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program. He came to the Home, a facility he considers his only
home, from an alternative school where he "did a little learning
and messed around a lot more." With Compass Learning,
Zion finds he is not distracted and is "glad we have it."
The Foundation is glad, too.
Just as the Children's Home is making a difference in
the lives of children, the Community Justice Project (CJP)
is making a difference in the lives of Berks County's poor
CJP is a public interest law firm that is part of
Pennsylvania's Legal Network. Its stated mission "is to protect
and expand the civil rights of poor families and low-wage
By not receiving federal funds, CJP is able to handle cases
that other legal service organizations, like MidPenn, are not
able to handle. These include litigating class actions and
representing undocumented immigrants. For example, CJP's
Reading office helps, on average, 200 immigrants annually
become naturalized citizens. It has also successfully litigated
class actions against local firms that were not paying overtime
The Reading office is staffed by Attorney Colleen Normile
and Paralegal Benita Mejia. Colleen, who is Co-Chair of
BCBA's Citizenship Committee, has been with CJP for three
years. Prior to that, she was in El Salvador for six months,
observing the presidential election taking place. A native of
Pennsylvania's Montgomery County, she is fluent in Spanish.
Benita has been with CJP for twelve years. A native of the
Dominican Republic, she had lived in New York City for 23
years before coming to CJP, where her work involves intake
and doing community outreach with the Hispanic Center, local
churches and other agencies.
As an unrestricted legal services organization, CJP has relied
upon IOLTA funding. When the interest rates during the
"great recession" dropped precipitously, its funding deficit has
been filled in part by grants from the Law Foundation.
Colleen's work includes representing immigrants without a
permanent status who were abused by a citizen or permanent
resident family member under the Violence Against Women
Act. She also assists in obtaining U-Visas for those immigrants
who are victims of violent crimes and then assists law
enforcement in its investigation. She reports that "District
Attorney John Adams is very good about helping me with
these efforts."
Employment cases as well as those involving sexual or
nationality discrimination are referred to the attorneys in CJP's
Harrisburg office. Paralegal Mejia receives eight to ten calls
per week about such cases and serves as a "bridge between the
Spanish community and the lawyers."
Colleen finds her work with CJP to be very rewarding.
"I love the clients. Where would they go if we were not here?"
Where, indeed?
With grants to the Children's Home of Reading and the
Community Justice Project, the Law Foundation's benefactors
are helping to make a difference in Berks County.

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Spring/Summer 2017 | 33

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