Paying it Forward: AARP volunteer coordinates tax program

It’s been 20 years since Art Jones retired from a 39-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the Reno resident hasn’t slowed down much since then.

“I’ve always volunteered since I left the USDA-with the local museums, Civitan, and at my church,” he said.

Jones, 78, said one of his favorite places to volunteer is aboard the W.P. Snyder sternwheeler at the Ohio River Museum.

“There’s so much boat and river history to share,” he said. “And I’ve met people from foreign countries as well as from every state in the U.S.”

In 1999 Jones journeyed aboard the W.P. Snyder as the boat was towed to Cincinnati for the Tall Stacks festival.

“We had 13,500 people who toured the boat over a period of six days,” he said. “That was in October and it was cold. I developed a lot of respect for anyone who works on the river.”

In more recent years, from February through mid-April, Jones can often be found at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Gilman Avenue where he and about 22 others from the local Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP) provide free income tax preparation assistance for area residents.

Jones is the current district coordinator for the Tax Aide program, sponsored by AARP.

“He’s very good at it. He gets the training classes done and files the tax program paperwork with me every year,” said Lisa Valentine, RSVP director at the O’Neill Center in Marietta.

She said the entire Tax Aide team does an excellent job.

“Their commitment is just amazing, and they really love it,” said Valentine.

Jones has been volunteering with the tax assistance program for more than 12 years. He became involved after visiting an AARP Tax Aide booth at the Washington County Fair.

“I’d thought about doing taxes because I had helped farmers with their taxes during my time at the USDA with what was then the Farmers Home Administration program,” he said. “The AARP representative asked if I wanted to help, so I volunteered.”

Jones said tax preparation has come a long way since then.

“We were still doing paper taxes by hand at that time,” he said, noting that the Tax Aid volunteers file the vast majority of the income tax returns by computer now.

Last year the Marietta Tax Aide group filed 570 federal and state returns, plus a few paper forms, Jones said.

He coordinates the program for a district that includes four Ohio counties: Washington, Athens, Meigs and Morgan.

“I really enjoy doing the taxes-we all do,” said Jones. “We’re often asked why we volunteer to do this, and the answer is that there are so many people out there who are afraid to do their own taxes and can’t afford to have someone prepare taxes, so we do it for them.”

Valentine said Jones and his wife, Judy, do a lot of volunteering throughout the community.

“They also work with the companionship outreach program at their church, visiting people in nursing homes, those who are sick, and other shut-ins,” she said.