Local senior volunteer Bilbrey helps file 1,000-plus tax returns
By CATHY MacKAY
Special to The Gazette
Michael Bilbrey heard the call to volunteer when he pledged a service-oriented fraternity in college, which led to volunteering as a consistent part of his life.
In April 2008, Bilbrey joined the Portage County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). He has logged 1,399 hours volunteering as the AARP Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program coordinator and as a tax preparer at Lincoln Center.
Prior to and during tax season, he answers questions and coordinates the recruitment and training of the volunteer tax counselors.
Bilbrey said there are two parts of the volunteer tax program that stand out to him.
“First, we have a great group of volunteers. When people think about volunteering to prepare tax returns their first reaction is probably ‘ugh.’ However, if you ask any of our volunteers why they keep coming back year after year, they will tell you it is very fulfilling and fun,” he said.
“Second, the people we meet while preparing returns make it all worthwhile. There is such a great need for tax assistance for the low income and elderly, that at tax season our volunteers will prepare more than 1,000 returns,” he said. “With those 1,000-plus returns come more than a thousand elderly and low-income folks who are absolutely wonderful to meet and get to know.
“There is a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the looks of relief when they know that we will not only prepare their return but also handle everything associated with it including the electronic filing of the return. With those returns come more than a thousand thank-yous from the folks we serve,” he said.
Bilbrey taught junior high, high school and college level classes for the first 11 years of his career.
In 1982, Bilbrey and his wife Sara moved to Portage County when he took a job with Sentry Insurance, where he held various positions until he retired. They raised two sons and have seven grandchildren.
Outside of RSVP, Michael serves as volunteer director and treasurer of the Sentry Credit Union and is involved with the Stevens Point YMCA Foundation as chair of their investment committee.
He jokes that babysitting his grandchildren and dog sitting for relatives could also be considered volunteer work.
When asked what he tells others about volunteering, he said, “It seems like a no brainer to share some of your time and talent helping people or organizations in need of assistance. It doesn’t matter if you have an hour or a day, there will always be a need for RSVP volunteers in a wide variety of areas.”
RSVP is a volunteer program offered for Portage County residents who are 55 years old and older through the Aging & Disability Resource Center. Call 715-346-1401 or 866-920-2525 for more information about the AARP VITA/TCE tax program or to sign up for RSVP.
Editor’s note: Cathy MacKay is an RSVP assistant.