Fred Beutler, Saline

Published on June 10, 2024

I came to the United States from Nazi Germany when I was nine years old. We didn’t have much to when we arrived. I think about all that’s been given to me by this country. It makes me feel good to give back.

I didn’t start to think about making the world a better place until I retired in 1990. I got involved with the church and I wasn’t so much conscious of it, through the church I became awe of the importance of giving back.

When my wife and I were invited to join the Rotary Club, I reluctantly went along. As I became more involved, I naturally became more enthusiastic about it. For 20 years, I did photography for Rotary meetings and volunteered for international humanitarian projects.

Now that I’m 97, I can’t really do that kind of thing anymore, so what I have been doing is volunteering for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. I’ve been involved in it for about four years. It’s something I can still do because it’s essentially sedentary.

I’m living in a senior community, and I don’t see many people doing any volunteering, but I’m glad the opportunities are out there, so that people like myself can still contribute. I certainly can’t do the more active kind of volunteering, but yes, I can still do this.

My job is to get people— whatever their situation— ready for the tax expert to do the actual tax forms. I’m euphemistically called the intake specialist. I was able to participate probably 30 hours this year.

There was one lady who hadn’t filled out the form and I said “Well, you haven’t filled out the form, yet.” She told me she couldn’t fill it out because she couldn’t see. So I just went through it with her question by question, and she got her taxes taken care of. Others had difficulty interpreting some of the questions, or are recent arrivals who have yet not learned much English.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful program. Among the bonuses of volunteering is how grateful the people that we work with are— the clients are so happy with our services.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who make $60,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. Fred and many of his rotary friends have worked hard at United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Washtenaw office to ensure a smooth tax season for our community members.