Ivy Tech tax prep program helped clients get 1.2 million in refunds

This year’s Ivy Tech tax prep program helped clients get $1.2 million in refunds

By Mike Leonard 331-4368 | mleonard@heraldt.com
March 11, 2012

In what might be another indicator of a recovering economy, Ivy Tech tax preparers saw a dramatic turn-around this year in clients saving money instead of draining savings accounts.

And that makes Ivy Tech accounting professor Roy Elkes happy for a number of reasons, including enabling him to tell those clients about a little-known IRS deduction that rewards low-income savers with a tax credit that in many cases will put additional refund dollars in their pockets.

“I had one client, married, filing jointly, with $26,000 in annual income,” Elkes said. “She also contributed $1,200 to her 401(k), so that meant she got a credit on her taxes of $600.”

Ivy Tech Bloomington is one of several area participants in an Internal Revenue Service program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA. Volunteers prepare tax returns for low-income individuals and families for free, and clients frequently leave their appointments extremely happy and for more reasons than just saving on their tax preparation cost.

Elkes said Ivy Tech volunteers served 700 clients before they ended this year’s program last week. They produced a whopping $1.2 million in refunds for those clients. “And that’s just in federal taxes,” Elkes said. “It’s such a worthwhile program. We’re seeing a lot of refunds in the $3,000-$4,000 range.”

The program operates not only with the blessing, but the assistance of the IRS. “Our relationship with the IRS is so congenial. They’ll do anything to help us provide the service. They get more compliance,” Elkes said.

Due to the publicity generated from a United Way grant and word-of-mouth, Ivy Tech saw its number of clients swell from about 350 three years ago to 700 this year. Other provider agencies have seen increases for the program designed to help people with $50,000 or less in annual household income.

At Ivy Tech, the program is rolled into an income tax course set up to be a service-learning class. Students who take the class have to learn about tax law and procedures and pass an IRS exam before they can serve clients. Their work, in turn, is double-checked by Elkes and fellow accounting department professors Steve Englert and James Smith.

“What’s great for the students is they learn the soft skills as well — interviewing, looking at documents, doing research. It also helps that all three of us who supervise the program are CPAs, so there is rarely a question that we don’t know the answer to or can find out fairly quickly,” Elkes said.

Help still available

Ivy Tech and the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University ended their VITA programs prior to spring break, which runs through this week.

According to the IRS website, area VITA programs that will continue this tax season include those at the South Central Community Action Program (until April 14); Ellettsville Public Library (until April 14); Bedford Public Library (until March 24); Owen County Public Library (until April 14); and Mitchell Public Library (until Thursday).

Phillip Hawking, an Ivy Tech student, helps Gerald and Carolina Keith file income taxes.
Roy Elkes | Ivy Tech

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012

Groups, schools, individuals coordinating help for Indiana tornado victims

Groups, schools, individuals coordinating help for Indiana tornado victims

Many ways available for residents to donate goods to those in need

By Dann Denny
331-4350 | ddenny@heraldt.com
March 9, 2012

Bloomington resident William Pless delivered a truckload of locally donated items — toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. — Wednesday to Henryville, the southern Indiana town hit hardest by last week’s tornadoes.

“Our family pooled together to donate items, and our neighbor Jim LeSeure made sure there was plenty of gas to go back and forth,” said Beth Pless, William’s wife. “I come from a large family, and my parents taught us that if someone is in need and we can help, it is the right thing to do.”

William Pless dropped the items off at the Henryville Christian Church, then began moving totes of items from a relief center to the church. He plans on returning to Bloomington in a few days, collecting more donated items and taking them back to Henryville.

People can donate items at the Buzy Beez Daycare at 716 Anna Lee Lane. Beth Pless said no clothing is needed, but can openers are. “People have donated a lot of canned goods, but not everyone has a can opener that isn’t electric,” she said.

Ivy Tech

The Alpha Rho Sigma Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington is receiving donations for tornado victims each day, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. People can bring items to donation boxes at various locations. Items needed include toiletries, diapers, formula, non-perishable food items, batteries, flashlights and can openers.

The drop-off sites are the main campus, 200 Daniels Way, room A223; Liberty Drive at 1907 S. Liberty Drive, Room L137; Liberty Crossing at 2088 S. Liberty Drive, main reception desk; Indiana Center for the Life Sciences at 501 North Profile Parkway, main reception desk; and Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, 122 S. Walnut St.

