The room was electric with the presence of over 100 volunteers gathered to celebrate at Administer Justice’s annual volunteer appreciation breakfast. Windows surrounded two sides of the room looking out upon beautiful greenery of the golf course at Elgin Country Club. Snow had fallen earlier but the sun was shining bright as a visual reminder of the cold storms that beset our clients and the truth we share that the sun (son)is still present and a better day is coming.
Karen Hippchen, our volunteer services director, led the event. A volunteer herself for many years she knows first-hand the theme from this year: Making a Difference in the Lives of Others. Another long-time volunteer and now staff, Phil Thacher, opened in prayer. Our friend Kimmy Vos led in worship as we ate, laughed, distributed awards and were inspired to further service. The theme was visibly demonstrated by testimony and the comments of those receiving awards.
Janet James volunteers on Saturday mornings and Thursday nights coordinating clients for intake. She is a paralegal who works in the mortgage industry realizing now the weight of people on the receiving end of the mounds of papers she processes. Janet told the story of a man, we’ll call him Jorge, who she met recently on a Thursday which is also the day of our heavily visited foreclosure workshop. Jorge spoke Spanish and did not understand the papers he received. Janet had time to calm Jorge with the help of a volunteer interpreter, and review his papers. She discovered that he was being foreclosed for failure to pay a city sanitation improvement assessment which was supposed to only last three years. Seven years later the assessment was still being applied and the city was seeking to collect with penalties, interest and fees. Janet recognized this injustice and prayed for an appointment opening – there was one, and it just “happened” to be with a real estate attorney! God answers prayers. What is more that attorney agreed with her evaluation and took the case pro bono which led to eliminating the debt and saving the home.
Deb Wolf received our True Mercy Award for years of faithful volunteer service in numerous roles including bookkeeper, making brochures, leading Fun Fest and coordinating our peacemakers. As she received her award she told the story of her sister who came to Administer Justice distraught and looking for a divorce. Her husband was an alcoholic and she did not know what to do to protect herself and daughter. The attorney prayed with her and recognizing she did not want a divorce provided practical ways to address the problem outside of the courthouse. She never saw the courthouse but did see her husband change. He quit drinking and their last few years together were a blessing before the alcohol abuse which destroyed his liver took his life. There would have been a very different ending if a lawyer had not encouraged peace over retribution in the hour of need.
Judy Berndt received our True Justice Award for her years of service including volunteering at least one day a week at the Elgin office, for her wonderful attitude and encouragement of other attorneys to use the gifts God has given them in the service of others. Judy shared the recent story of an 85-year-old woman who she was privileged to help. This dear widow was overwhlemed by various legal issues which Judy was able to help resolve, but hearing the worry and lack of resources, Judy pulled out her last three dollars and gave them to the woman. With tears streaming down her face she thanked Judy for lifting a burden and allowing the woman to celebrate at McDonalds.
Every day volunteers make a difference in the lives of others at Administer Justice. As they do their lives are also changed. There is power in each Samaritan who takes the time to stop and serve their wounded neighbor in need along the Jericho Road of life. That is the message of the book, Gospel Justice, and one I shared with our amazing volunteers. Please consider joining this wonderful team of people who are making a difference. Visit the volunteer section of our website and fill out the form. You will be glad you did.