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Volunteers make income taxes add up

Tech. Sgt. Mark Lasala gets tax advice from volunteer Carl Giuffre April 15. Twenty-two volunteers provided more than 1,700 hours for the Patrick Air Force Base Tax Aid Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Calkins)

Tech. Sgt. Mark Lasala gets tax advice from volunteer Carl Giuffre April 15. Twenty-two volunteers provided more than 1,700 hours for the Patrick Air Force Base Tax Aid Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Calkins)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Tech Sgt. Mark Lasala doesn't really consider himself much of a "last-minute" kind of guy. That's why he found himself over at the Shark Center Tuesday afternoon - April 15 for those keeping score without a calendar - getting his 2007 federal income tax return completed.

Doing that work for Sergeant Lasala - free of charge by the way - was Carl Giuffre - one of the 22 volunteer tax preparers who work for the Patrick Air Force Base Tax Aid Center.
"No. I'm not really comfortable doing things that need to be done at the last minute... that's why I was there literally hours before the midnight deadline," joked the 114th Range Operations Airman.

"But seriously, I know I am not alone in thanking these knowledgeable folks who volunteer their time to help other Airmen like me. I really appreciate everyone who made this program happen," Sergeant Lasala said.

He wasn't alone in his thanks.

According to Don Winterich, the PAFB Tax Center coordinator, he and his staff of 22 volunteers processed more than 800 returns and donated more than 1,700 volunteer hours.

And like so many other volunteers who make a difference, Mr. Winterich said the payback he and others like him get is simple.

"I think the greatest satisfaction we all get is that look, and feel, of appreciation our clients get when we are finished. I think they are grateful we did a good job for them, and grateful they didn't have to pay money out of their pockets for an outside preparer," he said.

Helen Dezendorf, the AARP Tax Aid Program Director for Brevard County, has been working in the tax return business for a long time, having retired from a well-known tax return-based company.

But it's not her knowledge of the tax codes that drive her to offer her time and experience. It's something more personal.

"This is just a way for us to give back to those who are fighting for us, said Ms. Dezendorf, who is the daughter of Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Russ Flynn, who passed away years ago. "I was raised to believe it's a requirement to give back, and that's just what all of us are doing. It's an honor to serve."

Col. Stephen Butler, 45th Space Wing vice commander and Col. Mark Bontrager, 45th Mission Sup-port Group commander, walked through the Tax Aid Center Wednesday afternoon and took the time to personally shake hands, thank and present every volunteer with a letter of appreciation.

Mr. Ed Roscoe was presented with a certificate representing his more than 3,000 hours of volunteer service.

"This is a real stressful time of the year for many of us; thanks for helping relieve the tax anxiety for our people," Colonel Butler told the volunteers. "We are very lucky to have all of you on our team," he said.