Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) is a faith-driven ministry, welcoming immigrants into our churches and communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education and advocacy.
Intake Volunteer Opportunity
Do you have good people skills and an interest in meeting people from foreign lands? Can you provide a warm welcome while at the same time collecting very personal and confidential information?
Freq of service: 1 time per month/10 months per year
Length of time: 3 hours
Days of Service: Mondays & Wednesdays at various clinic locations
Fundraising Support Opportunity
Do you like to work behind the scenes to help maintain and grow project funding? Do you have technical writing skills to assist in grant applications of donor recruitment/management experience to build our support base?
Freq of service: 4-5 times per year
Length of time: 8 hours
Days of Service: Flexible; can work from home
Advocacy Support Opportunity
Do you have a passion to educate and advocate in support of the immigrant – the second and equally important half of the JFON ministry? Can you help organize outreach events at local churches, university campuses and community organizations?
Freq of service: 3-4 times per year
Length of time: 4 hours
Days of Service:Flexible
How Else Can I Help?
- Support JFON with a financial or in-kind gift
- Invite us to give a presentation at your religious or civic organization
- Reach out to a neighbor in need – share this resource
- Encourage your employer or group to make a “matching gift”
- Study immigration issues and be an advocate for justice
Since April was Volunteer Appreciation Month, we featured some of the amazing people who volunteer with JFON-SEMI.
Now we introduce Kay Allingham, a volunteer who has helped run a clinic in Adrian and assists with translating (she speaks Spanish) at our Ypsilanti clinic. She got involved shortly after hearing Rev. Paul Perez give a talk about JFON at a UMW annual meeting. Kay wishes more people knew about JFON, especially since volunteering makes her feel so useful. She shares “God gave me a gift for learning a language easily and one of the ways I can use that gift in service to God a…nd my neighbor is by working with JFON-SEMI.”
Kay has met a lot of families while spending time with JFON-SEMI. Parents who have come as immigrants and want to change their status. Those parents often have children that were born here. She spoke of meeting hardworking people and stated “I’m sure if they stayed here, they would not be a burden on society.”
Kay’s family (she’s married to John and has two children who live in Chicago) is fully supportive of her work with JFON. Her friends usually want to know a bit more about it. She’s spoken at church a couple of times about JFON and so far in all of her sharing, hasn’t gotten any negative reactions. Kay says that donating to and volunteering with JFON are necessary and feels that JFON-SEMI is an organization that gets by spending very little. She wishes we could use more resources towards more staff and more clinics to further spread our mission opportunities, especially since she feels that we have a good grasp on how immigration policies affect real people and we provide such great hospitality.
One of Kay’s favorite things to do is working with JFON-SEMI but when she’s not at it, you can find her traveling quite a bit (she’ll soon be in Portugal and Spain). She also enjoys a forty year friendship with a woman who was an exchange student that stayed with Kay’s family when Kay was in high school and is active in the UMW at her church, Adrian FUMC. We are so thankful for her time and celebrate her translating talents that are so helpful in realizing our mission.
Continuing with our volunteer celebrations in April we caught up with Richard Teets, a retired auto engineer and former avid amateur volleyball player, who is active with our Pontiac clinic site. Rich first got involved with JFON-SEMI after attending a session at the Detroit Annual Conference’s yearly meeting where he heard Paul Perez discuss the organization. At the time he was the chair of the Church & Society committee at his home church, First UMC Birmingham, where he…’s been a member for close to 25 years. Rich was inspired to join JFON’s efforts and was part of the early planning meetings for our Pontiac clinic. At first he did intake interviews there, while more recently he has done mostly clerical work and assisted with the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) application process.
