One man’s journey to save his family from the Taliban

When the government of Afghanistan fell in August 2021, Americans watched with disbelief at how quickly the country would slip into Taliban rule. News footage showed swarms of American and Afghans citizens at the Kabul airport hoping to get a flight anywhere away from their crumbled democracy. We asked ourselves, how could there have been no evacuation plan? 

Bahroz and young Afghan children, Jalalabad, 2009

For one American, Bahroz Mohmand, a plan to get his family out of Afghanistan was two years in the making. He successfully secured safe passage for his parents, some of his siblings and their children to legally enter the United States. One year later, his family is learning English and trying to build a life in Charlotte, N.C. Now they are safe but what is next for them? 

“I was an interpreter in Afghanistan working with American troops for years,” says Bahroz. “If my family goes back, they will be tortured and killed.”

Though his family did not directly help the American military, his service as an interpreter put a target on their backs. While interpreters like Bahroz have a path to citizenship, their family members do not. 

Bahroz’s Journey

Bahroz was 17 and had just finished high school in his native Afghanistan when he took a job as a translator helping Afghan military forces communicate with Americans there to train them. With the permission of his parents, he used the English he knew to help in the effort to build an independent Afghan government and a military force to protect its citizens and their rights, most importantly from the Taliban. On many occasions, he risked his life to do so.

Bahroz and US military partners, Laghman Province, 2008

“When the U.S. Army came to Afghanistan in 2001, there was nothing,” says Bahroz. “They started everything from scratch: screening soldiers, translating materials from their handbook, teaching. We became cultural advisors, just trying to get rid of confusion.”

On April 6, 2008, Bahroz was part of a group of American Special Forces soldiers and 100 Afghan commandos that were dropped off by helicopter into the desolate Shok Valley. They were ambushed by 200 well-trained and well-armed terrorists. Two people were killed, including an Afghan translator, who was Bahroz’ childhood friend. Bahroz helped get his wounded American teammates to safety. This bloody and harrowing battle would earn Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer and Master Sergeant Matthew Williams Medals of Honor for their bravery.

On Dec. 5, 2012, Bahroz emigrated to the United States. Though he did not serve in the U.S. military, he was given a path to citizenship. On October 1, 2018, he was invited to the White House for the Medal of Honor ceremony honoring Sgt. Shurer, where Bahroz was individually recognized by the President of the United States. Bahroz’s once quiet employment as a translator became international news and increased scrutiny on his family.

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence participate in a Medal of Honor ceremony for retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Amy Rossetti), Bahroz was recognized at the ceremony for his contributions.

“The Taliban were slaughtering the families of people who worked for the Americans, calling us infidels,” Bahroz said. “I didn’t want to see my nieces forced to marry into the Taliban or my nephews get kidnapped. I couldn’t live with the guilt.”

Bahroz’s Efforts to Save His Family

Tahira, Bahroz’s niece

With suicide bombings still a regular occurrence, Bahroz started working all of his contacts to get his family out of Afghanistan to safety. With the help of his friends, Bahroz was able to add his family’s names to the evacuation list, but not before the Afghan government collapsed.

When things became too unstable, Bahroz’s family headed to the airport. Among his family was then 17-year-old Tahira, his niece. 

Though Tahira had become accustomed to daily danger and instability, she lived the life of a normal high school girl. She loves writing and hopes to become a journalist one day.

When it was time to go, she took only a backpack. It was complete chaos.

“The Taliban were shouting and shooting,” Tahira says. “Everyone was trying to get in the airport to get out because they were afraid of what the Taliban would do if they weren’t able to leave. We were able to get into the airport and board the plane. Everyone was sitting on the floor of the plane. We went to Qatar and then Germany. We were so happy to be safe, but we asked ourselves, ‘how did everything happen so quickly?’”

While the paperwork Bahroz secured for his family got them here, it is not a guarantee of permanent citizenship. They have work permits but the rest of their documentation is incomplete. Bahroz has found it challenging to get answers despite the fact he is an American citizen who speaks fluent English. He is concerned for their safety and Tahira’s future. He is also trying to find a way to bring his remaining family to the U.S. who are still hiding in Afghanistan.

