Kirstin Huhtala Karoub received JFON’s Volunteer of the Year Award during ceremonies in Detroit.
Michigan Area Communications
Detroit, Mich.—On Wednesday, Sept. 27 through Sept. 29, people from across the United States came together to be a part of the Justice For Our Neighbors Roundtable in Detroit, Michigan hosted by Central United Methodist Church.
JFON grew out of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). First organized in 1999, there are now 17 sites across the country, located in 12 different states, as well as the District of Columbia. Justice For Our Neighbors has two Michigan affiliates–JFON West Michigan and JFON Southeastern Michigan–with clinics in seven cities around the state.
Rev. Paul Perez, Detroit Conference Director of Mission and Justice Engagement & Leadership Recruitment, noted, “[JFON] grew…in response to a series of immigration laws that made it much more difficult for immigrants to navigate the process to become permanent residents and U.S. citizens.”
Justice For Our Neighbors offers legal services to low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, including advice and counsel, assistance with DACA, Deportation Defense, and help obtaining citizenship.
“JFON is a crucial ministry in mission of the United Methodist Church,” Perez said. “JFON tends to provide free immigration legal services for low income immigrants, particularly in the areas of family reunification and protection of women and children around abuse.”
The JFON Roundtable had a full three-day schedule in Detroit, with various breakout workshops, discussions, and speakers, including Michigan Area’s Bishop David Bard, who affirmed how important Justice in ministry is at this time.
“I am glad that you are here, and I am pleased and delighted that you are engaged in the ministry in which you are engaged,” Bishop Bard told the assembly. “Because it is a critical time in our nation and in our world for this kind of ministry.”
The first day of the JFON Roundtable event featured workshop facilitators that would set the tone for the weekend. In an overview session about Immigration Policy and what you can do on the local, state, and national level, Meredith Own, Church World Service (CWS) and Susan Reed, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) offered insights. They provided the participants with strategies to take the current storm head on.
In a session run by Kimberly Jutze, NJFON, participants learned how to make use of existing fundraising resources to increase support for JFON sites. In the third, and final breakout session, Shane Ellison, Jenny Ansay, and Dominique Poirier, National JFON Consulting Attorneys, discussed various programing issues, as well as case matters, ethical challenges, and more. There were many additional breakout options to inform, support and network.
On September 29 the National Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Kirstin Huhtala Karoub. Kirstin has been an integral part of JFON SEMI since 2009, serving on a regional board and helping to launch and lead a local clinic. Karoub told the group she is driven by two guiding principles: “Love your neighbor” and “Here I am.”
The nomination letter outlined her worthiness for the honor: “Kirstin is our go-to volunteer who never shies away from a challenge or a request to help! A Methodist ‘Preacher’s Kid’ raising her family in a vibrant multi-cultural community, Kirstin lives and breathes JFON’s motto of ‘welcoming the stranger’ with compassion, energy, and, when required, a certain sense of humor.”
Justice For Our Neighbors and the United Methodist Church are working together to create community throughout our nation by creating services that make refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers feel welcomed in the the United States. The National JFON Roundtable event set the tone for the work that is yet to be done in not only the United Methodist Church, but throughout the United States.
“We are a part of the Jesus Community, we are a part of communities of passion, communities of kindness, communities of justice, communities of love, communities that break down the walls that divide,” Bishop Bard said. “It is an intrinsic part of what it means to be a part of the Jesus Community.”