Greater Waco Legal Services an excellent community resource
“You really need a lawyer.”
People rarely like hearing those words.
They often punctuate our lives when something unforeseen has happened, we’ve hit a crisis or we are thinking about our own demise. We are daunted by dollar signs. We don’t know where to turn, who to trust or what can be done, if anything.
Fortunately, our city has a place to turn for everyone, regardless of financial status, who might see themselves in the above description. Greater Waco Legal Services offers compassionate, affordable legal services so all in our community can have equal access to justice.
Clients pay fees for quality legal representation on a sliding scale according to income. Bilingual counsel is available as well. It’s been my joy to serve as a volunteer, translator and now as the president of the GWLS board.
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Over and over, I’ve watched as we have helped people who earnestly desire to “follow the rules” but are overwhelmed trying to navigate a complicated bureaucracy.
I remember one young friend who was brought to this country as a child. We helped her get her paperwork in order and apply for protected status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals rules. A donor gave toward a scholarship to assist with the government’s $495 fee. I remember when her DACA was approved — she got her driver’s license and a good paying job in one afternoon.
Another service we offer is a monthly free legal advice clinic, usually on the first Monday evening of each month at one of the Transformation Waco school campuses. During these clinics, anyone from our community can come in and receive a half-hour consult with an attorney. At a recent clinic, a young mom arrived juggling a baby and a thick manila envelope — and a very busy 4-year-old girl. She and I did some drawing and we looked at books. I read to her at a nearby table as her mom met with one of our attorneys. After that, I spent time listening to the story of a young woman of about 20 who had been trafficked. She had come to the clinic with an older woman who seemed to be a mentor. One of our attorneys was able to help her with her legal issue, and they left with some hope.
Tax-deductible generosity makes these services available. I give monthly, in part because I’m compelled by my faith. Giving to GWLS is a tangible way to “seek the welfare of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7). In this age where the division in our nation has tragically impacted the church, GWLS is an organization that Christians of all persuasions can support.
People of all faiths are welcomed, served and cared for by GWLS. Scripture repeatedly calls for those with power to use it to defend the rights of the oppressed and work for the flourishing of all people.
For example, Proverbs 31:8-9 commands us to “speak up … for the rights of all who are destitute” and to “defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Supporting the work of GWLS can be our opportunity to live out the exhortation in this verse and multiple other verses. Our support helps fellow Wacoans to have more stable, prosperous lives. Our clients are the faces of Waco.
As we approach the holidays, consider giving the gift of peace of mind to a neighbor here in our community. For just $25, you can give an hourlong consult with a lawyer. For $250, you can help a parent get custody of his or her children or help a neighbor get clear ownership to their family home.
Visit our website at greater wacolegalservices.org and click the gold “donate” button in the upper right hand corner of the home screen, mail a check to Greater Waco Legal Services, P.O. Box 689, Waco, TX 76703, or contact our executive director, Kent McKeever, at kent@greaterwaco legalservices.org to learn more.
The Rev. Susan Finck has been pastor at Waco’s bilingual El Calvario Presbyterian Church for almost 20 years. She is president of the Greater Waco Legal Services board.
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