Brenda Rivers is the Senior Paralegal for the Family Law unit at GLS. She has been with the organization for almost twenty-eight years, having been born and raised in St. Petersburg where, in 1982, she became the first African American female FM DJ in Pinellas County. She attended St. Petersburg College, which at the time, had two tracks for students – medical or legal. She took the legal route and was so highly respected by her colleagues that she immediately got a job after graduation working for State Representative Douglas Jamerson. During one legislative session in Tallahassee, she was fortunate enough to meet Maya Angelou at a book signing. Maya told her, “Stick with your goals. Follow your dreams.” That has been a major guiding statement in her life ever since.
After getting married and giving birth to twins, Brenda decided that being away from home every year during the session would not be best for her family, so she sought a closer position somewhere close to home. After working for five years at an Engineering company as an Executive Secretary, Brenda was offered a position at GLS. When she started, she worked as a legal assistant in the Housing Unit, but also assisted with issues such as Employment Discrimination, Bankruptcy and Public Benefits.
She has since worked and assisted in almost every department here. In addition, she spent many years working with the Community Law Program coordinating the Consumer Advice and Expungement Clinic. There, she worked evenings helping clients seal or erase convictions.
Brenda’s motto: “Think positive and never let them steal your joy!”
About sixteen years ago, she joined the family law unit and has been with them ever since. Now, she says the best part of her job is the intakes she conducts with clients. She loves learning about people’s behaviors, life choices, and understanding what makes them tick. And she meets a lot of interesting characters in her line of work!
One of her most memorable cases was that of a young mother who had some symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, but was working, paying her bills, and very high functioning. After the death of her mother, this young woman grew up with her mother’s friend and got pregnant at seventeen. The friend kept the child after birth and forced the mother out of the house at nineteen. The client eventually obtained housing across the street where her daughter lived, while working and paying for her daughter’s care, enrolling her in school, and doing everything she could to be a good parent. Still, she truly believed the “friend” had a right to keep her child. After several years, she decided enough was enough. She wanted her daughter back, so with the support of several out of state family members, she sought assistance from GLS.
Brenda was a crucial part of the team that helped the woman get her daughter back. She still receives updates from the mother about the little girl, who has been successful in school and is doing well in life.
Outside of work, Brenda is a member of a Social Club called the Snooty Foxx which sponsors school supplies and clothing for two children each year, as well as a family at Christmas time. She has three children (two twins) and three grandbabies – the oldest is ten and the youngest is six months. She is a certified Victim Services Practitioner and has been a Florida Registered Paralegal since 2008. In addition, Brenda has been behind many of our amazing staff recognition programs, including our first annual Black History Month Celebration in our present building and our Women’s History Month recognition program.
Brenda provides the experience, context, and knowledge our organization needs to stay true to our roots and to never forget our history. We’re so thankful for her 27 year (going on 28 year!) commitment to GLS!