Volunteers Making A Difference

Rob Boas and Ray Lerer had lengthy legal careers before they begin to volunteer for Catholic Charities Atlanta’s Immigration Legal Services program. They each come in once a week, and meet with clients, mostly refugees, applying for lawful permanent resident status. After one year in this country, refugees must apply to adjust their status from refugee to LPR (lawful permanent resident). They telephone the clients and discuss all the paperwork they need to provide, and they see clients in the office to complete their applications. They listen to the clients’ stories and hear about how their lives have changed since their arrival in Atlanta. Ray and Rob are valued members of the Immigration Legal Services team. Most of the staff in Immigration are considerably younger than Rob and Ray, and appreciate their experience and wisdom.

Rob Boas, a retired attorney, has volunteered at CCA Immigration Legal Services for four years. Each week, Rob meets with eligible clients to help them apply for legal permanent residence in the United States. Most clients are refugees from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, or Iran. Rob began his legal career in private practice in Connecticut, was a federal prosecutor in Atlanta, worked for Coca Cola for eighteen years, and taught a litigation class at Georgia State University. From 2003 to 2010, Rob was the Operations Manager for the International Community School in Decatur. While there, he helped many teachers who were foreign nationals file for visas and/or green cards. His interest in refugee matters began when a girl from Bosnia stayed with his family. His daughter and the girl became close friends, and his daughter eventually became an immigration lawyer for Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C.

What would Rob say to volunteers interested in serving with Immigration Legal Services? “It is a nice group of people working at Immigration, and they need help.” Volunteering makes him “feel I’m being useful, helpful.” Rob has helped 67 refugees apply to be legal permanent residents.

Fluent in Spanish, Lerer was raised in Havana, Cuba. He immigrated with his European parents to the U.S. in 1960, when he was 8 years old, and became a lawyer in 1977. Ray served in the state Attorney General’s office for over 30 years. He had just retired when a friend of his in a church men’s group told him they had a dream about him, and that he was working for Catholic Charities. A few months after he retired, Ray began volunteering with Catholic Charities Atlanta Immigration Legal Services program. At about the same time he joined a law firm. But he told the firm he needed one day a week for his volunteer work at Catholic Charities Atlanta. In two and one half years, Ray has helped 107 refugees apply to be legal permanent residents. His cubicle in our Immigration office is decorated with colored drawings from children he has served.

The unique gifts and talents Rob and Ray bring to Catholic Charities go beyond their legal training; they include their interest and empathy for the immigrants and refugees they serve. The work Rob and Ray perform is exclusively for people who are marginalized in our society–immigrants and refugees. Beyond their legal immigration status, the clients served by our Immigration Legal Services program must be living at, or below 200 percent of the poverty level. So Rob and Ray’s clients are both poor and marginalized. Rob and Ray demonstrate commitment to service and those in need, not only by the length of time they have served, but in the absolute professional reliability of their service. The receptionist in Immigration schedules appointments with Rob and Ray and knows they will be there. They are completely assimilated with the team.

Rob and Ray are making a difference in their community–our community, and in the lives of the people who live there. And, we here at Catholic Charities Atlanta are so grateful for their efforts. With their help, and other volunteers like them, we provide help and create hope for people who truly need it each and every day.

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