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It Isn’t Always Food

When you work with the public, one thing is for sure–you never know who is going to walk through the door when you throw up the ‘open’ sign. Most of the time, it’s pretty mundane. People come to a food pantry for food. People go to the mall (or internet!) to buy clothes. While the expected is always, well, expected, we’ve also got to be ready to answer the unexpected question.

Recently, a customer came to the pantry just looking for advice. Their partner had been summoned for jury duty in the summer but was unable to participate because they were visiting their home country in North Africa. They were granted a waiver.

A subsequent jury summons came in November, but there were other difficulties in meeting the needs of the court. The customer fretted that they could not say no again or they would be in trouble with the federal court that issued the summons. We assured him that as long as they had a reasonable explanation, the court would continue to grant waivers. He explained that their partner was the primary caretaker for their young children. As the sole income-earner, the customer would have to take unpaid time off to watch the children while their partner served jury duty. Complication number one.

Also, the partner did not have very good command of the English language. In a high-stakes courtroom setting, they feared their difficulty comprehending complex legal concepts would jeopardize any person on trial. “I was a lawyer in my home country,” the customer explained. “We want to ensure that we are part of a fair process.” Complication number two.

The jury summons included an email address for the court clerk. We helped the customer craft a response that would explain their challenges with income and child care as well as their concerns for the integrity of the fair trial process.

The next week, the customer came back to say the court granted a second waiver. Problem solved! They were so grateful that we took just a few extra minutes to help them. We say–no problem! It’s all in a day’s work!