Three years ago, Genece Minshew was looking for a challenging, yet rewarding volunteer opportunity in her Fernandina Beach community. She was retired from a longtime business career and wanted to “use [her] brain,” she said.
Minshew found the perfect opportunity when she attended RealSense tax preparation training and began helping Nassau County low- to moderate-income families and individuals file their tax returns, free of charge.
In fact, she enjoyed it so much that she is now the site coordinator for the county’s RealSense site at the Atlantic Recreation Center.
“Genece showed the leadership and initiative to take over the site coordinator position,” said Don Edlin, who has managed the RealSense program in Nassau County for the past 10 years. “She has brought new ideas and new volunteers to our program.”
RealSense, a coalition of agencies, nonprofits and local businesses, works in partnership to improve the financial stability of Northeast Florida citizens. The Fernandina Beach site is run by volunteers who receive tax preparation training from the IRS and are certified as tax preparers.
“We provide a valuable service that many people have depended on, year after year, particularly the elderly,” Minshew said. “Making an impact in Nassau County, seeing the results as we work with them and knowing we are helping them with their finances is very fulfilling.”
In 2014, Nassau County RealSense volunteers filed more than 700 returns that totaled $831,000 in refunds.
“Every refund dollar we can get for them is money spent back into our community,” Minshew said.
Filing taxes, typically a straightforward, dollars and cents process, can sometimes turn into a heart-wrenching experience, Minshew explained.
“Last year I worked with a woman who told me not to worry if she started crying,” Minshew said. “She was a single mother who depended on every dollar she earned and was refunded. So, when I noticed an error on her previous year’s return and told her she’d get back $300 on the amended return, she burst into tears. Then I started crying!”
There is no question Minshew found the challenging yet rewarding volunteer opportunity she was seeking.
“Giving back to my community has been very fulfilling, especially when I see how our volunteers are making such a big difference in the lives of people who truly need the help,” she said.