Volunteer Spotlight:
Mary Dinday

Ensuring equitable access to tax services
Posted on Category General, Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a very valuable service we provide to the community. There’s an income limit but no other restrictions as to who we can help. I always want to serve even more people in our community and would love to see more tax preparers.” 

Mary Dinday has been a part of Community Action Marin’s free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program for 10 years and is the team’s longest-term volunteer. When she first joined the agency, she had been looking for something to do. Her father had done tax returns for AARP and when she saw an ad requesting volunteer services at Community Action Marin and talked to a friend about it, she decided to join the team. 

Community Action Marin provides free basic tax return preparation to maximize tax refunds for households of low income through partnerships with United Way Bay Area and the IRS. Community Action Marin is part of a Bay Area-wide network of VITA tax centers and serves as the local VITA host for Marin County.

Explains Mary, “Some people are afraid to do their taxes themselves. They are very grateful to have someone to help them. Getting your taxes done is very expensive when you don’t make much money. That few hundred dollars is money the people who come to VITA don’t have to spend. It’s a valuable service to our community.” 

VITA program participants in our community appreciate Mary and the team’s work as well: 

“I am so grateful for your free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) tax preparation services. I am a single mother of a young daughter, and I simply could never afford to pay for those services. Not only did I receive help with getting my taxes done properly, but I met fantastic community members. Everyone is always eager to go above and beyond to ensure the process is confidential, convenient for my schedule, and easy to understand.” — L.R. Brown 

“I have never been treated so kindly while having my taxes prepared. The preparer was so very fast. I couldn’t believe it. I used my refund to achieve my dream of opening my own janitorial business. It is small but I have big plans for my future now. Thank you.” — T. Alphonse 

As Mary shared, one woman whose return she did was very insistent that Mary take cookies and cider as thanks for her help. As Mary said, “We’re not supposed to accept gifts like this, but it is hard to say no to someone who is so grateful.” 

Many people come back for tax help year after year. Mary said she has gotten better at asking the right questions and at filling out certain forms. According to Mary, California is unique and has things other states don’t have. The software is federally focused and questions on intake forms don’t always ask all that is needed, requiring additional information to be gathered. 

“VITA volunteers are a great group of people”, Mary stated. “We have each other for asking questions and check each other’s work. It’s very rewarding. I’m good at it. I understand it. And if there’s a question, I know where to go and how to find the answer.” 

Added Juan Vidal, VITA Site Coordinator and Benefits Enrollment Manager at Community Action Marin, “Mary plays a key role in fostering a collaborative environment within our team. Her leadership and willingness to assist colleagues have greatly contributed to the overall success of our tax preparation efforts. Mary exhibits a remarkable level of expertise and precision in handling our clients’ tax matters.” 

Originally from New Jersey, Mary is a longtime resident of Marin. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and a Law Degree. She is also the mother of four grown children and a grandmother of seven.  

Mary has been very conscious of doing service and helping those who need it throughout her life. She also volunteers to do taxes at AARP. She has also done Medicare counseling, volunteered at Cal HiCAP (Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program), and worked on the COM Advisory Committee. Says Mary. “Helping people understand something that is a very complicated concept is what I like to do.” 

In 2023, $203.1k was returned to 160 families through our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This year’s VITA services began Friday February 2 and will run 9am – 3pm Fridays through April 12, 2024. Service is walk-in and first come, first served. No appointment is required. Visit the Free Income Tax Preparation Services page on our website for details. 

If you’d like to see more from Community Action Marin’s volunteers, read their stories and stories from those we serve. in our 2023 Annual Report.