Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Dorie Offhaus; RealSense Helps Make Sense of Finances

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Dorie Offhaus; RealSense Helps Make Sense of Finances

Article excerpt

Byline: Nancy Winckler-Zuniga

When people volunteer, they can change lives - including their own. Each week in Reason, we will highlight a volunteer's story of giving back and how that selfless act was a true revelation. The volunteer project is a collaboration among the Times-Union, the University of North Florida, the United Way of Northeast Florida and HandsOn Jacksonville.

Dorie Offhaus jumped up as the buzzer sounded again, watching the next client arrive at the May Day Tax Preparation event host by United Way of North Florida's RealSense financial stability initiative.

This RealSense event helps those who missed the April 15 Internal Revenue Service tax deadline get their taxes in order and filed. United Way's RealSense is a nationally recognized financial stability initiative designed to save families money and promote responsible fiscal habits.

"I see [the clients'] faces walking in all nervous," Offhaus said. "Then, I see the smiles when they walk out again."

As each person walked in to check their name off the appointment list or see if there would be an opportunity to talk to a preparer, Offhaus took care to disarm as much initial nervousness as she could.

"I'm a people person," she said, "and I've been in a lot of people's shoes."

Offhaus began volunteering while an employee with Bank of America. The company's encouragement to participate in community betterment efforts was a guiding force behind her involvement with RealSense.

She participated in RealSense trainings to help her to understand the range of needs of clients, from military personnel to Affordable Care Act information. It was a chance to expand her horizons, to get beyond the office. Through these trainings, she earned an "advanced preparer" certificate.

It was her sister, too, who set the example for getting out of her comfort zone. Working on the toll roads that used to cut through Jacksonville, Offhaus's sister spent every spare moment helping others when not working.

"She worked at the toll booths all day," Offhaus said. "Her [outlet] was to get out and help her neighbors on her time off. …

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