ALL LIVES TRANSFORMED BY THE POWER OF JUSTICE AND HOPE

Our mission is to uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed in New York City. We bring free legal services directly to community members at host non-profit organizations throughout the city. We break down the legal barriers to their success, enabling individuals to flourish and embody the full persons they are intended to be.

HOW WE DO OUR WORK

 

We partner with the following non-profit organizations:

 
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All Angels' Episcopal Church

Bowery Mission Men's Center

Bowery Mission Women's Center

Exodus Transitional Community Center

Partnership for the Homeless

Prison Fellowship

Relief Bus

The Father's Heart Ministries

The New York City Rescue Mission

The Open Door of NJNY


We conduct two programs.

Legal Aid Desks

We set up mobile legal aid desks at soup kitchens and shelters across the city, bringing volunteer attorneys directly to low-income and homeless New Yorkers. We provide on-site legal assistance and advocacy as well as representation in civil legal matters such as family, housing, and employment law.

 

Know Your Rights Seminars

We inform and equip low-income and homeless New Yorkers with information about their rights and responsibilities, such as the rights of the homeless in public places and police rights. We develop seminars in response to requests from our partner non-profit organizations after they discover what legal challenges their clients typically face.

MEET OUR TEAM

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Eric S. Yoon, K&L Gates LLP
Haejin A. Shim,  Shim & Associates, P.C.
Heather E. Mayes
Jonathan Lee, BNP Paribas
Miriam L. Glaser, Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC
Richard L. Chen, MarketCounsel
Wallace E. Larson, Carson Messinger, PLLC 

ADVISORY BOARD

Dr. Alexander Chou, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
David Otis Fuller, Jr., Bosworth, Gray & Fuller
Eliot Samuels, SolidusLink AG
Eugene Park, First Quadrant L.P.
Glen Kleinknecht, CRU
Jenny Chang, Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City
C.J. Masimore

FOUNDING STORY

"'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'" - Deuteronomy 15:11

We were founded in 2009 by a group of Christian attorneys who felt God calling them to use their legal skills to serve the city. Recognizing that many problems faced by the poor and the oppressed could be solved by an attorney, the group began going to an East Village soup kitchen to volunteer and provide legal services.

Since then, we have grown dramatically in response to high demand from other soup kitchens and shelters across the city. We have trained hundreds of practicing attorneys in basic poverty law so they can also volunteer and serve the city with their legal skills. Currently, we serve approximately 900 low-income New Yorkers annually at ten partner locations throughout the city.

STAFF

Kathleen Slocum, Executive Director

Kathleen Slocum is the Executive Director of Open Hands Legal Services. Ms. Slocum has over 15 years of legal experience, ranging from corporate finance to representation of immigrant victims of domestic violence. She started her legal career at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy as an associate in the Global Corporate Finance group. She then spent seven years working with Sanctuary for Families, an organization dedicated to the safety, healing and self-determination of victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. Ms. Slocum has also practiced as an immigration attorney.  

Ms. Slocum has long acted and spoken out against injustice, serving people that society ignores through her legal practice and in her personal life. She is a co-founder and former board member of Restore NYC, a faith-based organization dedicated to serving human trafficking victims. She has also served as a mentor and volunteer with Operation Exodus Inner City, an organization that educates and empowers low-income students in Washington Heights with tutoring and mentoring programs. Ms. Slocum also led the Parent Teacher Association at her daughter's school in East Harlem for two years, increasing its overall annual fundraising capacity tenfold.

Ms. Slocum joined Open Hands Legal Services in the summer of 2016, bringing a valuable combination of policy, fundraising, and management experience. Of her newest role, Kathleen says that she is “[h]onored to be a part of Open Hands Legal Services, which following the model of Christ, meets people where they are, advocates on behalf of them to correct injustice, and restores them to the flourishing individual God intended them to be."

Ms. Slocum received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

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Jacquelynn Gistarb, Development and Communications Director

Jacquelynn Gistarb joined us as our Development and Communications Director in 2017.  Jacquelynn comes to Open Hands with an extensive background in development and ministry, with over 10 years experience in the nonprofit sector. Most recently she served as the Development and Communications Coordinator at Children's Health Fund.  She has a heart for serving those whom society often overlooks, particularly women transitioning out of destructive and dangerous lifestyles, teens and people with special needs.

Jacquelynn is deeply dedicated to Open Hands, having served as a volunteer at our legal aid desks and currently as an active member of our Young Professionals Network. In addition, Jacquelynn has served in various capacities of ministry, often volunteering to use her development background, writing and event planning skills for initiatives and campaigns that ensure the neglected are not forgotten.

Jacquelynn received her B.A. in English Writing from the University of Nevada.

 

Hana Kim, Staff Attorney

Prior to joining Open Hands as a Staff Attorney, Hana Kim was an Open Hands volunteer for many years. From 2011 to 2014, Ms. Kim was a Staff Attorney at the MinKwon Center for Community Action, where she managed the Workers’ Rights Clinic. In that role, she advocated for low-income workers by offering legal advice and representation in judicial and administrative forums involving Federal and New York State labor law violations. She also assisted eligible immigrants with applications for immigration benefits, including naturalization, adjustment of status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Prior to joining MinKwon Center for Community Action, Ms. Kim worked as a Legal Officer at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations.

Ms. Kim received her J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law in 2009 and received her B.A. from Handong Global University in South Korea in 2003. While in law school, Ms. Kim advocated for tenants’ rights as a fellow at the Catholic Migration Office and also served as a judicial intern for the Honorable John Lansden at the New York Civil Court Housing Part. 

Ms. Kim is fluent in Korean and has translated two legal professional books from English to Korean: At Home in the Law by Professor Jeannie Suk, Harvard Law School (2011) and Reclaiming Development in the World Trading System by Professor Y.S. Lee (2010).

Kandace Kochi, Paralegal

Kandace Kochi joined us as our first paralegal after serving as both a volunteer and an intern. In those roles she quickly impressed us with her strong work ethic, positive attitude, attention to detail, and genuine care for our clients. Kandace has a diverse background, including experience in the hospitality industry, the health care industry, and social services. She has also worked at the New York City Bar. Kandace is passionate about human rights, children and education.

Kandace received her B.A. in Philosophy from Columbia University.

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Jean Soo Park, Legal Director

Jean Soo Park serves as our first legal director. She has experience in both law and public service, having worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office, a judicial law clerk, and a Hearing Officer for the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings of the City of New York. She has also demonstrated a true commitment to public service and to her community. Jean Soo was Chairperson for the Executive Board and Operations Team for Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Diaconate Mercy Ministry and has also served on the board of the YWCA of Queens. She has volunteered with Healing Hands of Joy, Hope for New York, charity: water, and international organizations in the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador.

Jean Soo has a B.A. from Wellesley College and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. She also has an Executive M.P.A. from New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Sandy Stefanski, Program Coordinator

Sandy Stefanski joined Open Hands Legal Services as Program Coordinator in June 2010. She brings over 35 years of experience serving a variety of populations, including seniors, physically disabled persons and incarcerated women.

Sandy has previously served as a program coordinator for a transportation service for seniors and handicapped persons; a volunteer coordinator, grading center supervisor and ladies' ministry director at Luzerne County Prison in Pennsylvania; and a pre-school teacher at Center for Early Learning in New York. As the wife of a pastor, Sandy also serves churches in various ways, including leading women's Bible study, counseling, developing and leading children ministries, leading workshops, speaking at women’s events, and writing and directing dramas. She has also participated in three short-term missions to Moscow, Russia, where she taught at New Life Bible College.

Sandy attended Philadelphia Biblical University with a major in education.