Washington D.C. resident David DyTang took a plunge into the unknown in 2016 by venturing to the Bay Area. He decided to make this move after being offered a risk management position at Uber, at the time a scaling startup looking to generate global impact.
Though David had a few friends from school in the area, he still needed to discover the layout of his new home. That’s why he actively set out on varied adventures after work and on the weekends. David reveled in exploring San Francisco’s unique nature, from the windswept beaches of Lands End to the century-old forest of Mount Sutro. For the urban experience the millennial craved, he checked out local restaurants with a San Francisco flavor, one-of-a-kind shops and even the standard tourist sites.
As he adjusted to his new job and got to know the Bay Area better, the newcomer still felt something was missing: David wanted a way to connect more meaningfully with his local community in San Francisco.
During his company’s annual volunteer week, David learned about different philanthropic opportunities and decided to start out with Meals on Wheels and GLIDE Memorial Church. He soon found that although it was impactful to serve food to those in need, he longed for an experience that would allow him to give back to the community by harnessing his technical skills honed over his career.
In thinking back on prior experience at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) centers back in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and New York, David reflects, “I’m decent with tech and software, so I thought it was a great opportunity to bring basic computer tech skills to a volunteer role that would impact an entire community.”
After a quick Google search, David happened upon MEDA and its volunteer opportunities in the Mission. He wanted to learn more.
Living in the Castro and working in the Financial District, it was important to David to be able to volunteer in a convenient location. Because he worked a full-time job from 9am to 6pm with the occasional late night meeting or project, David also wanted to find an opportunity offering flexible hours, so that he could balance his work day with his volunteerism.
With MEDA being the largest VITA provider in San Francisco, David had a choice of four tax sites across the city. He landed on the main site in the Mission — at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante neighborhood center — for its proximity to his home and the abundant tax shifts available. “It was really convenient being able to volunteer for shifts during nights after work, and on weekends, and also being so close to home,” says the tax volunteer.
David showcased some initial trepidation when he started doing taxes at MEDA. While he had successfully prepared taxes in D.C., he wasn’t familiar with California tax credits (for example, the Renter’s Credit), plus he was dealing with new software. Despite these challenges, the tax site coordinator was readily available to jump in to answer any of David’s questions, explain atypical cases and make sure the volunteer felt confident assisting clients.
In moments when David met with monolingual clients but didn’t know how to adequately explain their refunds or answer their questions, he soon learned this language barrier was not an issue — he simply flagged Spanish-speaking volunteers to provide translation. After about three or four volunteer sessions, he noticed that it had become a smoothly operating machine.
David was a consistent tax preparer this past season, showing up once or twice a week to sit down with clients, receive their documents, input the information and explain their refunds.
At the end of the tax season, this dedicated volunteer had prepared about 25 tax returns for free, translating to about $50,000 given back to his local community.
“When you have a client who is getting $100 to $3,000 back, that often means one or two months’ rent, toys for their kids or food for their families. You see that excitement and take the time to explain how the tax system works, and you understand that this is going to make a big difference,” states a gratified David.
He even reflects back on one particular client: a mother of three who got back $3,500. The client was overwhelmingly happy with all the money she was getting back and, beaming with joy, stated that she wanted to donate some of her refund back to MEDA’s tax program.
Though it felt like a big commitment up front, David was able to contribute to something much larger than just one person with just a few volunteer hours each week. “In the end it’s less about personal impact and more about the fact that almost $8,000,000 was given back to the low-income Mission community. As a whole, MEDA can’t do that without many volunteers, and it’s great to be part of that collective effort to give back to the community.”
David is currently balancing his job and a part-time MBA program at University of California, Berkeley. Luckily for MEDA and the Mission community, he is excited to volunteer again next season to continue to put his technical and tax skills to the test.
Would you like to join MEDA’s tax volunteers to create impact, as you get to know your community?
Please contact Asset Building Coach Marcail Distante: (415) 282-3334 ext. 132; firstname.lastname@example.org.