At the beginning of a three-year Paralegal Studies Program, Karen Bruner Stroup began volunteering for the Legal Clinic as a Client Advocate. In that time, she also worked as a Community Ambassador to represent the Clinic at various events. Karen attended a Project Peace training to learn how to assist with our family law mediation program. Additionally, she assisted with assembling a Client Advocate Resource handbook. In 2013, Karen was recognized by the Clinic as an Outstanding Volunteer. Since she received her Paralegal Certificate in June of 2014, she has continued to serve in many different capacities. In today’s post, she shares how she views her role as a volunteer within the community:
I’m a Connector. Wherever I am, I try to connect people, resources, and information in order to help those in need. This kind of work gives me joy because, as it says in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden.” I take this call seriously.
As a volunteer for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, I get the chance everyday to connect. For example, one morning, the Clinic’s Volunteer Coordinator contacted me. She sought my knowledge of community resources to assist with transporting a client—a victim of domestic abuse who did not have access to a vehicle—to and from court. I made some phone calls to get more information and thus established the necessary connections to help this client get the transportation she needed. Within the hour, before the client even walked out of the Clinic’s doors, I was able to give this information back to the Volunteer Coordinator. Another opportunity like this arose during the Christmas season through my church. In this instance, and thanks to my experience as a Client Advocate with the Clinic, I was able to connect a family of six to community resources that helped them get their heat (which had been shut off in the dead of winter) turned back on.
Perhaps when people think of volunteering they do not believe they have the necessary skills to do much good, but hopefully these examples emphasize the importance of simply connecting. Being available and willing to seek out answers in difficult situations is oftentimes all that is required to help those in need.
We can all be Connectors by translating who and what we know to assist our communities. At the Legal Clinic, that might mean helping clients collect their documents, bridging the gap between the pro bono housing counselor and the client who is facing foreclosure. Or it might mean helping someone who was recently laid off apply for food stamps. As a Connector, you can ensure that those in our community are able to find and utilize the many resources that may be available, but impossible for them to reach without your helping hand.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities like becoming a Client Advocate, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Jocelyn Oppenhuis at firstname.lastname@example.org.