Volunteer Highlight: Martin Himmelfarb

Martin Himmelfarb’s work helps the most vulnerable residents in the St. Petersburg community. As a volunteer attorney in GLS’s immigration unit, he assists individuals and families that are fleeing violence in Central America, or those who have been trafficked in and are seeking freedom. Martin works closely with our immigration attorney, Jacquelyn, to make sure she has all the information she needs to process a case.

A retired attorney himself, Martin once worked in litigation, but had to relearn the process when we began with GLS in 2017. Immigration was different from anything he’d ever done before. He began assisting with T Visas and Legal Permanent Resident cases, conducting research, interviewing clients, completing forms, and drafting briefs. His research included many tasks, from reviewing information about clients’ history, their home countries, to investigating traffickers and making phone calls tracking down criminal records.

Eventually, he moved to assisting with asylum claims, which can literally save lives. The work is complicated and requires a lot of patience – many clients have T Visas pending while they file, and because of recent policy changes, most cases take 16-22 months to finalize. Martin has also helped GLS find volunteer translators. He’s always willing to help on any task, big or small.

Jacquelyn relies on Martin for his experience, wisdom, and dedication. He is an extremely consistent volunteer and shows up every week for approximately seven hours. You can always find him sitting at his laptop in the volunteer workspace, immersed in his research. He is truly dedicated to the organization, and has logged over 400 case hours since he began volunteering here. His work helps people start their lives over. It helps reunite families and grow the diversity of our St. Petersburg community.

Martin probably works as much now as he did before he retired. He volunteers an incredible amount of his time to stay busy and give back to his community. In addition to his work with GLS, he is also a tutor at Pinellas Refugee Education Program where he helps ESOL students learn and practice English. He also is an instructor at Project Prosper, where he teaches financial literary to immigrants, assisting them with education regarding banking, financial security, establishing and maintaining good credit, car buying, employment and insurance.

He’s not done learning, either. Martin recently took CLE’s from the Catholic Immigration Network to help him better understand the work he’d be taking on at GLS. Some of his classes included: Fundamentals of Immigration Law and Completing the Application for Naturalization: Form N-400.

As a legal aid organization, we could not possibly meet the overwhelming needs of our community without the consistent, dedicated work of volunteer attorneys. Martin is not only saving lives, but is part of a system that ensures equal access to justice for everyone.