What is it about doing taxes I like so much? It’s just a really fun thing to do. I love it, I just love it. I look forward to each and every minute I get to be at Prepare + Prosper doing taxes.

During the tax season, Andrew volunteers four days a week at tax clinics, and that’s down from a couple years ago. Upon retiring 15 years ago, he’d put in 10 volunteer shifts each week. That added up to about 50 hours a week, more than the average staff person works. At 82 years old, he’s been volunteering with Prepare + Prosper since 1982, back when it was called the Minnesota Accounting Aid Society.

Considering the average federal and state tax returns take up to a couple of hours to complete—and figuring in the tax returns he does outside of Prepare + Prosper for friends, family, students at a local college, men and women at a correctional facility, and seniors at a community center—Andrew has probably prepared or reviewed more than 26,000 tax returns for free in his lifetime.

I tried to get Andrew, whom I met when I started at Prepare + Prosper seven years ago, to admit the number is more like 50,000 but he felt uncomfortable with my math. I’m the marketing + communications director and he’s the numbers guy, so we inevitably went with his total, despite the fact I think he deserves credit for helping with 50,000 tax returns.

He did admit, though, that that tally also doesn’t count his tax returns. Andrew has prepared every single return he’s ever filed for himself and his wife, and still has a paper copy of each one, except for 1977. He’s not sure where that one disappeared to.

I love preparing taxes because I love the interaction with customers and other volunteers. I see the same people year to year, I even see some of them out in the community, on the street or at the grocery store, and they’ll say ‘Hey, you did my taxes!’ It feels good to be of service. It just hurts me to know that people have spent their good, hard-earned money to have some big preparer do their tax return that wasn’t all that hard to do in the first place.

Being of service is a value deeply ingrained in Andrew, through his faith and his upbringing. Andrew comes from Hutchinson, Minnesota, a farming community 60 miles west of the Twin Cities. His father owned a trucking company and his mother took care of the family, raised chickens and sold their eggs, and also took in people in need, giving them a warm meal and any spare change they had.

My dad taught me early on in life that you are to make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can to others. We were not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but my father was generous. He gave significantly to church and he was the worst with collecting bills for his trucking company. He hated to call upon people who owed him money and I can’t tell you how many people owed him money. When he passed it must have been thousands of dollars.

Andrew’s love of math developed when he was a boy and came from his mom. He started keeping books of what he made and spent with his very first paper route, and that accounting of his personal finances continues today.

I knew how much I made and exactly how much I spent. I was destined to be an accountant. My mother did that too. We raised chickens and she sold the eggs in town. She kept track of her income and expenses and I picked it up from her.

Andrew put himself through school at Macalester College in St. Paul, where he earned a degree in business administration and accounting, by working summers at the Coca Cola bottling plant in Hutchinson, making fifty cents an hour. He met his wife, Audrey, now a pastor, in physics class his sophomore year.

I sat in the back and she sat in the front row. The rows were so that you’d have to climb over the seats to get further down to the front. She had class right after and was always in a hurry. I’d hurdle over the rows trying to catch her. It took me five or six tries before I made it down there in time to talk to her.

Audrey and Andrew married in 1957 and settled in St. Paul after Andrew was drafted into the Army and stationed at Fort Harrison, Indiana in between the Korean and Vietnam wars. Andrew spent his 35-year career at HB Fuller Company as a controller overseeing the finances of their local manufacturing plants and regional offices. Audrey went back to school to become a pastor and together they raised their four children, which wasn’t always easy with busy schedules, most notably Andrew’s.

I traveled a lot for work. I was fortunate to have an incredible boss who let me book my trips around my volunteering schedule once I started preparing taxes for free. I’d travel the first part of the week and would be back by the start of the tax clinic on Thursday evenings. I volunteered Thursday nights and Saturday mornings for a very long time. There were years when I was the volunteer manager at tax clinics and I was never any good at turning people away. We’d be preparing taxes until midnight some nights.

Upon hearing that, I asked Andrew if he ever sleeps or sits still. He said, “I can normally get by with four hours of sleep a night. I’m up at 3 a.m. to work on projects and, yes, I will sit still when spending time in Bible study and prayer.”

Faith is a staple of Andrew’s and Audrey’s family and their life together. Starting in their first year of marriage, they committed to giving away 10% of their income, also called tithing. They have grown that percentage to more than 50% today.

We give our money and our time to organizations that live out the values of our faith.

For Andrew and Audrey, Prepare + Prosper not only gives people access to services they need, like free and quality tax preparation, but it gives them the financial knowledge and resources they need to build a better life.

Prepare + Prosper’s work and tax refunds are so important because they help people get out of the poverty that they are experiencing. I have said over and over that if our employers would pay a decent wage, then we wouldn’t need tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, to allow people to have a decent income. It really hurts me to see people working hard and struggling like they do.

At 82 years old, Andrew recently beat lung cancer and heart disease, which hasn’t slowed him down one bit. In addition to volunteering with Prepare + Prosper, he also spends many hours ringing the bell for the Salvation Army each holiday season and volunteers for the overnight shifts at Simpson Housing Shelter, is active with his church, Central Baptist Church of St. Paul, and for years conducted prison ministry. He and his wife Audrey still reside in St. Paul and have eight grandchildren and one great-grandson. They have set up a family foundation through which they will donate 100% of their assets upon their death.
My greatest achievement in life is that I have been able to make the income I am making and have the assets that I have today so that while I’m still living I can help others and in my dying I can continue that work. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to help others.
As I finished my interview with Andrew—for which I pulled him out of a tax clinic in between preparing tax returns—I asked him if there is anything else he’d like to share. With a giant smile and a hearty laugh he said:
I just look forward to every single time I get to be here. Unfortunately, though, you guys cut my hours last tax season! You’re afraid I might get sick again with lung cancer and heart disease if I volunteer too much! Thank you, but what am I going to do with my extra time now?

Stacy Opitz

Marketing + Communications Director

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