Phi Theta Kappa is an international honor society that recognizes and encourages scholarship among two-year college students.

Jackson Creek school

The public is invited to donate items at a collection site at Jackson Creek Middle School between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. that will be delivered today to the areas in southern Indiana hit hardest by the swath of tornadoes. The items most needed are blankets, bed sheets, new pillows, toiletries, coats, tools, flashlights, batteries, work gloves and tarps. School officials say items such as food, water and clothing other than coats and gloves can be donated to other organizations, but not to the school’s collection site.

Register to volunteer

The state’s official Volunteer Reception Center reports that so far 1,752 people have registered to volunteer to help people in the tornado-damaged areas of southern Indiana, and 800 have assisted in the affected areas. Individuals and groups are asked not to show up unless requested. Volunteers will still be needed for weeks, or even months, to come.

The Indiana Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster has a registration call-in number and a website for those who want to help. Volunteers will be called in as needed, based on skills listed, to assist in specific areas. Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age. Register by calling 502-599-8593 or online at www.metrounitedway.org.

Official donation site

The official donation site, operated 9 a.m.-7 p.m. by the Adventist Community Services, is now at the old U.S. Census Bureau warehouse at 700 Patrol Road in Charlestown. Donators should follow the receiving signs to Gate 2. The donation management phone numbers are 812-287-0090 and 812-287-0026.

The greatest needs are for money, nonperishable food items, paper products, gloves, heavy duty trash bags, personal hygiene items, baby items, cat food, dog food, kitty litter, yard tools, gas cards, new packages of socks and underwear, tarps, laundry baskets and totes, and towels and first aid supplies.

Not needed are perishable food items and clothing.

Household items and cleaning items will be needed in the near future.

Mental health services

The Disaster Distress Hotline is a national toll-free help line — 800-985-5990 — that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers free, confidential and multilingual crisis support service. There is also a crisis counseling toll free line — 866-679-4631 — that offers counseling by phone or referrals for services.

Disaster mental health teams — mental health professionals from the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addictions with the Family and Social Services Administration — have had 404 contacts. Thirty professionals, including 22 in Henryville, are providing assistance to those affected by the storms.

Travel update

Ind. 62 near Friendship at the Ripley/Dearborn county line is closed.

Eastbound Ind. 160 west of Henryville at I-65 is open to local traffic only.

U.S. 31 from Ind. 356 in Scott County to Ind. 403 in Clark County is closed.

U.S. 31 from Ind. 356 at Vienna to Memphis Road is closed.

Ind. 362 from Ind. 3 to Ind. 62 is closed except to emergency vehicles.

For information on road closures, visit the Indiana Travel Conditions site, which can be found at http://indot.carsprogram.org or by calling 800-261-ROAD (7623).


About 25 Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel have arrived in the damaged areas and are working with state counterparts to gather damage statistics and estimates, support state response efforts and provide staffing resources as required.

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012

Waldron Art Center celebrates, honors Youth Art Month

Waldron Art Center celebrates, honors Youth Art Month

By Kate Thacker | IDS
Mar. 6, 2012

Community members poured into the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center’s Youth Art Month reception Friday.

This March marks the 39th partnership between student art and education at the Monroe County Community School Corporation.

“We partner with the MCCSC every March and give them almost all of our gallery space,” Gallery Director Julie Roberts said.

Roberts said Waldron provided the gallery space and refreshments, but art teachers curated the galleries.

Student artwork spanned three floors. The first floor Education Gallery featured drawings, paintings and photographs.

Jane Reeves, photography and art teacher at Tri-North Middle School, said it’s important for the community to see what art students are doing.

“We’re about the only middle school I’ve ever heard of that (has) a photography class,” Reeves said. “Almost all the eighth graders signed up. We had to get a grant and more equipment.”

The Rosemary P. Miller Gallery, located on the second floor, was the most impressive. Student artwork on display ranged from stained glass to jewelry to a bust of Lucille Ball.

One painting in particular, titled “Missing,” gave a visual pop to the middle of the room.
The head of a young boy was stenciled onto the canvas nine times in varying primary-color combinations. A prominent missing figure or object protruded from each open cranium, including aviator Amelia Earhart.

Across the hall in a second-floor classroom, Ivy Tech volunteers helped children make necklaces, patches and ornaments from small squares of fabric.

“We met with WonderLab staff and went over their theme,” Roberts said. “This month, it’s the science of quilting. We wanted to come up with something that would also be fun, but not duplicate what they were doing.”