Rich’s first impression of JFON was that it was something that was filling a definite need by providing immigration legal aid to low income people. He has been most surprised by the complexity of the immigration law and the variety of assistance that people need, though as a volunteer Rich says “It’s pretty simple what we’re doing, but Melanie Goldberg [JFON-SEMI’s attorney] has to do all the challenging stuff. I wish other people knew that JFON exists; that it’s doing great work. There are many people who have a legal path forward in immigration that’s confusing and complicated…people between the person who’s clear cut and documented and those who are undocumented.”
When Rich isn’t working with JFON-SEMI he volunteers with the church and helps people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a passion that he pursues with a lot of his spare time. We are grateful that he shares himself with us in Pontiac and that he’s a volunteer who cares so much about isolated and underserved communities.
Kathy Sestok has been involved with JFON-SEMI since it first kicked off out of her home church, Dearborn FUMC, five years ago. As a retired Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Kathy is used to helping save lives, now she just focuses on doing it in another capacity here at JFON. Mother to Jill Sestok (our Administrative Assistant) Kathy is linked to the cause in direct and indirect ways! Kathy remembers first hearing about JFON when Dr. Bill Ritter came out to her church and held a meeting describing JFON and garnering interest. His talk was so good, she’s been hooked ever since and she’s very glad it turned out that way. Her first impression of JFON was very interesting as it was her first experience with immigration issues. She states “I didn’t realize firsthand the problems people who want to be documented have to go through…the stress that goes along with worrying whether or not you’re documented…the financial dangers involved where immigrants are taken advantage of and swindled out of hard earned money by those preying on their situation.”
Kathy really enjoys volunteering with JFON-SEMI and shares the best thing that’s come out of it: “Realizing the actual people…putting a face to the worries and stress that people have about being undocumented. I’m very lucky that I don’t have that particular type of stress. I’ve always had a safe welcoming place to live but working with JFON I have a face to put with that type of strife…the difficulty in just getting up each and every day. I wish people knew that about JFON…who they work with and how they help. What a wonderful service it is for people who otherwise would not have other options. Some people make judgments without realizing it’s real people we’re talking about with families facing these things. Take the time to put the faces with the immigration situations.”
When Kathy’s not working with JFON-SEMI you can find her very involved in church, for instance coordinating Wesley Wednesday dinners; visiting her two precious grand children (Ethan who is 5 and Paisley who is almost 3) in San Diego, California; hand making cards for every occasion, and chasing around her newly adopted mischievous cat. We are thankful to have some of her time and talent on our team!
Representing our Interfaith Detainee Visitation Program (IDVP) is Karen Donahue, who’s well into her second year of volunteering at the detention center in Monroe. Karen has been a Sister of Mercy for 54 years, a Catholic religious order of sisters, and a fellow Sister of Mercy introduced her to JFON-SEMI.
Karen’s first impression of JFON-SEMI was of high regard for the dedication of the staff and interfaith group which includes three sisters from another faith community, a United Church of Christ pastor, and some United Methodists. She appreciates that the similarities of the JFON ministry and the order are remarkable in their immigration efforts. One of her first memories of the IDVP is of bringing snacks to the men in Monroe, no easy feat considering how difficult it is to get anything in. As Karen relates regarding her last volunteer effort “I had mixed feelings…the immigrants appreciate us coming and I’m happy that we can bring a little bit of cheer into their lives but we can’t do a lot for them and I feel bad for that, especially for those who are separated from their families, from children.” On the other hand Karen shares “I wish people knew more about the excellent work JFON is doing on behalf of the immigrants. There are a number of organizations all over the country working together to change our broken, unjust, dysfunctional immigration system while immigrants themselves have become scapegoats for so many problems in the country. It’s heartening to see the organizations all working together. Politically as the demographics of the country change, the politicians are going to have to wake up and take action. This might make them force the issue and do something constructive.”
When Karen isn’t working with the IDVP she’s very active in her St. Aloysisus parish in Detroit and has taken action protesting causes such as the Iraq war before it started and the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA. Every Wednesday she gathers at the order’s vigil at Detroit’s Department of Homeland Security office, which was started 8 years ago. They pray the rosary and hold a banner that says “God’s love has no borders. Immigration reform must be just.” We are lucky to have this passionate peacemaker in our midst.