Afghan Adjustment Act

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both house of Congress to establish a path to citizenship for the Afghans evacuated to the United States.  Known as the Afghan Adjustment Act, the legislation would allow Afghans with temporary status that undergo additional vetting to apply for permanent legal residency.  The Act would ensure Afghans evacuees have a feasible opportunity to legally stay in the United States, fulfilling a promise the United States pledged to keep them safe. 

In the interim, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is assisting Bahroz’s family to apply for asylum. But if granted asylum, they will not automatically become a legal permanent resident. Instead they must wait a year to apply for such status and then after four years can apply for U.S. citizenship. After everything Bahroz’s family and other Afghan evacuees have endured, passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act would provide an opportunity for a more stable future.

Bahroz speaks from the heart: “The families of interpreters and the people who sacrificed their life, they should get help. I carried wounded American soldiers on my back, not once but hundreds of times. I am a citizen; I am part of this country. This country saved me and my family. I have three kids here, I work. My family is your family, now please save them. They are not a threat. I was the only one working with the Americans, but all my family is at risk.”

Learn more how you can support the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act.

Learn more about the Interpreting Freedom Foundation, a non-profit created by Bahroz to support Afghan Interpreters, allies, and families as they transition to their new life in the United States.

“Light at the end of a tunnel”: Moniek’s Juvenile Record Expunction

“I love bringing things to life.”  Whether it’s creating something for a friend, the bulletin boards at her church, or arts & crafts time with her daughter, Moniek loves spending her free time working with her hands. But that precious free time is hard to come by as she fills her busy life taking care of her 1-year-old daughter, her birth mother and the mother who raised her, as well as working as a dental assistant.

It was her work as a dental assistant that brought her to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  As she began to prepare for her national dental board exams, her instructor expressed concern that Moniek’s past might impact whether she could take the tests.  These concerns were not new to Moniek.

Since the age of 15, Moniek had difficulty finding employment because employers were unwilling to overlook her juvenile criminal record.

“I was a child, I was crazy, and I didn’t want to listen to anyone.  But I’m not that person anymore.”

She determined her juvenile record would not impact her dental board exams, but Moniek did not want the charges hanging over her head any longer.  Having investigated the expunction process before, Moniek knew she needed a lawyer, an expense she could not afford.  She decided to contact the Advocacy Center where she connected with a pro bono attorney from Robinson Bradshaw, Blaine Sanders.  Blaine is helping Moniek get her juvenile record expunged, creating a future Moniek did not think was possible. 

Moniek’s adorable daughter

For many North Carolinians, criminal records can spark collateral consequences by limiting a person’s housing, employment, and other opportunities.  By removing those barriers, expunction has proven to have a significant impact on an individual’s economic opportunity.  Research also shows expunction can lead to increased wages and reduces the possibility of a person receiving another charge or being incarcerated.

For Moniek, it personally meant she could confidently apply to dental hygienist school and be proud of the example she was setting for her daughter. 

“I know I’ve made mistakes, but there was light at the end of the tunnel.  I want people to know that the person you are in the past does not have to define who you are in the moment, or the person you could become in the future.”

“I no longer feel afraid”, Feeling safe and secure after years of instability

Domingo and his family

Domingo is a quiet man who loves his wife and children.  He is respected by his friends and greets everyone with a smile.  He works hard in his job in construction and aspires to open a small business.  And now, after 8 patient years, he is also a legal resident of the United States. 

Domingo emigrated from Mexico in 1998 in hopes of economic opportunity.  If he stayed in Mexico, he knew his job options were scare and the future he could create would be full of hardships.  It was a difficult decision to leave his parents behind, but he said goodbye, not knowing it would be 23 years before they were reunited.

Domingo eventually settled in North Carolina where he met his wife, Esperanza.   Esperanza was recently divorced from her abusive ex-husband and raising her children alone.  They became a family and went on to have children of their own. 

