Carmen Paulino Shares Why She Gives Back Year After Year

Every year, over 150 volunteers join us at Ariva to help prepare free tax returns in more than 30 locations across New York City. Since 2003, we have prepared free tax returns for more than 100,000 clients, returning over 100 million dollars in tax refunds to under-served communities.

Volunteering is a great way to give back to your city and your community, especially now. While the COVID-19 has impacted all of us, it is sure to impact our city’s most vulnerable communities, namely low-income communities of color. The economic downturn, combined with the public health crisis, means that the extra-income from tax refunds will be more critical for working families than ever. You can help us provide the necessary support for families in our city by becoming an Ariva Tax Prep Volunteer.

To illustrate the importance of our work, we interviewed Carmen Paulino, one of our Tax Prep Volunteers, who has been with us for five years. Below, she shares some anecdotes and advice about her volunteer experience.

  1. Why did you decide to volunteer with Ariva?

I have always had a desire to help others. I was born and raised in Washington Heights, and I know the challenges that vulnerable communities face. I wanted to serve with an organization and in a place where I felt I could be the most useful. I am a fluent Spanish speaker, and I knew I could support families in the South Bronx. I have seen firsthand how people miss out on the money they are entitled to because they don’t have the resources to get it. With Ariva, I knew I could make a difference.

  1. What motivated you to volunteer with Ariva for the last five years?

The team was a significant deciding factor. I love the people at Ariva. They make you feel like you’re valued. It feels more personal and less like a transaction. But it goes beyond the team. The community we serve is so unique. I am always reminded of how important and impactful our work is. I honestly can’t imagine not volunteering with Ariva again; it’s such an essential part of my life.

  1. What struck you the most when you first started volunteering with Ariva?

I will always remember the first day I started volunteering with Ariva. There were lines around the block, people waiting to get help with their taxes. I saw seniors standing in line for hours to get their taxes done, only to receive $63. This showed me the scale of people’s needs. You are only willing to stand in line for hours if you have to.

Over the years, I have seen clients cry when they get a $1000 refund. To them, it’s everything; it’s life-changing, and it’s a gift to witness their gratitude. For our clients, tax refunds truly are a form of financial relief. The real question is, why wouldn’t you volunteer with Ariva? The work we do is so important.

  1. How challenging is it to file taxes and become a Tax Prep Volunteer?

I don’t work with numbers for a living, but I can still do it. 2014 was the first year I did the VITA training. I was intimidated, but I put my mind to it, and I learned a lot. Not only did I learn how to file taxes, but I also learned how to ask for help. The Ariva team is very supportive. I knew that I could turn to them at any given moment. You’re never alone, and there’s always someone there to help you meet any challenge.

I always keep the IRS Volunteer Handbook with me at all times. No one should ever assume they have to remember everything. The platform does a lot for you, and it’s easy to figure out. And the great thing is, the more taxes you file, the easier it becomes. You’re always learning, and the best part is that these are skills that you can keep forever.

Thank you, Carmen, for your continued commitment to providing financial relief to families across New York City! We can’t do this work without our volunteer community, and we hope you will join us! Become a Tax Prep Volunteer today!