Over the course of 2021, we will feature 100 Heroes who have been instrumental in our fight for the basic needs, education and financial stability of our neighbors for the past century. To learn more about how we are continuing to serve the Bluegrass in 2021, click here.
To celebrate National Volunteer Week (April 18 - 24), we want to say thank you to the amazing people who have contributed so much to our community through volunteering. Today we are interviewing Doug Michael, who is a CKEEP site coordinator at the University of Kentucky, and has been involved with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program since the 1980s. To learn about CKEEP and to see if you are eligible for free tax preparation, click here!
What is your role with UWBG?
I’ve helped run the volunteer tax clinic at the University of Kentucky law school since I’ve been here. After UWBG began working on the CKEEP project, they enlisted my help at one of the existing tax clinics. We’ve been working together since the CKEEP project began to provide free tax services to low-income taxpayers. We’ve been one of the main sites for the CKEEP program. UWBG was able to take what we were doing and bring that model to multiple sites across the region. United Way has been a huge help and support - they’ve provided equipment, training, moral support, an appointment contact location, and we also run appointments through their 211 Contact Center.
What did this role include? What would a normal day look like for you?
During tax season, our site is open during weekday afternoons and Saturdays. Part of my role is to coordinate everything and make sure the site is ready to open. But the big part of my role is overseeing the student volunteers, which is easy since they’re all very good. The wonderful part is being able to see them use their tax knowledge to help an actual human being across the table get the money that they really need. I also do the offseason work that invariably comes up after April, when people have questions about their returns.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
All the people I’ve worked with at United Way are just fantastic. They will turn any adversity into an opportunity. Theirs is a different job that could be overwhelming, but everyone I’ve seen work there has an incredible dedication to doing what they need to help people. There’s never been an attitude of, “We can’t do this”. It’s always been, “We’ll see about this” or “What kind of resources do you need?” You couldn’t ask for a better community partner.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
This program has been running for 25 years, and we’ve gotten millions of dollars in refunds to people who would otherwise not know how to get their returns. We meet with the folks, fill out the returns, and run them through the tax system, but then United Way holds up the last mile by actually getting the money into the hands of the taxpayers. This program was set up because people realized that there were millions of dollars being left on the table by taxpayers who either didn’t know they were entitled to it, thought it was too complicated, or couldn't afford to pay tax preparers. That’s where United Way stepped in to fill the void.
UWBG has also gone the extra mile by providing financial education and empowerment. They have programs to help people set up bank accounts and help them with financial planning to get them on the path to financial independence. From the 25 years that I’ve seen, UWBG has made such a real impact on our community.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
We have a lake house at Herrington Lake, which is one of my favorite places to go.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
Taxes! But for recreation, I like to ride my bicycle. The Bluegrass territory is full of rolling hills and five minutes out of Lexington, you’re riding alongside horse farms. I like to get out there every chance I get.
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, __! We appreciate you and all that you do.
Do you know someone who has worked alongside United Way of the Bluegrass in the past century who should be considered for our 100 Heroes series? Please email us at email@example.com to share your nomination!