In many ways, Alicia Dimas is quite literally the face of Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. Sitting behind the front desk, she greets new clients who are going through intake; she assists those who bring in paperwork, and she finds out what they need so she can get them to the right staff member. All roads to the Clinic pass through her first.
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.
Although Alicia knows her role at the Clinic is a vital one, she views herself as just another part of the team. And every member of that team is absolutely essential. She says, “I admire the people that work here, the attorneys that work here, because I realize they could be making so much more somewhere else, but they choose to be here; they choose to be helping people.” First introduced to the Clinic while volunteering at the Immigrant Welcome Center, Alicia kept her eye out for any job openings. When she learned of a paralegal position, she immediately applied. Soon after her interview, however, Alicia was offered the receptionist position instead. She accepted.
The work of the Legal Clinic is close to Alicia’s heart. She says, “I think the Clinic does such a wonderful job trying to reach all the people that it helps because most of them don’t have money to pay for a lawyer.” The need she sees in the community lessens the burden of the work she knows must be done. Indeed, she is quite attuned to those she serves, often going out of her way to pray with a client or to find other information about community resources if the Clinic is unable to offer legal assistance to someone. One of her favorite memories includes a client who was trying to get together enough money for a bus ticket to go to her mother’s funeral. The woman recently fled a domestic violence situation and was without financial recourse. Aggrieved, Alicia prayed for this woman and then gave her the money she needed for the bus.
Moments like these remind Alicia of the importance of her work. A considerate gesture here, a reminder that someone cares—Alicia knows the difference small kindnesses can make. Most days, she wouldn’t change a thing about the work she does. She says, “It makes me feel happier, more content, that there is such a place as the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic that people are able to get a little bit of relief. It changes their lives.”