He just loves doing taxes
During the tax season, Andrew volunteers four days a week at tax clinics, and that’s down from a couple years ago. Upon retiring 15 years ago, he’d put in 10 volunteer shifts each week. That added up to about 50 hours a week, more than the average staff person works. At 82 years old, he’s been volunteering with Prepare + Prosper since 1982, back when it was called the Minnesota Accounting Aid Society.
Considering the average federal and state tax returns take up to a couple of hours to complete—and figuring in the tax returns he does outside of Prepare + Prosper for friends, family, students at a local college, men and women at a correctional facility, and seniors at a community center—Andrew has probably prepared or reviewed more than 26,000 tax returns for free in his lifetime.
I tried to get Andrew, whom I met when I started at Prepare + Prosper seven years ago, to admit the number is more like 50,000 but he felt uncomfortable with my math. I’m the marketing + communications director and he’s the numbers guy, so we inevitably went with his total, despite the fact I think he deserves credit for helping with 50,000 tax returns.
He did admit, though, that that tally also doesn’t count his tax returns. Andrew has prepared every single return he’s ever filed for himself and his wife, and still has a paper copy of each one, except for 1977. He’s not sure where that one disappeared to.
Being of service is a value deeply ingrained in Andrew, through his faith and his upbringing. Andrew comes from Hutchinson, Minnesota, a farming community 60 miles west of the Twin Cities. His father owned a trucking company and his mother took care of the family, raised chickens and sold their eggs, and also took in people in need, giving them a warm meal and any spare change they had.
Andrew’s love of math developed when he was a boy and came from his mom. He started keeping books of what he made and spent with his very first paper route, and that accounting of his personal finances continues today.
Andrew put himself through school at Macalester College in St. Paul, where he earned a degree in business administration and accounting, by working summers at the Coca Cola bottling plant in Hutchinson, making fifty cents an hour. He met his wife, Audrey, now a pastor, in physics class his sophomore year.
Audrey and Andrew married in 1957 and settled in St. Paul after Andrew was drafted into the Army and stationed at Fort Harrison, Indiana in between the Korean and Vietnam wars. Andrew spent his 35-year career at HB Fuller Company as a controller overseeing the finances of their local manufacturing plants and regional offices. Audrey went back to school to become a pastor and together they raised their four children, which wasn’t always easy with busy schedules, most notably Andrew’s.
Upon hearing that, I asked Andrew if he ever sleeps or sits still. He said, “I can normally get by with four hours of sleep a night. I’m up at 3 a.m. to work on projects and, yes, I will sit still when spending time in Bible study and prayer.”
Faith is a staple of Andrew's and Audrey’s family and their life together. Starting in their first year of marriage, they committed to giving away 10% of their income, also called tithing. They have grown that percentage to more than 50% today.
For Andrew and Audrey, Prepare + Prosper not only gives people access to services they need, like free and quality tax preparation, but it gives them the financial knowledge and resources they need to build a better life.
At 82 years old, Andrew recently beat lung cancer and heart disease, which hasn’t slowed him down one bit. In addition to volunteering with Prepare + Prosper, he also spends many hours ringing the bell for the Salvation Army each holiday season and volunteers for the overnight shifts at Simpson Housing Shelter, is active with his church, Central Baptist Church of St. Paul, and for years conducted prison ministry. He and his wife Audrey still reside in St. Paul and have eight grandchildren and one great-grandson. They have set up a family foundation through which they will donate 100% of their assets upon their death.
As I finished my interview with Andrew—for which I pulled him out of a tax clinic in between preparing tax returns—I asked him if there is anything else he’d like to share. With a giant smile and a hearty laugh he said: