Dear Readers: Tax season is well underway. The Internal Revenue Service has a free program that may be able to help if you need extra assistance filing your taxes.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is there for you if your income is below $54,000 per year, if English is not your first language, or if you are physically challenged.

There also is Tax Counseling for the Elderly, which helps taxpayers age 60 and above. They specialize in pensions and retirement situations specific to seniors.

These programs are held at libraries, colleges, strip malls and community centers around town.

What should you bring to your meeting? Last year's tax return, an ID, a voided check if you anticipate a refund and your proof of income (W-2, for example), among other things.

Visit for more information or to find a location near you, or you can call, toll-free, 800-906-9887 to speak to a live operator.

The programs run through at least April 16, and they are staffed by trained volunteers who are certified by the IRS. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: My deep freezer full of fish went out, and the smell was horrible. After cleaning it, I put cat litter in the bottom and closed the door. I changed the cat litter a couple of times, and the smell was completely gone.

Also, I have a basket index file that I use for helpful hints. Many of yours are in there, including recipes for vinegar cleaner, ant removal, etc. They are filed in alphabetical order and have been very helpful. — Tricia in Alabama

Tricia, thanks for your loyal readership. Cat litter can indeed absorb odors. — Heloise

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Dear Heloise: I have a couple hundred calendars from the past 25 years. I'm moving and can't take them with me, and I wouldn't do any art projects with them. Maybe someplace local would take them? — Pack Rat But Not Hoarder in Texas

Kudos for wanting to recycle the calendar pages! They have beautiful photographs. Contact schools, scouting groups, day care centers, senior centers and afterschool programs to see if they can use the calendar pictures.

These organizations can then use them to make framed pictures, bookmarks, jigsaw puzzles, coasters, greeting cards, book covers and place mats. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: It is important to wash your hands BEFORE using the restroom facilities, too. — Gary P., Hilliard, Ohio

Frequent hand-washing can cut the transmission of germs, and during this particularly rough flu season, that's important. — Heloise

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