Next up in our Volunteer Spotlight Series this month are Denise and Phil Palmer, the dynamic duo who keep our Dearborn clinic running smoothly every month. College sweethearts at Eastern Michigan University and parents to three children, Phil and Denise decided that when they retired, they would support JFON-SEMI actively. Phil retired first from a career in office supply retail and was present at the very first clinic in Dearborn. A few years after that, Denise retired from teaching and joined Phil at JFON-SEMI’s clinics. Together they help set up the clinic, welcome clients and coordinate the intake process. As Phil describes, “I like the fact that we’ve had people from many countries all over the world represented and come to our church….A lot of people don’t understand what we’re doing. They think we want everyone to come over with no problems but we’re trying to work within the system…it’s not a free ride for everyone, though a lot of people think that’s what it is.” Denise adds, “We’re all ancestors of immigrants. Our country was founded on immigrants. Trying to help people become legalized citizens…why not? That’s why I feel it’s important, to continue the fight.”
Apart from actively supporting JFON-SEMI, Phil and Denise are heavily involved in other activities at FUMC Dearborn, their church. Phil is the Chair of the Finance Committee, and Denise helps coordinate holiday dinners and is the Secretary of the Church Council. In their free time you might find them at a Steely Dan concert having some well deserved fun.
April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month! Every week we’ll be posting profiles of our wonderful volunteers to share with you. Today we feature Morris Taber of Ann Arbor.
Morris Taber was one of the very first intake volunteers at our FUMC Ypsilanti clinic and has not stopped since! A professor for almost 30 years at Henry Ford College, Morris was introduced to the JFON model after hearing a representative from JFON-WMI speak at a Sunday School class at FUMC Ypsilanti, his home church. He then supported the efforts of Rev. Melanie Carey and others to start a clinic at their church. “My first impression was very positive! JFON was getting results in many areas for immigrants. The system is so difficult to navigate with bad laws arbitrarily applied creating great hardships, and at JFON’s core we are working towards addressing these injustices. I feel called to help in this endeavor, and I feel good that I’m able to contribute to causes like JFON….I want to be sure JFON succeeds.”
Since 1999 Morris and his wife, Ann have been involved with starting a library in Zimbabwe by collecting books and building a library in 2000. This past October they sent their 5th truck-size container of books to Zimbabwe to start a 10th primary school library of children’s books. These resources have helped approximately 8,000 children pass their English exams.
When not supporting JFON-SEMI, libraries in Zimbabwe, and Cass Community Social Services, Morris and Ann love to travel around the world. His hobbies include reading, playing bridge, and stamp collecting. How he finds the time to do so is a mystery!
Volunteer Spotlight – Maya Barak
Every few months, we at JFON-SEMI like to honor one of our volunteers as our Volunteer Spotlight. This month we are honoring Maya Barak. As the volunteer spotlight Maya has been ask to write about her experiences with JFON-SEMI. Maya writes:
“I became involved with JFON through my experience as a community organizer focusing on worker and immigrant rights issues at the Washtenaw County Workers’ Center. Over my time with JFON I have done everything from welcome participants to perform bilingual intakes, all the while meeting dozens of wonderful community members, volunteers, and leaders. Though I moved to Washington to start my PhD in Justice, Law, and Society at American University this fall, I continue to provide occasional translation support via email because I believe in JFON.
JFON-SEMI is an amazing program that makes real differences in individuals’ lives. Working with JFON has taught me about both the intricacies of immigration law and the practical issues involved in adjusting one’s immigration status. More importantly, JFON-SEMI has reaffirmed my belief in the power of individuals to unite for positive change in the face of structural adversity. It is these lessons, among others learned from the social justice community, that have and will continue to serve as a grounding force in my academic and personal life”.