A Message from Volunteer Attorney Stephanie Pickens: Use Your Gifts

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards ofGod’s grace in its various forms."  1 Peter 4:10

After moving to Indianapolis in 2011, I found myself staring down the end of ten years of staying at home with my children.  My youngest was getting ready for kindergarten and I was getting ready for a mid-life crisis.   After staying at home that long, I wasn’t sure that I could function in a work environment.  My kids didn’t even believe that I had a college degree, much less a law degree and I had a difficult time believing it myself.  To maintain flexibility and determine if I “had it in me” I decided to look around for volunteer opportunities and came across the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic web site.

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what I could help with.  My law license was only valid in Iowa so Erin (awesome volunteer coordinator) and I decided to look at the federal issues where my license would be valid.  Tax or Immigration.   I hate numbers, but love people so immigration it was.  I took a few Dream Act cases (DACA) and then started helping with the immigration intake clinic every Wednesday.   Rachel (awesome immigration attorney) was patient in training me and answering all my questions.  The front office staff was patient in showing me everything from how to work the copier to the mail stamper.   The Clinic helped me get my work groove back.  My immigrant clients gave me a new passion.

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I recently received a letter from one of my Dream Act clients.  She will be heading to college this fall with a scholarship.  Is there anything more rewarding than knowing you made a difference in someone’s life?  We recently moved back to Iowa and I am hoping to take what I learned at the Clinic meet the needs of the immigrant population in Iowa.

My point is this: If you want to be a part of a community of believers that is more about doing than talking, more about helping than judging, take your gifts and head straight to Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.  I am so thankful that I did!

A Message from the Staff: Cassandra Sanborn on Vision

  After I graduated from college, I started working as an AmeriCorpsVISTA member at another nonprofit in Indianapolis.  I loved what I did—writing grants and fundraising letters, researching best practices in donor management, and more.  The longer I was there, though, the more I found myself thinking only about the details of my day-to-day work.  How could I create the best grant budget?  How could I write a fundraising letter that would really connect donors to our mission?

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Thankfully, I had an excellent supervisor.  She told me that sometimes when you have a deadline looming over you or when you’re worrying about a funder, it’s easy to forget why your work matters and what you’re really trying to do.  She reminded me to take the time to periodically think about our clients.

Thankfully, when I came to the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, I realized that even though I still have a tendency to get caught up in minutia, I am surrounded by people who make it hard to forget why we do the work we do.  Our staff members and volunteers care deeply about our clients and their wellbeing—they really want to see our clients thrive.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by a group of empathetic people who are seeking to live out the instructions found in the Clinic’s vision statement, Psalm 82:3-4: “Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.  Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

I am grateful for my coworkers and for all of the volunteers that I see who demonstrate patience and compassion as they work to make a difference for our most vulnerable neighbors.

A Message from the Staff: Matt Gaudin on Compassion

 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end.” - Lamentations 3:22

I never thought my occupation could aid my walk with Christ.  However, when I examine my time at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic I cannot deny that God has used this job to grow me spiritually.  I would like to take some time to discuss one area that demonstrates this growth.

Feelings and compassion have never been dominant attributes of mine.  When problems arise I tend toward cold logic rather than warm comfort.  My wife, Shannon, can surely attest to this!  I often ignore or fail to “pick up on” others’ feelings.  When others show emotion I can become uncomfortable and retreat to my logically controlled mind.  Rational thought is not a negative.  It is almost always a positive.  When stressful situations arise, I normally remain cool and collected.  I normally am able to see all angles of a problem and craft the best solution.  A logical mind, however, without a compassionate heart leads to an unhappy life and unfulfilled relationships.  An individual needs both.  In fact God requires that we love him with our heart and our mind.  See Mark 12:30 (“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”).

God’s compassion is evident throughout the Bible.  Psalm 78:38-39 says, “Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.”  Lamentations 3:22 states, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end.”  The greatest and ultimate demonstration of compassion was when God sent his son Jesus to save us from our sins.  See John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”).

Working at the Clinic, I am constantly bombarded by injustice and heartbreak.  It may be a tenant whose landlord refuses to provide legally required necessities, like heat and water.  It may be a man without health insurance who was struck by medical tragedy and now has no money to pay creditors.  These individuals need legal advice.  They need me to use my rational mind to fashion a legal solution.  However, they often need more. They need me to listen with open ears and a caring heart.

The Clinic has forced me to develop more compassion in my life.  I now more clearly see suffering in the world.  I now try to use a rational mind and a compassionate heart to serve clients holistically.  I truly work at an awesome place.

Matthew Gaudin
Staff Attorney
mgaudin@nclegalclinic.org

Meet Legal Intern & Volunteer Attorney William Fife

Meet William Fife our 2012 Summer Legal Intern turned volunteer in-house attorney. William was born and raised in Indianapolis and attended IU Bloomington for undergrad where he studied Public Affairs. Upon graduating, William entered the Peace Corps and lived for two years in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific ( If you're wondering, as I was, where the Kingdom of Tonga is, please check out this Map Kingdom of Tonga ).William lived on an island five miles long by one mile wide with a population of about 1,000 people. Talk about culture shock. While there William worked on small business development and grant writing with different village counterparts. He organized youth groups to do commercial farming on unused land and spent a large amount of time in his final months there doing Tongan to English document translation.

"The experience there really opened my eyes to the day-to-day issues of poverty and social justice." William found himself passionate about helping empower those in need and says, "my entire life since that time has been focused in some way on serving the under-served."

William came to the Clinic as a summer intern in 2012 to work in our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Program where he worked with staff attorney Veronique Beuoy to research, develop legal education and do outreach to different communities who could benefit from the LITC Program. William graduated from Florida Coastal Law School in 2013 and returned to the Clinic to work with staff attorney Rachel Van Tyle in Immigration Law where he currently works closely with refugee clients.

When I asked William what he likes about working with the Clinic he says he strongly identifies with the Clinic's mission and that being a part of an organization who is passionate about serving the under-served has been very powerful for him. "That sense of mission and spirit has been an incredible experience. One of the best, if not the best, work environments I have been in."

William informed us recently that he has accepted a job as a staff attorney at the Micronesian Legal Service Corporation in the Marshall Islands where he will be working primarily in immigration law and land disputes. Since William will literally be on an island in the middle of  the Pacific Ocean, I asked him what his favorite book, music and hobbies are: The Autobiography of Malcom X, Miles Davis and chess which he says "I am a junkie for chess". Luckily these are all things he should be able to pack in his bags when he heads to the Marshall Islands at the end of May.

William, thanks for all your hard work, passion and dedication. We loved getting to know you over the past couple of years and we are excited about your journey to come. Our prayers travel with you.