One of the services we provide through our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is to represent people in the U.S. Tax Court. If you are selected for an IRS examination or audit, the IRS will take a closer look at your tax return to determine if there are any discrepancies or errors. At the end of this process, taxpayers are told if they still owe money. If they do not agree with the results of the IRS exam, they have 90 days to file in Tax Court.
Jim Foltz’s father owned a bakery where Jim mopped floors and washed dishes after school when he was just a boy. Down the road lived a prominent, local attorney who was friends with his father and grandfather. Over the years, Jim observed this man’s work, and he dreamed of one day becoming an attorney as well. “I thought that I could mediate and help people reach a fair and agreeable solution when they had difficulties,” he says. “That was my main motivation for becoming an attorney.”
In case you missed it, this February, we shared stories about the work done by our Housing Department, information on the biggest threats to safe housing faced by our clients, and helpful advice regarding housing-related topics. We kicked off the month with a message from Staff Attorney Chase Haller on “The Hidden Housing Crisis.”
Amy describes their Advocacy Program as the backbone of their work. “We assist individuals who believe they may have been a victim of housing discrimination to determine if there is in fact evidence of a violation of law or not,” she says. “If we find evidence of an unlawful practice, we then become an advocate for that victim and assist them in getting justice.”
Oftentimes, the Clinic is able to help a client navigate the situation with a lender to get a modification or some other kind of workout to lower their mortgage payment. Additionally, depending on the hardships they have experienced, homeowners may be eligible for a reinstatement program called the Indiana Hardest Hit Fund. For Michael, discovering the best kind of workout for his clients is rewarding. “I enjoy collaborating with homeowners to bring about a lasting and sustainable change in what is often the single largest expense of a household,” he says.
By the time Barbara Turner* contacted our Housing Department for assistance, she was over $10,000 behind on her mortgage payments. For the past year, she had endured many hardships that made her unable to afford her home, including domestic violence at the hands of her spouse. A stay-at-home mom to her three children, Barbara was determined to keep her family safe. And so she divorced her abusive husband and began to seek full-time employment. Paralegal Molly Howes Jefford says of this, “The loss of income from her divorce is in part why she struggled with maintaining her mortgage payments.”
Would it surprise you to learn that Indianapolis experiences 11,082 evictions every year, second only to New York City, a city of 8.5 million people? Every day in this city, 31.7 families are faced with the severe economic and emotional hardship that comes with an eviction.
In case you missed it, this January, we kicked off our 25th anniversary year with a close look at the Clinic’s Biblical Roots. Executive Director Chris Purnell shared a four-part blog series that explores the matter of justice and its role in the work we do. Read the whole series now: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4.
At Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, our faith in Jesus is the foundation of all the work that we do. Inspired by a powerful sermon to create the Clinic, Abby Kuzma and the other founders relied heavily on their faith to make this dream become a reality. Abby recalls being especially encouraged by Ephesians 2:10 in the early days: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Justice is ultimately made perfect or complete in the doing of things. Jesus talked about this when he said that the one who heard what he said and then actually put it into practice is like a wise person who built his house on solid ground.
In 1992, the vision for the Legal Clinic was first expressed in a Palm Sunday sermon by Dr. Frank Kik at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church. The church was located in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood and the sermon noted the incredible need for pro bono legal services in the area. Six Christian attorneys who were in attendance that day answered the call and founded what eventually became Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.
God is what he does, and he does what he is. For us mortals, this is tough—we do things that don’t corroborate who we are all the time. We are divided, desiring to do the good that God has put in front of us, but choosing the bad because, well, you know, things and reasons.
At the Clinic, we say we “promote justice” through the work that God has called us to do. And as we celebrate our 25th year of service to the community this January, I’ve been contemplating what this actually means. Superheroes continue to clean up at the box office and issues of social justice fill our newsfeed—but true justice is so much fuller than our humanly conception. So what, then, is the biblical core of justice?
Sherry explains the mission of Raphael: “Our mission is to serve everyone with the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, regardless of their race, ethnicity, language, ability to pay. We care for anyone.” And because Indiana has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country, they are particularly passionate about providing care and support to new mothers and infants. “We really focus on the things we can do to keep mom and baby safe through that first year,” she says. “If we can get them through that first year, our chances of setting them up for a healthier and safer life are much higher.”
