We’ve been celebrating National Volunteer Appreciation Week on Facebook by sharing old stories from the blog about some of our best and hardest-working volunteers. This month, we shared a new story about a volunteer attorney named Tim Fox, who is always committed to going “Above and Beyond” for our clients. We then met a recent employee of the Clinic, Jim Floyd, who started out as a volunteer for the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.
Tim Fox is the polar opposite of the lawyer found in stereotypical jokes. Far from being greedy or stingy with his time and knowledge, as a volunteer for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, he regularly stretches the bounds of what it means to give freely of oneself. When unavoidable hiccups in the system threaten to shut down an intake on a particular day or when time is critical for a certain client, Tim simply improvises.
March Madness Brackets-for-Good style was full tilt this year! #TeamJustice made it to the Supported Sixteen for the first time thanks to your generous support! During the Clinic’s 3-week run, we raised more than ever to provide free legal services to our low-income neighbors: $35,004! If you missed a chance to support us during this competitive-giving tournament, you can still donate to the Clinic here. And don’t forget to check out our Brackets-for-Good playlist to watch the videos we released each week!
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.”
On Wednesday mornings, clients at the Clinic can fill out a small form if they would like prayer. At times, the language barrier complicates things, but Christine trusts the Holy Spirit to guide her. For one woman in particular, Christine felt a powerful need for safety, and so she prayed for a hedge of protection. She then learned more of the woman’s story, which included sexual abuse, drug trafficking, and much danger. Christine says Kathleen told her, “This is not an atypical story.”
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.”
Lacy Panyard knew from the time she was a little girl that she wanted to be an attorney. But it was a study abroad trip to Mexico with her school at the age of 17 that helped determine her specialty. She says, “While I was down there, I saw people who were wealthy and who have everything they need. They’re living better than us. And then I saw the people who are 5-year-olds, out on the street, selling gum and homemade goods because they don’t have food on the table.”
But to Fatima, the Clinic isn’t just an excellent employer; she believes the work the Clinic does is absolutely pivotal to the community. “I think there’s a gap in the justice system. If you get in trouble and it’s a criminal issue, you’re entitled to a public defender,” she says. “If it’s a civil matter, you basically have no protection… It puts people in a vulnerable situation when they don’t have access to an attorney.” She stresses that these already-vulnerable situations are often compounded for people by their lack of specialized knowledge about issues like immigration law, paperwork, and unknown deadlines. She believes part of her purpose in life is to help walk people through this kind of information.
From the age of 11, Sha’na knew she wanted to be an attorney. “I watched a movie called Separate but Equal with Thurgood Marshall and documenting the whole Brown vs. Board of Education decision,” she says. “That was the first time I realized how much influence and power attorneys had to make change, and so I knew I wanted to be a part of that.” For years, Sha’na worked towards that goal, graduating from college and then Law School—ultimately passing the bar examination earlier this year.