Meet Mike Madden: Dinner Program’s Volunteer Attorney
A short interview with Mike Madden, a long time volunteer with the Dinner Program who assists our guests with their legal referrals and inquiries:
1. When did the referral service start? When do you meet?
“The Dinner Program Referral Service started five years ago, shortly before the Hermano Pedro day program closed. Prior to its closure, we provided legal referral and immigration paralegal services to Hermano Pedro clients. Many of those clients transitioned to the Dinner Program Referral Service.”
2. What do you do for the guests?
“Our team consists of two volunteers: myself and an assistant who also functions as a Spanish translator. We do three things: First, we provide a sympathetic ear. Sometimes this is all we can do. Second, we provide referrals. Many clients just need to know where to go to apply for services. We give them that information and provide them with referral letters explaining their situation to potential service providers. Third, we provide limited legal services including applying for immigration papers, tax returns, and criminal defense (which is by far the smallest category).”
3. About how many guests do you serve per month?
“We have between 12-18 open "matters" at any one time (immigration, civil, criminal, etc.) and meet with approximately 8 clients per month.”
4. What is a typical night like on the referral service?
“Frenetic. We set up, make the announcement, encouraging guests to sign up, and start meeting with clients while dinner is served. Some clients just need to ask a question about, or give us information related to, ongoing matters. Some of clients present us with new matters, or are seeking information on how to obtain services. Some of our Dinner Program guests just need to talk to someone.”
5. Why do you think the referral service is important for our guests? What does it do for you?
The referral service is a very popular feature of the Sacred Heart Dinner Program. Clients get information about services and sometimes, legal services right on the spot. I get a real kick out of it: The noise, the activity, the sense of urgency. It's fun.