CHAMPAIGN — A plea for new volunteers for the AARP Tax Aide program  has yielded bountiful results.
"It's fantastic. We had in the neighborhood of 25 new volunteers," said Hal Loebach, technology coordinator for Tax Aide in downstate Illinois.
Last year, the program had to cut back the days and hours it was open because it didn't have enough volunteers.
But thanks in part to a story in the Dec. 31, 2011, News-Gazette , the program now has enough staffing to offer tax help from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays this year, Loebach said.
The location hasn't been determined yet. The program is looking for a new site in Champaign-Urbana to replace its longtime home at Urbana's Lincoln Square Village.
But the ability to return to a full schedule "was a case of all those new volunteers," Loebach said. "Last year, there were several days we were not open because of (a lack of) volunteers."
Volunteer training took place last week in Rantoul, and this week volunteers will get practice in a training room.
The group hopes to begin offering tax help to the public on the first Monday in February and continue providing assistance through April.
"Omigosh, we've had so many volunteers it's unbelievable," said Coni Arseneau, coordinator for the AARP Tax Aide program in Champaign County.
She said "probably 30" people had volunteered, and of those, about 10 had several years' experience of doing taxes before retirement.
In addition to the Champaign-Urbana site, AARP Tax Aide offers tax assistance at other sites in Champaign County by appointment, Loebach said.
Those sites include the Mahomet Public Library, the Rantoul Public Library, the Rantoul Recreation Center, Community Plus Credit Union in Rantoul, the Philo Public Library and the Tolono Public Library.
In Vermilion County, the Tax Aide program picked up four new volunteers as a result of the News-Gazette story, said Jim Smith, coordinator for the program there.
The program would like to offer tax help at Danville's Village Mall five days a week, but last year it was open only three days a week due to a lack of volunteers. The program also offers tax assistance at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Danville.