Alexis Bullock found the Clinic through Career Services at Franklin College, where she’ll enter her senior year in the fall. “I love the intersection of nonprofit work with legal services,” she says. This summer, she’ll be assisting Project GRACE and loves having the chance to connect the work she wants to do with her faith. “There’s so much more that the Clinic does for this community that I didn’t even know about and I’m really excited to help,” she says.
Emily loved teaching at Exodus Refugee, but in January things changed rapidly. “A week after the inauguration, the first Executive Order happened, and that’s when the ball started rolling,” she says, “We realized we were losing funding; we were losing clients in general, and we were going to be losing staff as well.” Exodus was forced to downsize drastically, and Emily lost her job in the shuffle.
Just over a year ago, Jim Floyd and his wife were about to go to dinner when he decided to take some medicine for what he thought was a migraine. But when his wife asked him a question a few minutes later, the words that came out of Jim’s mouth were nonsensical. As someone who used to teach courses on emergency care for strokes, Jim knew exactly what was happening to him. He was experiencing a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), sometimes referred to as a mini-stroke, and he was suffering from expressive aphasia, his speech rendered largely incoherent.
Janet found the face-to-face meetings with clients during intake to be especially transformative, their needs frequently going beyond the scope of what legal assistance could provide. Although she was able to offer them her legal expertise, their stories were often filled with dark and difficult chapters. “In some cases, we met the face of profound despair,” Janet says. “This is the humanizing encounter and one where Jesus has called us to be present.”
While Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic’s main office is located in Indianapolis, there is also a satellite office in Ft. Wayne. Desiree Koger-Gustafson serves as its Director and part-time attorney, while Cathy Warney serves as the only full-time employee. In addition to her paralegal duties, she also handles reception and coordinates volunteers. “My days are pretty crazy,” says Cathy. “I wear lots of hats.”
Upon serving as an intake attorney at John Knox Presbyterian Church back in 2006, Matthew first became aware of the need for free legal services. “I thought I was aware of it, but I really wasn’t,” he says. “Until you sit down with people who need the help, who explain their situation, who have never really been able to talk to someone who they believe can help them, and suddenly you’re sitting down in a room with them one-on-one… That’s when you realize the need that exists and the good that can come from just giving a little bit of time.”
For those who want to begin volunteering, or who do not quite know where to start, Kathleen recommends the one-day events at the Clinic, saying, “No matter who you are, an attorney or not an attorney, they’re just a really great, engaging way to see what the Clinic is about.” These events are scheduled for a specific service, such as Refugee Adjustment Day, where staff and volunteers help refugees adjust their paperwork very quickly for the entire day. “It’s kind of like a one-and-done opportunity for them to come in and get some legal services,” Kathleen explains.
Of course, the work of a receptionist at a non-profit legal clinic can be daunting. Often, the clients who come to the front window seeking aid are embroiled in high-stakes legal issues regarding their immigration status, impending Sheriff Sales on their homes, or an expungement that would finally allow them to get a job and thus support their family. Alicia does not view her position as wholly difficult though. In fact, she says, “Everyone tells me my job is so hard and I just keep thinking, ‘This is the best job I’ve ever had.’ I love it.” When she does encounter a difficult client, or someone who is in a dire situation and who might direct that fear or frustration towards her, Alicia turns to her faith. She takes a deep breath and says a prayer for patience and for the words necessary to help the person in front of her.
While attending Law School, Jason met and married a woman named Jill. He then went on to start his own practice with his partner, Steve Wagner. Years passed, and all the while, the money and accolades rolled in. In the eyes of the world, he was everything he was supposed to be. He was a success. But Jason found himself thinking, “This is ridiculous. I want to be more than that.”
For this reason, one of the things that Crystal most cherishes about her position is the opportunity to minister to those who are in crisis. “It’s a very interesting dynamic working at the Clinic,” she says. “Having the liberty to share my faith…is just a lot different than what it had been in corporate America.” She loves being able to pray for those who want prayer. And when there is relief to be had for one of her clients, the joy is immense. But even when there are no remedies, apart from letting the home go, there are still positives. She says, “I’m honest with the client. I tell them, ‘I’m here to have a real conversation with you.’ It’s not about sugar-coating it.” And sometimes, these honest, yet difficult conversations are the most important thing Crystal can give to a client.