Ivy Tech student ambassador Stefany Terrell said the activity was also to raise awareness for Ivy Arts for Kids, a youth summer camp offered through Ivy Tech’s Center for Lifelong Learning.

Down the hall in the Treasurer’s Gallery, IU graduate student Aimee Denault celebrated the opening reception of her show “Union and Disunion.” The exhibit featured her lithographs and delicate drawings.

“Everything here is printed by hand,” Denault said. “They’re printed on a press, and they have multiple images. These are lithographs in the middle, and the back wall is screen-printed.”

Her exhibit will be on display for the rest of Youth Art Month, which ends April 1.

“We’re fortunate compared to a lot of schools and counties around us,” Reeves said. “There’s a strong arts community here, and there’s a strong arts program at the schools. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Ivy Tech student volunteers travel to Antigua for Spring Break

March 6, 2012

Ivy Tech student volunteers travel to Antigua for Spring Break

At the end of the week, 11 Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington student volunteers, ranging in age from 18 to 40, will travel to Antigua, Guatemala through Ivy Tech-Bloomington’s Alternative Spring Break program. This is the first service trip to Guatemala for Ivy Tech-Bloomington, but its fifth international service trip. The first year, in 2007, Ivy Tech volunteers traveled to Virginia and then to Calnali, Mexico the following four years.

“The Alternative Spring Break initiative of Ivy Tech-Bloomington’s Center for Civic Engagement demonstrates our campus commitment to model a service-oriented learning environment for our students,” said Chancellor John Whikehart. “Additionally, by providing opportunities for international volunteerism, students in the Alternative Spring Break program are becoming globalized citizens.”

Students and three Ivy Tech faculty members will be staying in resident host-homes in Antigua during the week of March 12. Working with Maximo Nivel, a nonprofit organization, students will lay concrete and install support beams in a home that is being built for a woman who runs an after-school program out of her home. Students also will work in the after-school program and interact with the children. Ivy Tech volunteers are taking Spanish-language children’s books to donate to the after-school program. On the final day of the trip, volunteers will get a break and travel to climb Pacaya Volcano, about an hour outside of Antigua.

“The amount of applications we receive for Alternative Spring Break continues to grow each year,” said Chelsea-Rood Emmick, director of Ivy Tech-Bloomington’s Center for Civic Engagement. “Some of the students who participate in the program experience many firsts, including first time out of the country and even first time on an airplane.”

Photographs from Ivy Tech’s Alternative Spring Break in Antigua, Guatemala will be on display in the Flashlight Gallery of the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center during the month of April. Visit the gallery at 122 S. Walnut St. on First Friday, April 6 for the opening reception. 

Ivy Tech Community College (www.ivytech.edu) is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system serving nearly 200,000 students annually. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.

Arts Watch: Faculty member named to project

Faculty member named to project

Compiled by Marcela Creps
March 4, 2012

Gus Weltsek

Gus Weltsek has been named to the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards team for its arts standards project.

Weltsek is the coordinator of the IU Drama and Theatre in Education License Program and Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington Theatre and Arts Integration Curriculum Development Specialist for the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center.

The coalition of eight national organizations is developing voluntary arts education standards to help teachers and develop curriculum. Weltsek will serve on the Theatre Writing Team.

Read Across America Day

Read Across America Day

By Jeremy Hogan H-T photographer
March 3, 2012

John Boyken, president of the creative writing club at Ivy Tech, reads Friday from “The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold, during the Banned Book Open Mic as part of Read Across America Day activities at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington.

Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012

Alcohol Awareness Day at Ivy Tech Monday to encourage spring break safety

Alcohol Awareness Day at Ivy Tech Monday to encourage spring break safety

H-T Report
March 3, 2012

Ivy Tech Community College will hold its first Alcohol Awareness Day Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Connie and Steve Ferguson Academic Building.

The school is hosting Alcohol Awareness Day during the spring semester with the hope of educating students about problematic use prior to spring break.

Psychology faculty and students will host a variety of events, including a demonstration in which participants will wear goggles that simulate intoxication, and then experience different field sobriety activities such as walking a straight line and tossing a ball. Students also will learn about serving sizes and calculate their personal blood alcohol level in relation to various drink sizes.

A screening instrument will be available for students to take that will assess their personal level of drinking, and counselors will be on hand to discuss the results of the screening in an individual and confidential manner.

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012