During this time, Domingo found himself living in fear.  His wife and children were all U.S. citizens, leaving Domingo as the only undocumented person in their house.  He worried about being deported and what would become of his wife and children if his undocumented status was discovered.  He knew he needed stability.

Domingo and Esperanza contacted Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in 2013.  Staff attorneys with our Immigrant Justice Program helped Esperanza file an I-130 petition, establishing her marital relationship with Domingo and started his process to apply for legal permanent residency.  As a spouse of a U.S. citizen, Domingo was eligible to file an I-601A waiver for his unlawful entry into the U.S. in 1998, thereby enabling him to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate in Mexico. In 2018, the Advocacy Center was able to submit Domingo’s immigrant visa application, a process that was further delayed by the pandemic in 2020.

If this all sounds complicated and difficult to navigate, that’s because it is.  And if you are an immigrant doing everything you can to work hard and provide for your family, it is downright terrifying.

Domingo and his parents, reunited after 23 years

Research has found that the probability of a positive outcome in an immigration case increases dramatically, from 5% to 95%, when an individual has legal representation.  But in Charlotte, having legal representation to help guide you through this stressful, confusing process is less likely.  In a recent report, only 24% of respondents in Charlotte Immigration Court had legal representation, compared to 60% nationally.  Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is determined to change that.

Armed with the knowledge and experience of the attorneys at the Advocacy Center, Domingo’s immigration process had a positive ending.  In 2021, Domingo traveled to Mexico for the final interview of his visa process and was reunited with his family for the first time since 1998.    He returned to the United Status as a legal permanent resident with feelings of safety and security he never thought possible. He looks forward to applying for his U.S. citizenship in three years.

Learn more about our Immigrant Justice Program and how we support the Charlotte immigrant community.

“I can tell you really care”: Treating clients with dignity and respect

James and his late wife, shortly before her death

To James, it seemed life was testing him.  Coping with the loss of his wife and his mother within the same month, James felt hopeless.  Countless roadblocks were preventing him from moving forward and he wasn’t sure where to turn.  He decided to call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. 

No longer able to keep up with the physical demands of his job with a moving company, James had been forced to retire early.  James relied heavily on his wife’s social security income.  Without his own source of income at the time of her passing, James’ economic security and stability were critically threatened.  At the Advocacy Center, he was quickly connected with a Health Insurance Navigator, Cara Meyer, and social work intern, Whitney Cooper, who addressed his concerns. 

“I had a lot on my plate and they pointed me in the right direction.  Everything they could do to help me, they did. By the grace of God, Cara & Whitney have been there for me.” 

Cara helped James apply for Food & Nutrition Services to address his immediate food insecurity, as well as to apply for Medicaid for the Disabled.  Cara took it a step further, helping James make an appointment with a primary care physician for the first time in years.  James needed a doctor that was easy to get to, due to limited transportation options.  With that in mind, Cara found a physician that would accept his insurance and was easily accessible by bus.  Whitney is now helping James apply for social security disability and the team connected him with resources to appeal denied unemployment benefits and request financial assistance from Crisis Assistance Ministry. 

James is grateful for the stability Cara and Whitney have been able to provide during this difficult time.  “If I had to [navigate the situation on my own] I think I would have gone crazy.  I had so many things going on.  They have been there for me, without them, I don’t know where I would be.”  But what James appreciated the most was the dignity with which he was treated.  “I can tell by the way they talk to me and what they do for me, that they really care.  It means a lot to know I have someone I can trust to help me make my situation better.” 

Fighting for Veterans like Rocky

Rocky proudly shows off his Air Force hat as he begins to share stories of his time in the military.  Adorned with the year 1947, the year the Air Force was formed, and the phrase “No one comes close”, the hat is a reminder of his service as a radar operator in the early 1970’s.  During his time in the service, Rocky spent a year stationed in Okinawa and then later off a remote island in the South Pacific.  After his remote duty, he returned to the United States and was ultimately discharged as a Sergeant in 1975.   

