Chalfont resident Mark Barr is no stranger to volunteering. He started with Big Brothers forty years ago, moved on to VITA (Volunteers in Teaching Alternatives) where he met his current wife, Marge Nocton Barr, and trained as a hospice volunteer with Grand View Hospital. During those years he was a divorced single father with three children, started his own business building close tolerance injection molds for the plastics industry, and in 1984, became a father to his youngest son, Shawn. His busy life left him little free time to volunteer, but as time went on, in January 2013, he saw that the Bucks County Opportunity Council was looking for volunteer tax preparers and decided to apply.
Buck$Back, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, helps taxpayers who need tax preparation assistance but can’t afford to pay a fee to file their taxes and claim earned refunds and credits. People with low-to-moderate incomes, seniors, people with disabilities and those with limited English skills often qualify for this free service.
“Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined there could be so many scenarios to a tax return,” Mark says. Although he had used tax preparation software for several years, the Buck$Back training had him wondering what he had gotten into.
“I was so far behind most of the group…I started looking for a tactful excuse to get out of the program,” says Mark, but he is thankful he stayed with it, as it turned out to be “an extremely rewarding experience.” Now Mark says he is disappointed that the tax season is so short! He learned so many things during training that next year’s tax season he will need some time to “get back up to speed.”
Of course, Mark does more than tax preparation for BCOC. He helped at the Adopt-A-Pantry event, a community-wide food drive to Bucks County food pantries. He welcomed donors, unloaded cars and vans of food, weighed it and more. Next he volunteered to drive the BCOC van two or more times a month to Allentown to pick up fresh produce and frozen foods for the pantry network. And during the holidays, Mark played Santa and delivered many gifts to children of participants in BCOC’s Economic Self-Sufficiency program.
And after all this, Mark was shocked to hear he was selected as BCOC Volunteer of the Year. It came as no surprise to staff and volunteers who were happy to honor him at the Central Bucks YMCA 2nd Annual Volunteer of the Year Recognition Dinner on Thursday, April 10th at the Warrington Country Club. The event honors a volunteer from each of the top nonprofit organizations in Bucks County.
Mark says he is very proud to be a part of BCOC, and feels like family whenever he goes to the office.
“I have been involved in a number of volunteer programs and have been treated well, but BCOC has been first class in the way they treat their volunteers and because of all they do for the residents of Bucks County,” said Barr.
First class all the way: the description fits Mark Barr as well.