Elon University Human Service Studies Internship
This past semester, I have spent my Human Service Studies internship working with April Durr, the Director of Community Impact. Working with her has shown me the level of compassion and patience you must have in order to work in this field. Before my placement, I had a very basic level of knowledge about United Way, mostly understanding it was a nonprofit. After my first initial meeting, April asked if I would be happy working with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, known as VITA, with Kellee Hawley, the Community Outreach Coordinator. As someone who had never even looked at my own taxes, this was a bit frightening to me, but I happily agreed and was ready to learn something new. I completed assessments through the IRS to certify me to work with clients, and the majority of the semester I helped with the intake tax process. Although I was not one to actually help clients file, I was able to see the tremendous impact that this service provided. I worked mostly on the back end when I was not assisting clients with intake, ensuring that we could schedule more appointments. Hearing from them what a huge help the service is was so heartwarming. One particular client, talking through tears, told me that our program having an additional location helped prevent her from walking over a mile to the closest bus stop to her house plus the additional walk from the downtown bus station to our location. At the end of the tax season, we had serviced 221 tax returns from 2018, just at our downtown location, which equaled $201,679 back in their pockets.
In addition to helping with the VITA program, I also helped plan other projects such as Stamp Out Hunger, the new StoryWalk addition in Mebane, and helped with the grant season. I went from knowing almost nothing about United Way to being able to do some of their most important work. I have not only gained a newfound respect for this organization but also understand the importance of giving through United Way. The monies donated are always helping address the root causes of issues rather than putting a band-aid over it. They also hold the agencies they fund accountable for the projects being funded and hear many success stories from them thanks to the funding they received. As my internship comes to a close, it’s truly the end of a chapter of my life because I am also graduating in several weeks. Although I may be done working with United Way, for now, I know that they will continue to receive my support in any community I am in because I have seen the amazing direct change and impact that this organization has.