The physical toll of his military service followed Rocky into older age.  His loving wife of over 25 years became his primary caregiver as he faced the onset of Parkinson’s, in addition to suffering from colitis and other agonizing physical injuries throughout his body.  During his time overseas, Rocky was exposed to chemicals linked to Parkinson’s, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other auto immune disorders.  Like many veterans, Rocky was slow to connect his resulting medical issues to his time in the service.   

“As American soldiers we are trained to be independent.  We are hesitant to go to the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to ask for help or to get disability benefits.  It’s easy to relate to someone with a bullet wound or a shrapnel wound, but when you look like you are healthy, it is harder to see the damage that was done.” 

Rocky’s condition became so debilitating that he had to stop working in 2014.  He and his wife were forced to sell their home when their social security benefits were insufficient to cover their mortgage and his medical bills.  He knew additional benefits were available to him as a veteran, but he did not know where to start. 

“I didn’t know how to navigate the disability benefit process alone.  It was too daunting.  There is no way we would have been able to do it without help.  Thank God for Emon.” 

Emon Northe, staff attorney and Veterans Legal Services Project Coordinator at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, became an impassioned advocate for Rocky and his wife, Celeste.  Ultimately submitting an application over 400 pages long on Rocky’s behalf, Emon worked tirelessly to help Rocky secure a grant of individual unemployability which provided access to backpay and disability benefits, as well as healthcare benefits for his wife.  Emon’s work had a lasting impact on Rocky’s long-term economic stability: 

“The disability benefits have allowed us to totally turn our lives around financially.  We were able to buy a house and make it wheelchair accessible.” 

Unfortunately, Rocky’s experience is not unique.  The VA’s disability benefit process is extremely stringent, requiring extensive documentation from the time you are hurt through the day you apply for benefits.  Rocky leaned on his wife’s thoroughness to help him supply the necessary documentation and acknowledges that not all veterans are fortunate to have that family support.  In addition, Emon’s legal experience and thorough knowledge of the benefit system meant she knew where to push for further documentation and what would ultimately be required to ensure Rocky was granted access to benefits.  Without support from family or legal representation, many veterans are left to navigate the system alone and are vulnerable to continued instability. Rocky is grateful for the Advocacy Center: 

“It gives us peace of mind that there is an organization like yours that is willing to step in for people that don’t have the money or the resources.  Having someone there for you is a blessing.  You showed me that it was not my fault.  You helped me see that I served this country and was hurt because of it.”      

During his time as a client, Rocky developed a special relationship with Emon and expresses deep gratitude for her dedication: 

“Emon went above and beyond to help us.  I would adopt her if she let me.  She was like an angel to us, but I guess angels don’t carry cell phones.” 

If you or someone you know is a veteran facing economic instability or housing insecurity, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is here to help.  We serve low-income veterans and families in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Union Counties who are seeking help with disability benefit claims and appeals, discharge upgrades and over-payment issues, as well as additional civil legal matters, at little or no cost.  Learn more how we can help. 

Advocating for young immigrants like Talha

Talha has faced more challenges in his young life than some people do in their entire lifetime, but life wasn’t always difficult.  Born in Turkey, Talha grew up in a loving family with his parents and younger sister, supporters of the Hizmet Movement.  For Talha, this meant having access to one of the best sources of education in his country.  It provided him the opportunity to explore areas of study that were not accessible to the average Turkish student and introduced him to his love of robotics.  After finishing middle school in the top percentage of students nationally, Talha eagerly prepared to attend one of the best high schools in his country.  That summer, everything changed.

Known internationally as a progressive Muslim group focused on education, disaster relief, and medicine, the Hizmet Movement was blamed by Turkish political leaders for a coup attempt in July 2016.  Turkish President Erdoğan alleged the Hizmet Movement was a terrorist organization and began imprisoning Movement leaders.   Talha’s father was one of those political prisoners.

“My father was just helping people. He would travel to Somalia [to work on aid relief].  He helped people get coal in the cold winter.  He was a good man, but they arrested him.”

Talha, his mother, and little sister were left to fend for themselves.

“We had no money, nothing.  I couldn’t say my father was in the Hizmet Movement. I couldn’t tell people my father was in jail.  I had to hide myself; it was really hard.”

