On a recent weekday morning at the Blair Senior Services building, Ken Graham of Altoona is a volunteer in demand.
"I don't know what to do with all of this," Rose Gerwert of Altoona told Graham as she sat down at his table. She gave him an earnings statement from J.C. Penney's, where she works part-time, along with pension distribution reports and bank statements.
In about a half hour, Graham took information from the documents and entered it into a laptop, creating Gerwert's annual tax return, ready for e-filing.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Volunteer income tax preparer Ken Graham works with Rose Gerwert of Altoona on her tax return at Blair Senior Services.
His fee? The smile on her face.
"I do this for the thanks and gratitude of the people," Graham said.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program recruits volunteers annually to help older, low-income individuals and military families prepare tax returns.
It's a popular program, and Graham is one of many volunteers helping senior citizens with tax returns at this time of the year, Blair Senior Services Volunteer Coordinator Sheryl Nolan said. Graham, in his sixth year as VITA volunteer, also answers questions from fellow volunteers about tax returns they're handling.
"He's skilled and he has experience," Nolan said. "That's what makes him good."
Graham, 64, retired in 2003 as a math teacher at the former Keith Junior High School. He took Jackson-Hewitt's income tax preparation course and worked three years as a paid tax preparer for Harvest Group Tax Service.
"I've done mine and my relatives' tax returns for 30-plus years, so it was something I've always had a little interest in," he said.
His dedication also helps the senior citizens save money.
"For most of the ones who come here, they'd probably pay about $100 to $200 elsewhere," Graham said.
Gerwert said she checked into the VITA program last year because of the escalating cost of having her income tax return prepared.
"I came here for the first time last year, and I was very satisfied," Gerwert said. "That's why I'm back."
Graham said that's one of the reasons he volunteers.
"It's the satisfaction of helping people," he said. "A lot of people have no understanding of the tax rules, so I try to help them as best I can."
When he's not handling tax returns, Graham said he and his wife, Carol, enjoy traveling.
After tax season is over, they want to make a trip to the West.
He said they've gone on cruises to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
When asked for hobbies, he named camping, square dancing, tennis, bowling, hunting and fishing.
"You need to keep active," Graham said.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.