their taxes. The group also included Lorenzo Segura, Colleen Connolly, Ellen Ryske, Lou Puhl, while Associate Ivy Vera helped with scheduling appointments and Associate Enrique Valdovinos translated for the Spanish speaking parishioners.
“It took a leap of faith to get it started,” John says. “First, Fr. (Patrick) Render (pastor) believed in us and then we were able to get a (social justice) grant from the Viatorians to buy computer equipment.”
The tax preparers arrived every Saturday morning, from the beginning of February through April 14, to help parishioners file their taxes.
“We do their taxes whether they are documented citizens or not,” John adds. “As long as they have their individual tax payer identification member (issued by the IRS), we’re there to help.”
John credits Br. Michael Gosch, CSV, with giving him the idea to offer this service to the immigrant community. Br. Gosch serves as the Coordinator of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation for the Viatorian Community, and all of his efforts — whether for immigrants, working against human trafficking or in fighting hunger — are geared toward the Viatorian charism, of “embracing those accounted of little importance.”