Celebrating with neighbors

Marshalltown JFON ‘Hand-in-Hand’ event draws dozens

Dozens of audience members sat in the pews of First United Methodist Church Saturday afternoon to hear a performance of the song “To the Hands,” written by Caroline Shaw. The Grinnell Oratorio Society performance was part of the Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) “Hand-in-Hand” event. Before the performance, Marshalltown resident and immigrant Maria González, standing, spoke about how JFON helped her

Cold, wet weather Saturday didn’t stop dozens of people from gathering in the pews of First United Methodist Church to hear a concert and celebrate the Marshalltown Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) clinic.

“We’re very happy about what has happened her in Marshalltown and much involvement and commitment it has with other organizations,” said Iowa JFON Executive Director Sol Varisco-Santini, adding the legal clinic has been in town for a year now. “I came from Des Moines to support the event, and it’s amazing what I’m seeing.”

The centerpiece of Saturday’s “Hand-in-Hand” event was a live performance of “To the Hands” by Caroline Shaw. It was performed by the Grinnell Oratorio Society, made up of vocalists and a strings section.

Images of hands, including those of Jesus and the Statue of Liberty, were invoked during the performance. The song was written by Shaw to be used at events welcoming immigrants and refugees.

Marshalltown resident and immigrant Maria González also spoke at the event, and told the audience about how JFON’s services helped her.

“If it wasn’t for this organization, I don’t think many like myself, or in my shoes, would be able to move forward and give back to this community,” she said.

González is currently involved with the Marshalltown JFON clinic as a volunteer.

“Our mission is to welcome immigrants and refugees by providing free legal services, advocacy and education,” Varisco-Santini said of JFON. “Mainly, what we do is monthly clinics in seven different locations in Iowa; we have about 10-12 appointments every time.”

Cases from family reunification, to instances of violence, to citizenship and more are topics touched on by JFON legal experts.

“If there’s not a service we provide to them, we will also provide a referral to other attorneys that can help them with their case,” Varisco-Santini said.

Joa LaVille of Immigrant Allies of Marshalltown and JFON Marshalltown clinic coordinator said the set-up for the event itself showed how diverse the city is.

“I feel like it just came together in a way that is a living, breathing example of celebrating diversity,” she said. “When we think about diversity, we often think about the diversity of where we’re from or what language we speak … everyone took what their own hands can do, and they brought that to this event.”

LaVille praised the many people involved in turing the celebration into reality.

“Over and over, it just shows that many hands may not make light work, but many hands, coming together in the spirit of community and great love, can do really great things,” she said. “That’s what I believe Marshalltown is.”


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com