After a long career with the U.S. Military, retired Lieutenant Colonel and Vietnam Veteran Howard Parker Rice found himself unable to stop serving. RSVP of Allen County provided the opportunity for him to continue serving by helping active military members and their families through the hardships of deployment.
“I've been providing service to the country since 1953. Volunteering is just another extension of service to my country,” said Rice. “I can't be on the front lines anymore, but I can continue to serve in other ways.”
Rice started volunteering with RSVP in 2008 with the Income Tax Preparation for Low-Income individuals program. Through his work, he realized that this program could transfer to helping military families through the burdens of tax preparation
There is no shortage of individuals and families to help; Indiana has one of the highest rates of deployment of active military in the United States and Fort Wayne being home to an Air National Guard Station.
A Man With a Plan
Rice worked with RSVP to launch Military Tax Preparation, a program where RSVP hosts an IRS Military Income Tax Preparation site that is open year-round. RSVP volunteers, all IRS certified tax preparers, assist families of deployed military service members in the submission of their federal and state income taxes at no cost. Although the program is still in its infant stages, RSVP volunteer have prepared helped more than 70 families and individuals.
The average cost of a tax preparer is $312; the work of RSVP volunteers has saved these families a combined total of more than $24,000. In addition, RSVP volunteers have identified a large number of military families who qualify for EITC credits.
Last year alone, the RSVP tax preparation programs – both Military and Low-Income – helped more than 1,500 claim $2.5 million in tax credits.
“One couple that I helped tried to do their taxes through the basic preparation service the military operates. They ended up owing several hundred dollars, so they came to RSVP and managed to get $1,000 back. Stories like that make all the work so worth it," explains Rice.
Rice found a niche within RSVP, becoming the Military Liaison for RSVP of Allen County. With his military credentials, he has opened doors and helped connect more than 40 RSVP volunteers with programs that help families of deployed military and veterans.
Rice was also instrumental in working with Purdue Military Family Research Institute to plan Military Appreciation Days during sporting events for the Fort Wayne Tin Caps and Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Below is a sampling of the military family assistance programs RSVP volunteers participate in:
- Operation Yellow Ribbon: RSVP volunteers have received training from Indiana Air National Guard staff to assist military children prior to their parent's deployment. During both the pre-and post-deployment weekends, RSVP volunteers provide a play area for younger children and a lounge for teens with a number of activities. Volunteers are trained to express comfort with children who worry about the upcoming deployment and family separation. RSVP members report their observations to Military Social Service staff that provide ongoing assistance to the children of the deployed.
- Operation Stand-Down of Fort Wayne: RSVP Volunteers help plan and staff the event with VA. The annual event hosts homeless veterans, where they are provided shelter and services like information on transitional housing, employment readiness training and placement assistance, medical screenings, immunizations, haircuts, coat distribution, mental health screenings and a warm meal in the delivery of such services. Last year, more than 600 individuals were served during the Fort Wayne Stand-Down.
- RSVP Volunteers as a Resource On-Base: RSVP is working with the Air National Guard Administration to have volunteers offer a number of services to servicemen and women, including helping guide military families through complex process of electronic filing for programs like unemployment benefits to ensure they receive the support needed.
- Operation Military Kid: Trained RSVP volunteers provide assistance to children of deployed military, including providing winter clothing and school supplies.
Established in 1971 and now one of the largest senior volunteer organizations in the nation, RSVP engages more than 400,000 people age 55 and older in a diverse range of volunteer activities. Volunteers tutor children, renovate homes, teach English to immigrants, assist victims of natural disasters, provide independent living services, recruit and manage other volunteers, and serve their communities in many other ways.