Two years later, faced with limited opportunities for education, Talha decided to escape to the United States at the age of 17.  He came to Charlotte to live with his father’s friend, who helped him connect to the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  The Advocacy Center’s help came at a crucial time.

“I didn’t know how to speak, how to write, or how to read English.  I had no one around me.  I had just escaped from my country, and I didn’t know how to be a refugee.  But then my friend found Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.”

The Advocacy Center’s Immigrant Justice Program staff attorney, Kiara Vega, worked diligently to help Talha apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).  Talha’s application for SIJS was approved and he was granted a Green Card. 

When Talha heard his request for permanent legal status was approved, he was overcome: “I was completing my college applications and I needed a Green Card, otherwise I wouldn’t be eligible for scholarships.  One day my friend went to the mailbox and brought me an envelope.  I opened it and it was my Green Card.  At that moment, you cannot even realize my happiness.  It meant college for me, it meant a future life in the US for me, it meant a lot.”

Talha believes the Advocacy Center changed his life.  He wants to improve his English, but eloquently describes what the Advocacy Center means to him:

“I was in a room, the door was locked, and I couldn’t get out.  I needed to open that door to get to my new world, into my new life.  Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy was the key.  You helped me open the door.”

Now a student at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Talha’s future looks brighter as he pursues a degree in aerospace engineering.  He maintains a strong relationship with his family back in Turkey and hopes they will be able to join him some day in the United States.    He believes all his fellow Turkish citizens deserve a better future.

Your support of the Access to Justice Campaign ensures we can fight for young immigrants like Talha, providing opportunity and stable immigration status. Donate today to help us keep up the fight.

Health care coverage at a critical time

Ana’s doctor referred her to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to discuss health care options and other public benefits assistance as she approached retirement.  At the time, Ana didn’t know what an impact that call would have on her life. 

Ana immigrated to the United States from Mexico almost 15 years ago.  A legal permanent resident, she was not aware of the public benefits available to her. When she contacted the Advocacy Center, one of our health insurance Navigators, Abigail Duemler, helped her determine the benefits to which Ana was entitled.  Quickly approaching retirement age, enrolling in Food and Nutrition Services provided critical food security for Ana.    

Even more importantly, Abigail helped Ana to enroll in Medicaid and then in Medicare when she turned 65.  Having access to affordable health care was crucial when Ana became critically ill with COVID-19 last winter.  Fearing for her life and worried about the resulting medical bills, Ana’s family was relieved to know her medical costs would be covered.   As she continues to recover from the long-term effects of the illness, Ana remains thankful: “I am so grateful to [have health insurance].  When I receive the bills and see that Medicaid is paying, I am so grateful.  I don’t know what I would have done without your help.” 

When Ana speaks of the Advocacy Center, it is with immense appreciation: “You have been such a strong guide for me.  It’s an excellent organization.”  Yet Ana realizes there are so many more people just like her that might need help. 

“There are many people like me who come from another country, who may not speak English, and are not aware of the help they can get.” 

Navigating public benefit and health care systems is increasingly complex, even more so for non-English speaking North Carolinians.  The Advocacy Center’s team of federally trained health insurance Navigators includes bilingual staff members that are a critical resource for native Spanish speaking clients.  Ana hopes her friends and neighbors contact the Advocacy Center: “I want to help other people find [the Advocacy Center] so they can get support just like I did.” 

Advocating for breast cancer patients like Charlotte..

Diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28, Charlotte knows how terrifying and stressful it can be to hear you are sick. But rather than address her health concerns and acknowledge what she may be feeling, Charlotte’s doctor immediately asked how she planned to pay for her treatment.  A single working mother of a 9-year-old son, Charlotte’s fears and stress levels were quickly amplified as the harsh reality of her expensive cancer treatment began to sink in.  

Concerned she would have to sell the house she had worked so hard to buy, Charlotte decided to advocate for herself. 

