Lawyers Help Community Power-Up

Randi Ilyse Roth, Executive Director

For about a year, the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church community near Selby and Dale engaged in what their pastor, Rev. Carl Walker, called “Community Power-Ups.” One Wednesday night each month, in partnership with deeply invested community organizations, Morning Star congregants enjoyed live jazz, a meal, and education about financial and legal matters. At the end of the year, the community collectively said, “We know we need lawyers here!”

That response sparked the birth of the Power-Up Legal Clinic. Working closely with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS), Interfaith Action, and the Cardozo Society of the Jewish Federations of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the Church began to sponsor volunteer legal clinics every other Thursday afternoon.

The clinic has been going strong since November 2016, seeing 71 clients to date, with issues ranging from landlord-tenant problems to employment-related issues to financial/legal issues of surviving spouses to debt collection issues.

Each clinic session is staffed by two volunteer lawyers from Cardozo, and one or two lawyers from SMRLS. Every effort is made to place cases with lawyers who can complete the case if the problem can’t be solved right in clinic.

“This Clinic is delivering real value,” Rev. Walker attests. “It’s just what our community needs to enforce their rights.”

As word of mouth spreads, the clinic is beginning to attract clients from beyond the Morning Star community. We are actively advertising in CommonBond housing properties, at Wilder, nearby faith organizations, and neighborhood stores.

The clinic is one of the many ways Interfaith Action supports work that helps heal our community. A clinic client recently said to me, “You have no idea how it feels to be a Muslim woman in full hijab in the waiting room of a Black Baptist church knowing you’re about to tell your deepest problems to a Jewish lawyer!” This client was very pleased with the excellent services she received at clinic.

Interfaith Action is pleased to be a part of this important service to our community, a service that is stabilizing lives while engaging volunteers in meaningful work.