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Free Legal Aid Fair
By Steve Allred

On Sunday, September 8, more than 35 volunteers, including local church members, lawyers, paralegals and law students, set up shop for the first biannual free legal aid fair at the Yuba City Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The idea of the church providing free legal aid originated with Nila Zumbrum, a new attendee at the Yuba City church who also happens to be a paralegal. Zumbrum approached Steve Allred, the church’s lead pastor, and suggested that the church host an event where members could get free help with advance healthcare directives, wills and trusts.  Allred, who is also a licensed attorney, agreed that the event could meet a real need – not just in the church but also in the community.

After much organization, planning and networking with local legal practitioners, the free legal aid fair was launched.  Twelve law students and two professors from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento hosted an immigration law clinic at the fair.  In addition, several lawyers and paralegals volunteered their time to host separate clinics where clients could receive advice and assistance with family law, employment law, criminal law, real estate law, healthcare advance directives, and more. 

The response both from the community and the church was enthusiastic!  More than 50 registration forms were filled out, many forms often representing a family or couple that came for assistance.  Overall, more than 75 community and church members attended or were offered legal help.  Each clinic had a steady flow of clients throughout the four hours of the fair.

 “Thank you so much for providing free legal help!” was a sentiment expressed numerous times throughout the afternoon.  Phyla Caldwell, one of the local church volunteers, noted that there was an overwhelmingly positive response from those who received legal advice and assistance.  Some attendees from the community also inquired about the church and were interested in learning more about the message of the Bible.

The volunteer attorneys and church members felt a sense of satisfaction with being able to offer specialized legal help to those who attended for absolutely no charge.  All volunteers seemed excited to see the turnout and many expressed an interest in serving at the next Yuba City Legal Aid Fair in March of 2014. 

 “Jesus came to meet people’s needs, and that is also what He calls for us to do in our communities,” Allred notes, observing that the legal fair was aimed to meet a need in the community for free legal aid “with no strings attached.”  Just as importantly, however, there was an opportunity for interested attendees at the legal fair to sign up for future health and prophecy outreach events at the registration table – and several did sign up.

If your local church is interested in hosting a free legal aid fair, it’s not that difficult to do.  Talk with legal professionals who attend your church or those in the community and let them know that your church is available to host the event.  Form a committee to organize the event and advertise in your community.  (For organizational ideas and materials, you can contact Steve Allred at steve.allred@gmail.com).

Jesus calls His church to be relevant in our communities.  Showing “disinterested acts of kindness” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 387) that meet people’s felt needs is a part of sharing His love and being the salt of the world that gives people a thirst for the Water of Life.

Steve Allred is the lead pastor for the Yuba City Church in Northern California.