Charlotte learned about the Breast and Cervical Cancer Medicaid (BCCM) program from her sister who had been in contact with the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  BCCM helps eligible women to pay for their breast and/or cervical cancer treatment.  (To be eligible, women must be uninsured or have insurance that does not cover the necessary treatment, fall at 250% of the poverty line for their family size, and are a U.S. citizen or have qualified immigration status.)  Meeting these requirements, Charlotte proactively applied to the program on her own. 

“I applied for the Medicaid program on my own and they kept denying me.  I was really stressed during [my treatment].  The hospital was sending me bills and I didn’t know what I was going to do.” 

What Charlotte did not know at the time was that to be eligible to apply for BCCM, individuals must meet eligibility criteria for the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP). A BCCCP provider must then submit the BCCM application on behalf of that individual.  When she submitted the application on her own, Charlotte faced delays and hurdles in the complicated process.  

Charlotte contacted the Advocacy Center for help.  A Family Support and Health Care staff attorney at the Advocacy Center, Becca Friedman, identified the procedural roadblocks and communicated with the local agency to work towards a resolution.  Becca was able to advocate for Charlotte and Charlotte was successfully granted BCCM eligibility. 

The peace of mind Becca provided Charlotte as she underwent cancer treatment was critical: 

“If I didn’t have an advocate, the experience would have been so much more stressful.  Becca kept me updated and followed the process of my application because social services wasn’t updating me directly.  Without Becca, I don’t know what I would have done.” 

No longer plagued by the financial stress of her treatment, Charlotte was able to focus on what mattered the most: her health, her recovery, and her son. 

When asked what she wants people to know about her story, Charlotte quickly responds that she wants to help women going through the same thing.

“When you get the bad news.  That would be the first thing I would want to tell people: there is help available, you have options.” 

Charlotte is happy to say she is now cancer free, and life is slowly returning to normal.  Throughout her cancer treatment, she continued to work and re-enrolled in school.  Inspired by her journey, Charlotte is now pursuing a degree in the medical field. 

Your support of the Access to Justice Campaign ensures we can fight for neighbors like Charlotte, facing civil legal issues impacting their safety, security, and stability. Donate today to help us keep up the fight.

One woman’s journey to become a permanent resident

The first thing you notice when you meet Mirian is her kind smile and upbeat attitude.  What you might not know is the 10-year journey it took to her become a permanent resident after immigrating to the United States as a young girl.

Born in El Salvador, Mirian traveled to the United States alone at the age of 13 when her grandmother and primary caregiver passed away.  She was able to reach her mom in Charlotte, where she now lives.

For Mirian, the possibility of getting a green card “…is a dream that every person like me is waiting for.”  But she quickly learned that it was a dream that would take time, knowledge, and resources she didn’t have.  Facing the immense barriers put in place by a complicated immigration system, Mirian contacted Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  From the moment the representation began, she knew it was the right decision.

“It’s an amazing place.  You feel secure when you get there, and the people were all kind.  At the beginning I didn’t speak any English, but you always had translators available.  I felt at home.”

With the support of her family and her own determination over the years, Mirian was aided by Advocacy Center attorneys and obtained her permanent residency this past spring as a Special Immigration Juvenile.  Mirian is not a lone statistic.  Research has found that the probability of a positive outcome in an immigration case increases dramatically, from 5% to 95%, when an individual has legal representation.  Most cases take years to resolve and hiring a private attorney can be cost prohibitive for immigrants and their families. 

Reflecting on the experience, Mirian cannot help but be overcome with emotion.  “[Without Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy] I think it would have been difficult for me and my family.  If I had to go somewhere else, it would have cost a lot of money.  My mom couldn’t afford it.  I am thankful for everything you have done for me, everything you have done for my family.”

Now married with two wonderful children, Mirian knows having a green card has created the stability and security that she dreamed of when she came to America over a decade ago.  “I don’t have to live in fear.  I can live in peace and see my kids grow up.”

Planning to return to school to explore a career in real estate, Mirian is excited about the possibilities in front of her. “I see my future better than I did before.”

