Helping Works

Law students use their skills to help low-income residents with their tax troubles

Barbara Lock, left, shown with students and tax clinic client Juanita Morales in 2013. Clinic staffers, third-year law students at the University of Idaho, offer free legal services for Idahoans with tax troubles. The program benefits clients in need but also gives students real-life experience in the courtroom and working with a range of clients.
Barbara Lock, left, shown with students and tax clinic client Juanita Morales in 2013. Clinic staffers, third-year law students at the University of Idaho, offer free legal services for Idahoans with tax troubles. The program benefits clients in need but also gives students real-life experience in the courtroom and working with a range of clients.

We first wrote about the University of Idaho College of Law Tax Clinic back in 2013. Program Director Barbara Lock recently got in touch with us to let readers know, as tax season approaches, that the service is still available to low- and moderate-income taxpayers. The clinic, staffed by law students, offers free legal services for people who have issues with the IRS.

Under Lock’s guidance, the lawyers-in-training have helped people resolve audits, appeals and other issues. Clinic staff has also helped taxpayers who can’t pay their tax debts settle those debts, sometimes for as little as $1. The sums of money clients owe are often relatively small. But that’s irrelevant for people without resources.

As Lock said, “For most of our clients, it doesn’t matter if it’s $100 or $10,000. They can’t pay any of it.”

Taxpayers are eligible for free help if they are involved in a federal tax controversy and their income (for a family of four) is about $60,000 or less.

The clinic moved this year to its new location in the Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center at 514 W. Jefferson in Boise. Walk-ins are welcome. Call the clinic for details at 208-364-6166.

Interfaith Sanctuary and Albertsons host a cold weather supply drive

The shelter and its residents are preparing for cold months ahead. A special supply drive takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at Albertsons at 16th and State streets in Boise. Needed items include large cans of coffee, sugar, twin-sized sheets and comforters, coats, socks in child and adult sizes, light bulbs, bleach, sponges and much more. Link to the full list at Email for more information.

St. Vincent de Paul Society puts out the call for donations, volunteers

Lots of people are familiar with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, even if that’s from shopping at the nonprofit’s thrift stores. But shoppers might not know about the organization’s other work in the community. St. Vincent de Paul is a “person to person Catholic ministry.” Members visit the homes of people who have called the helpline asking for aid. St. Vincent provides financial assistance for rent, power or gas bills, clothing or any number of needs.

The organization’s thrift stores in Boise, Meridian, Nampa and Mountain Home, along with donations support the assistance program.

The Society in Boise also operates two food pantries, one at 3209 Overland Road and one at Holy Apostles Church at 6300 N. Meridian Road. The pantries provide food to people in need for free, thanks to donations from The Idaho Foodbank and El-Ada. St. Vincent’s dining hall, also at 3209 Overland Road, serves meals to about 100 people several evenings a week.

Other projects include the Patient Assistance Program that connects people who have little or no insurance with the pharmaceutical industry to help them get prescriptions for long-term maintenance medications at no cost. Last year, this program provided $1.75 million in medications for needy Treasure Valley residents.

Every Thanksgiving the Society sponsors the Turkey Box Project. The program started in 1977 with six boxes given out at the store. Last fall, the society gave out 3,000 boxes of turkey and “fixings” to families, feeding around 12,000 people. Ada County households (of two people or more) that would like a box should sign up by Wednesday, Nov. 18. Boxes will be available Nov. 23-24, distributed at Expo Idaho. Recipients must sign up ahead of time. Visit the website for details.

The society welcomes cash donations or donations of merchandise to their stores. It also welcomes volunteers, especially those who are bilingual. If you’d like to help St. Vincent de Paul’s mission, visit the website or call 208-331-8409.

Those needing aid can call the Helpline at 208-331-2208. Those seeking help with prescriptions should call 208-344-9737.

Young person, good deed

Joshua Keller, a ninth-grader at Cherry Gulch School in Emmett, is collecting classic children’s books so the Emmett Public Library can distribute them during the upcoming Idaho Family Reading Week, Nov. 15-21. The theme: “Curl Up with a Classic.” Drop donations off at the school, 3770 E. Black Canyon Highway in Emmett. Joshua is accepting book donations through Nov. 21. Joshua’s project will help him receive the school’s Gold Presidential Service Award, given to students who spend 100 hours of community service during their stay at the school. Call Cherry Gulch at 208-365-3437 for more details.

Group shows some equine love

Idaho Horse Rescue has announced the launch of Operation New Barn, a fundraising campaign to upgrade its current barn to include more stalls and an indoor training/riding area, as well as an outdoor arena and round pen, vet area, loafing sheds and additional fencing.

“Our objective is to increase the capacity of our facility to house and rehabilitate up to 25 horses. We are at capacity, but the need to provide quality care for abandoned, neglected and abused horses continues to increase,” said Robert Bruno, the nonprofit’s executive director.

Each week, IHR receives calls from the community asking for help with abused or neglected horses. When space is available, the group also accepts animals surrendered by private owners or from state animal control facilities. Donations, grants and sponsorships support the group. Operation New Barn’s fundraising goal is $100,000.

To help or get more information, contact Bruno at 208-941-4908 or email to

Human Rights Book Club focuses on the Equal Rights Amendment

The club will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, at the Idaho Black History Museum, 508 East Julia Davis Drive in Boise. The reading selection is “Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment is Now” by Jessica Neuwirth with a forward by Gloria Steinem. The book includes the stories of legal cases that might have gone differently had the amendment passed and covers topics such as pay equity, pregnancy discrimination and violence against women. The event is free.

Kudos, Lions

The Boise Bench Lions Club recently donated more than $20,000 to the Idaho Eastern Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation. The group raised much of the money through its fundraiser, the 19th annual Hit the Jackpot golf tournament held in August in Jackpot, Nev.

A volunteer’s story

This is an ongoing feature in the Helping Works column. To share your volunteer experience with local organizations, email Please include a photo of yourself (JPEG format). Note: stories will run in the order in which we received them.

From Joyce Harrison, Boise

Several years ago, a friend invited me to the Lunch for Literacy hosted by the Learning Lab, and I heard a speaker talk about learning to read as an adult. As a person who grew up in a home where reading was just something that everybody did and would actually get you out of finishing your chores, I was astounded. I couldn’t imagine getting along in a world where we are surrounded by words but unable to read them.

I’ve volunteered for lots of groups through the years, for things I thought were important, like the startup of a historical society, fundraising for an arts academy, garden clubs, Friends of the Library — lots of groups! So I thought I knew about the satisfaction I would get from volunteering at Learning Lab. I didn’t. I couldn’t have known how wonderful all the students I would work with would be. How eager to learn, how willing to try, how desperate to be able to communicate in a new country.

At Learning Lab, I have learned myself, from the students and from an amazing group of teachers. I’ve learned what I know about teaching (not much at the beginning) and about communicating. I love the time I spend there and I am sure that I’ve learned even more than those I teach. The first thing I learned was that English is perhaps the hardest language to try to explain to a new speaker. I’m sure you can think of hundreds of examples yourself of the kind of thing that makes no sense to someone learning to speak English. Actually, I realized that many things don’t make sense to me either!

I think I need to quit writing now because I could go on and on about how I love volunteering there. And that’s one more thing I have learned: Sometimes you need to quit talking yourself and let listener absorb what you’re saying!

Is the Learning Lab a volunteer fit for you? Link to the volunteer page at or call 208-344-1335.