Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Joyce Griffin’s VITA program assisted thousands at KCKCC


It’s not often you can step away from a job knowing how many people you’ve helped in your career.

Joyce Griffin is the exception. She’s helped 8,366 taxpayers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program she initiated at Kansas City Kansas Community College nine years ago – and that doesn’t count the thousands of students she helped in 31 years of teaching accounting.

As a result of VITA, those 8,366 received more than $10 million in refunds, $10,651,422 to be exact.

“A very unique and rewarding experience,” says Griffin, who is retiring after teaching accounting 31 years at the end of the current semester. “It’s been rewarding because it gave me a chance to give back to the community and help students give back to the community while they were also learning a skill that will help them both personally and professionally.”

Griffin founded VITA at the suggestion of a fellow instructor in the Business Division, Ken Mark, who had attended a breakout session at a conference for Teachers of Accounting at Two-Year Colleges.

“A man from Albuquerque presented a program of VITA and Ken suggested that since I taught income tax, I might want to look into it,” says Griffin.

She did and then turned to the Internal Revenue Service and a local group called the KC CASH Coalition, both of  which were more than happy to provide assistance, and the program was born.

Opened only to taxpayers with limited incomes, 507 took advantage of VITA in its first year in 2004, receiving $438,000 in refunds.

Since then, the number of recipients has increased 2½ times and tax refunds have increased fourfold.

“We had 1,267 last year and my goal for my last year was 1,300 and we made it with 1,312,” says Griffin.

Tax refunds also reached an all-time high of $1,940,002

While she’ll no longer direct VITA, she’s not abandoning it either.

“I’ll continue to be a volunteer but I just feel its time both professionally and personally. I’ve accomplished all my goals. There are other volunteer opportunities I’d like to pursue and I’ve always wanted to go somewhere warm in February but from January to mid-April, there’s never been time to do anything else.

“Also, my oldest daughter, Kati Hill, and her husband who live in Raymore, have 16-month-old twins and I want to spend more time with them and my parents (Bob and Elaine Kramer) who still live in KCK, are getting older and I want to spend more time with them.”

There are also two more children, Jill Nelson, a manager for State Street living in KCK, and Scott, a junior majoring in agri-business at K-State.

Born and raised in KCK, Griffin attended Washington High School when the large enrollment necessitated split sessions.

“I had afternoon classes when I was a sophomore and morning classes as a junior and senior,” remembers Griffin, who was the ‘W’ on the banner line for the Washington drill team. “Our graduating class in 1973 was the largest in Kansas with 800 students.

The next year Schlagle High School opened.”

Griffin started her collegiate career at KCKCC for one year before earning a BS in Accounting from Kansas State in 1977.

“I originally was majoring in computer science but decided to change to accounting,” says Griffin, who later added an MBA from UMKC and a Masters in Financial Services from the American College.

Married to Wes Griffin right out of college, she passed the CPA test and worked in public accounting for Touche Ross in Topeka for three years before returning to KCK when Wes joined the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office. He is now a District Court Judge for Wyandotte County.

At the same time, Joyce took a position in the internal auditing department of Kansas City Power and Light but only briefly.

“In 1980, my first daughter was born and I decided to be a stay at home mom for about nine months. Then I saw an ad for an accounting instructor at KCKCC and thought it sounded interesting, interviewed and started in the fall of 1981.

“Obviously it has been a great place to work or I would not have been here for 31 years. Our division was always kind of like a family, always supportive. It was always a joy to come to work.”