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Holyoke grants tax credits to seniors who volunteer for city

Date: 2/24/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- Rita and Henry Strong have got a way to reduce their property taxes: participate in a volunteer program set up by the city of Holyoke for seniors.

Henry doesn't want people to know, though, that Rita would volunteer without the incentive.

Mayor Michael Sullivan announced the kick-off for this year's program at a recent press conference at the Council on Aging (COA). He said the program allows seniors to work in city departments and earn a $500 tax credit.

Seniors must volunteer for 100 hours within a one-year period to receive the tax credit.

Sullivan views the program as "an incredible success." Although it costs the city $15,000 annually, "what we get is far greater than $15,000 in service and professionalism," he said.

"It allows us to do many things we couldn't do," he said. One instance was a Web site development project that would have cost the city $5,000.

Kathy Bowler, the head of the COA, said there are currently 30 spaces left in the program. Applicants must be a resident of the city and live in the property that is being taxed, she added. The COA matches the skills and experiences of the seniors with available positions in city government. The volunteer jobs start in late spring.

Pat Griffin, who has worked in the city's Personnel Department, said she was attracted to meeting people and getting out of the house.

"I just enjoy doing it," she said.

Rita Strong said, "You get more out of it than what you give." Her husband, revealed with a smile that he enjoyed his job with the Department of Public Works (DPW) tending to planters on traffic island because he could park almost anywhere he wanted in his city truck.

"The cops just wave at you," he added.

Any senior interested in learning more, should contact the COA at 322-5625.