An Ariva Tax Preparation Volunteer Feature
“There’s so much to gain. Everyone is impacted in a positive way, including you. Whether it is personal growth, learning something new, or encountering stimulating challenges. You’ll be transformed. And most importantly, you’ll serve someone truly in need, witness the direct impact, and recognize how valuable it is to engage in this kind of work.” — Carmen Paulino, Ariva Tax Prep Volunteer
Our volunteer team is made of passionate, caring individuals committed to giving back to their community through the tangible action of tax preparation. Many of them learn how to do taxes for the first time through our volunteer training program—and many others volunteer with us for years. We are proud to spotlight a longtime volunteer who has demonstrated selflessness and a desire to love and serve other New Yorkers.
Meet Carmen Paulino, Senior Paralegal, Weill Cornell Medicine
Giving back has always been a passion for Carmen. Growing up in a Dominican household, she learned the importance of community and helping others at a young age. Her volunteer journey began at New York Cares, where she felt committed to bringing about social justice- a right she believes belongs to everyone. She also followed her interest in local politics and currently serves on her community board in Washington Heights.
“I’ve always loved serving. My parents are from the Dominican Republic, and we rely on community,” says Carmen. “I grew up helping out the people in my community and supporting one another.”
Outside of her volunteerism, Carmen works as a paralegal and is pursuing her law degree. Her job entails a lot of research and writing and “nothing to do with numbers.” So, when she came across Ariva, Carmen was intrigued to learn a new skill while making a practical difference for families through a safe and caring tax experience.
“I’m not a numbers person…I’m not an accountant. All it takes is some compassion and a little time to study. You also need to be willing to ask questions. The volunteer community is very helpful, and the refund process includes many quality controls,” she shares.
The beauty of our volunteer program is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to participate. We offer all volunteers free IRS-certified training to get them ready for free tax prep NYC season. All you need is courage, curiosity, interest, and that desire to help someone in need. Not to mention that when you join Ariva, you’re not alone in learning about tax preparation. Someone is always there to check your work, and there are resources available to help you while you understand tax codes, forms, etc.
“The staff at Ariva is very knowledgeable. And there are other volunteers that you can rely on. The pressure isn’t all on you,” Carmen explains.
Carmen vividly remembers her first volunteer shift at our Spring Bank location in the South Bronx. A block from the train, she saw a line of people wrapped around the bank branch in the middle of brisk February. It wasn’t until she saw the line of people waiting to get free tax help NYC, that she realized the demand firsthand and knew why she needed to do this.
“Some people can’t afford [to file taxes]. There are high fees to file online or with a tax preparer. Many folks in our community wait in the cold to get the minimum $63 refund. There’s also often a language barrier,” she says.
And Carmen’s right. The internet has barriers that make it difficult for people to get what they are entitled to. Whether it’s the lack of know-how to navigate the internet or a language barrier, Ariva’s tax preparation volunteers can also assist our clients with technology, and many speak Spanish, like Carmen.
For Carmen, seeing customers get emotional from receiving funds puts things into perspective. Doing in-person free tax filing NYC makes a big difference in our community.
“The clients we serve are profoundly grateful. The immediate, tangible impact is right before your eyes. You see the people you are impacting every year,” she says.
We’re grateful to have Carmen on our team and for her compassion and dedication to serving her community. If you are interested in becoming a part of our team and supporting our mission to bring economic justice to hard-working New Yorkers, sign up today!