By Deanna C. White
They've taught financial literacy to more than 12,000 fifth and sixth graders, prepared income taxes for hundreds of actively deployed soldiers and for families of soldiers killed in battle, and collected food and donations to make sure everyone had dinner on the table during the holidays.
On the Day of Service, CPAs will trade their laptops and spreadsheets for paintbrushes and garden shovels when they step up to volunteer with dozens of nonprofit agencies throughout Ohio.
They'll stock shelves at food pantries, plant gardens at neighborhood cleanups, spruce up summer camps for disabled children, and assist with general office work wherever agencies need a helping hand.
Several CPA societies throughout the country have already sponsored CPA Day of Service initiatives in their home states for many years, including the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS), Indiana CPA Society (INCPAS), and Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA). But this is the first year Ohio CPAs have collectively jumped on the Day of Service bandwagon.
The genesis for the Ohio CPA Day of Service came from members of OSCPA's Young CPA Board. Owen Wyss, CPA, chair of OSCPA's Young CPA Board, said many members were already active in pockets of public service with their local chapters, but the board was looking for a statewide community service project that would transcend those individual efforts by engaging all OSCPA members in a single day of volunteerism.
"We were looking for a bigger idea, something that would further engage the people who were already engaged and draw new people into service as well," Wyss said. "We wanted to get everyone volunteering together – doing the same thing, at the same time, even if they weren't necessarily doing it at the same location."
Wyss and his fellow board members said the creation of Ohio's first CPA Day of Service also gelled perfectly with a desire expressed by the bulk of the society's members in a recent survey. OSCPA members across the spectrum – lifelong and new members, working and retired CPAs, and students – said they wanted to give back to the community, and they wanted OSCPA to provide them an opportunity to do that as a profession.
"This wasn't just something the Young CPA Board was looking to do. The society received the same feedback from student members all the way up to retirees," said Jessie Wright, CPA, CGMA, member of the Young CPA Board. "They wanted to serve the community, and we felt a Day of Service would be a great way to engage all CPAs in a special day of volunteerism."
Both Wyss and Wright said plugging in to the United Way's existing framework of community volunteerism helped the society streamline the statewide service project. Wright said the partnership with the United Way allows people who have the impetus to volunteer but not necessarily the network to do so, to simply sign up, show up, and delve right in to a ready-made volunteer opportunity on the Day of Service.
"I think a lot of professionals in general do want to volunteer, but they might not know where to start," Wright said. "The CPA Day of Service allows people to just jump right in and have an immediate impact. They can build relationships with people in their profession and local nonprofits, and they can help the communities they live and work in at the same time."
Wright says the Young CPA Board has set high turnout goals for its first CPA Day of Service, so it's key they get the word out they're looking for volunteers. "We really want our first Day of Service to be a huge success. We hope the event will have a lasting impact in the community." Wright said.
Wright said she hopes that impact will someday pair all the rich and diverse skills CPAs have to offer their communities – like teaching dance to students to promote healthy living or woodworking to build a handicap accessible playground – with local nonprofits.
"I hope the Day of Service helps our professionals get better acquainted with community organizations so other volunteer opportunities can grow from there, Wright said. And ultimately, Wright says she hopes all Ohio CPA Day of Service volunteers get to experience "the icing on the cake," the sense of personal enrichment that comes with helping others, that will keep them coming back to help others on this special day of service year after year.
"It's great to be a part of something bigger than myself, and by enriching the lives of others, my life has been enriched," Wright said. "When I volunteer, I feel a sense of accomplishment, warmth, and joy. Even though you're giving so much of yourself, you're also receiving a lot in return."
Ohio CPAs as well as their coworkers, friends, and family, interested in the Ohio CPA Day of Service can volunteer now on OSCPA's website
. OSCPA also offers the Not-for-Profit Connection
, a year-round service that matches CPAs with local charitable organizations looking for CPAs to serve on their boards.