A Wholistic Approach to Civil Legal Needs

Sharon has spent her entire life taking care of other people.  With a bright smile and a great attitude, she devoted 42 years to the nursing field, ensuring she did all she could to give her patients the best possible care.  Her dedication to others includes her three daughters, the eldest of which experienced a severe asthma attack at the age of 10.   After losing oxygen to her brain, her daughter was left with long term disabilities and requires 24-hour care.  Now an adult, Sharon continues to oversee the care of her daughter and speaks proudly of the blessings all her daughters provide.

Sharon initially reached out to the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for tax assistance in 2017.  Facing a mounting tax bill incurred by she and her husband, Sharon needed help navigating the complex tax laws and determining her payment options.  Staff attorney, Soree Finley, was able to negotiate a payment plan with the IRS that allowed Sharon to repay her tax liabilities within the limits of her income.  Sharon is quick to acknowledge the impact Finley’s work had on her life: “I cannot even begin to say how much of a blessing [Soree] has been in my life: her expertise, her knowledge, her hard work.  Because of her service, because of knowing how to execute the law and how to help people in my position, I was able to break free [of my insurmountable tax bill].”

Sharon’s life was further upended when her husband left her to raise her daughters alone.  “When he left, the bottom dropped out for us.  I was a single mom taking care of a daughter in college, a daughter in middle school getting ready to go to high school, and my oldest daughter who needed 24-hour critical care.  We had a lot going on; I was managing everything.”  Although she was the family’s primary source of income, Sharon had relied on her husband’s job for health insurance.  Sharon enrolled in health care through the Health Insurance Marketplace to provide coverage for her family.  Complicated rules determining coverage eligibility by income level caused her to temporarily lose insurance.  Scrambling to resolve the error on her own, Sharon felt hopeless.  “I did my homework, I did everything [the Health Insurance Marketplace] asked me to do, but it didn’t matter, I kept running into a brick wall.”  One of the Advocacy Center’s federally trained Navigators, Julieanne Taylor, stepped in to file an appeal and reenrolled Sharon in Marketplace health care coverage.  Taylor was also able to connect Sharon with a Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program counselor who ultimately helped Sharon enroll in Medicare.  After suffering a stroke in 2021, Sharon was incredibly grateful for the peace of mind having health insurance provided.   “Julieanne literally saved my life.  The pressure, the stress, it could have destroyed my health.”

“When life comes at you and you need a response, my response is Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.”

When it came time to plan for the future, Sharon once again reached out to the Advocacy Center to ensure she could provide for her elder disabled daughter.  She wanted to be certain the decisions she made in her estate planning allowed her to prioritize her daughter’s care regardless of her personal choices.  Facing another complex system, social security for her daughter, Sharon knew the Advocacy Center would be a valuable resource.  “There are a lot of hurdles, information that no one tells you, and ways you can prevent your situation from become a demise financially.  The expert lawyers [at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy] helped me to ask the right questions, get the right answers, to know how to structure things so as not to mess up my daughter’s future.” 

Sharon’s appreciation for the lawyers and staff at the Advocacy Center is effusive: “They were the angels of mercy that God had used, educated, and trained in their field to be experts.  They come with full power.  They know what they need to do and get the job done.  They are walking powerhouses in my opinion.”

As difficult as her life has been, Sharon views it all with grace and a positivity that is contagious.  She recognizes her legal options would have been limited without the low-income services Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is able to provide: “When life comes at you and you need a response, my response is Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  I qualify because of my age and my income, thank God!  What would I do? Where would I go?  Who can afford lawyers?”  Sharon is not wrong.  An assessment of legal needs in North Carolina found that 70% of low-income families have at least one civil legal issue each year.  Furthermore, people seeking a solution to their legal problems are often forced to navigate complicated systems without the help of a lawyer, resulting in detrimental consequences to their stability, security, and safety.  By connecting with the Advocacy Center, Sharon was able to end that cycle and resolve her issues with the support of knowledgeable, expert staff and attorneys.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy provides legal assistance and access to critical resources for all, not just those who can afford it. If life creates challenges for you, as it did Sharon, the Advocacy Center is here to help. Connect with us today.