Psalm 127:1 Unless it is the Lord who builds the house, the builder’s work is pointless. Unless it is the Lord who protects the city, the guard on duty is pointless.
“You are the ones who are building the house, you are the ones who are protecting those who are defenseless, and God blesses you for your ministry here,” read Bishop Laurie Haller at the blessing celebrating the new office of Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) on March 15, 2018.
“We think that all means all, and that all should have access no matter what their status or their economic status is, that they should have access to these important services,” Iowa JFON Executive Director Sol Varisco-Santini said. “To have a chance to be in the U.S. to be treated with dignity and respect, and that is what this faith mission allows us to provide. We provide legal services at no cost, and so these free services really make a change in their life to start a new life and be treated with respect in Des Moines.”
Bishop Laurie was joined by Des Moines Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Richard Pates, Buddhist Monk Honorable Razida, and Hindu Priest Randit Mukti Subedi, who offered prayers for the persons served by JFON and the dedicated staff. The Jewish and Muslim communities also support Iowa JFON, but representatives were unable to make it that day.
“I’m so happy it’s an interreligious gathering, not only just ecumenical, because I think that better addresses the human family, and who we are and what we’re all about,” Bishop Pates said. “The aspirations that are on the hearts of each of us, and no matter what our faith, our faith is leading us to god and peace and to respect and love of one another.”
This is the fifth time that Iowa JFON has moved in the past 10 years, and they are looking forward to having a place to grow close to those that they serve.
“This brings us back together as one office with all of our attorneys, and all of our legal assistants and staff here,” Frank Camp, Iowa JFON Board Chair, said. “We’re able to provide help here in a neighborhood where we find a lot of our clients nearby. The ability to have some space where we can meet privately is so important. It’s been a great find and we’re really grateful for the generosity of both the conference to help us find this kind of a space, and to the landlords who really were very generous in offering a space mostly furnished.”
The main office has always been somewhere near the Drake neighborhood in Des Moines since the beginning of Iowa JFON in 1999, and over the years they have expanded to satellite locations across the state.
“We continue to provide monthly services in seven different locations: Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, Columbus Junction, Storm Lake, Decorah, and Ottumwa.” Varisco-Santini said.
They are always looking for volunteers at all locations, and donations can be given online or mail to Iowa Annual Conference 2301 Rittenhouse St. Des Moines, IA 50321 with note in memo for Advance Special Offering #375. More information and resources can be found at IowaJFON.org.