Volunteer Spotlight: Jon Gebhardt
It’s only been 3 months, but it’s been the best 3 months for everyone at Just Neighbors – and we hope for Jon too. In November, Jon Gebhardt started volunteering in our front office, helping potential clients complete intake forms over the phone, and occasionally translating documents and messages between attorneys and clients in Spanish.
Having just moved to the DMV from Boston, Jonathan was looking for a way to volunteer his skillset to an organization that served the underserved and came across Just Neighbors.
“I saw the mission statement and it really resonated with me, especially the emphasis on collaborating and building community through immigration services. When I reached out to Sasia about volunteer opportunities, she was so welcoming, and she really took care to ask about my background and find out how I could best contribute my skills and experiences to support Just Neighbors’ work.”
“It’s only been a few months since I started volunteering, but it feels so much longer than that. I’ve already gotten to know so many of the staff and volunteers. It’s been amazing to see how much everyone cares about each other and the clients we serve.”
When he lived in Boston, Jon worked at an employment-based immigration law firm and volunteered at The Right to Immigration Institute. Jon also received a Ph.D. in History from Yale University, where he studied the beginnings of globalization and how it impacts our modern-day world, and he holds a B.A. in History from Princeton University with certificates in Latin American Studies and Spanish Language and Literature. Additionally, Jon is fluent in Mandarin and has taught Mandarin in the past. It’s through these experiences that Jon brings a new, and welcome perspective to the table about the state of immigration in the US.
We asked him what he would choose to tell people if he could share only one thing about his experience at Just Neighbors, and his response echoed something many of our volunteers and interns have told us in the past.
“When I first started, I was completely overwhelmed, and still am, by the sheer number of calls that we receive from people asking for our help. Time and time again, people have told me that they’re just happy they could get into contact with someone.”
Thousands of people call and email Just Neighbors every year from all over the country and even abroad, requesting our assistance. Jon and our incredible office volunteers and staff respond to every request, but unfortunately we only have the capacity to provide immigration legal services to 25% of people asking for our help.
“It’s hard to tell people that we’re at capacity and need to refer them to other organizations or private attorneys, especially when we’re doing it far more often than telling a new client we can take on their case. There’s clearly a huge need for more resources, and I really hope that people will donate or volunteer if they can.”
Jon, thank you for all you do for immigrant communities! We will forever be grateful for your dedication and generosity. Welcome to the Just Neighbors family!
Inspired by Jon like we are? Check out the different ways you can make an impact in immigrant communities!