After suffering from a nearly fatal bout of malaria while he was in India many years ago, Raio began to understand the connection between compassion and justice. “I wanted to build a place that incorporated those values into everything we did,” he says. Over the course of his career, he often saw an imbalance of justice that disproportionately affected survivors in a negative way—and he wanted CVHR to fight against that.
There are times when I want the whole world to stop for just one second so that I can get my bearings. But change is ever-present, and the needs of the moment continue to batter my psyche. Whether I have relational stress because of getting together with family for the holidays, or financial stress because I’ve overextended myself, or environmental stress from living in a world that badgers me about the things I should care about during the holidays—our lives are made harder by media and people beckoning us to the shoals of dark distraction.
This November, we celebrated our amazing volunteers with a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon at the Indianapolis Bar Association! On the blog, we introduced you to one of those faithful volunteers, Peggy Mindrebo, and the unique way she gives of her time to the Clinic.
What I love most about my work here at the Clinic are the sweet and precious moments—God moments—that I get to experience with my clients during the journey of a tax case. Just last week, I had two of these experiences.
“One of the biggest successes of spiritual direction is helping people interpret their past, their present, and their future through the lens of God’s loving gaze. And that’s not easy,” says Peggy. “But for those who are open to it, I think it can bring a sense of not being alone in their life.”
Babra has spent much of her career working with vulnerable communities, even before coming to the United States. As an immigrant herself, she has faced many challenges that continue to influence and confirm for her that she is in the right place with the Clinic now. “My faith leads the work I do because that is my source of strength each day,” she says. “I remind myself every day that God … uplifts our spirits and others and that our faith in him provides guidance and answers where we are challenged.” Babra loves to serve clients and is currently working toward becoming an Accredited Representative so that she can assist with immigration proceedings in the future.
This month was one of our busiest with our annual Justice For All Gala on October 18! Thanks to your generosity, we raised the most we’ve ever raised before: $173,121! We also shared a video about one of our Consumer Justice Program clients, Ms. Dora Turner.
More and more Christians need to take responsibility by just being present to recognize that the disparity isn’t just God’s blessing. There is a lot of injustice that results in that. We need to think about, to really ask the question, what does it mean to be a great city? Or a great community? Does it mean certain people can make the city their playground or is it a place where everyone has an opportunity to participate and to be part of the rising tide of what’s going on economically?
A huge thank you to everyone who came to our Justice For All Gala! Nearly 400 people were in attendance and we raised a total of $173,121! That’s the most we’ve ever raised during a JFA celebration—and it’s all thanks to our amazing supporters and friends! Thank you for caring about justice in your community!
Northview Church is proud to stand alongside Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in their efforts to fight for justice for the vulnerable so that all may flourish. In a world where the gap between those that are vulnerable and those that are secure continues to widen, we see the work of the Clinic as a critical bridge for the local church to live out our mandate to do justice. Through their compassionate staff and volunteers, they are on the front lines providing expertise in legal services for those that are stuck in broken cycles and systems.
At the Clinic, we cry together due to the myriad ways that humans have devised to harm each other. As we pursue justice, we grow weary at how difficult once-simple petitions have grown. Our immigrant clients come to us for assistance, but the remedies for them recede into the distance.
This month, we released a new video for our annual Justice For All Gala. As a non-profit civil legal aid provider that serves over 10,000 low-income people every year, the Clinic relies heavily on the support of our community. Attending or sponsoring Justice for All is one of the primary ways you can support the Clinic and help provide accessible justice for your neighbors. Get your tickets now for October 18. Join us for an uplifting and unforgettable evening.
In some regards, getting to know these individual stories has helped to contextualize Cynthia’s own history. “Growing up with my family, my grandparents were immigrants from Mexico,” she says. “I didn’t appreciate the sacrifices that my family has had to make until I saw how much getting a Green Card or a work permit or any help from the Clinic has meant to people who sacrificed everything to come here. That’s opened my eyes.”
This month, we announced ticket sales for our annual Justice For All Gala. Through September 21st, tickets are only $40! Join us for an unforgettable evening with NYT best-selling author Bob Goff. If you haven't checked out his latest book, Everybody, Always, add it to your reading list today. Get your ticket now as you won’t want to miss one of the best storytellers in the country!