Southern California paralegal Tamecia Jones shares with Attorney at Law Magazine readers about the work, love and support she and women in her community do collectively known as the Sisters of Watts. The grassroots group relies on local fundraising events to support their outreach programs.
Sisters of Watts was founded by a group of my friends which included myself, Robin Daniels, Keisha Daniels, Penny Daniels, Jessica Crummie, and Joann Smith.
We were all sitting around talking about our childhood saying we wanted to do something to give back to our community. Along with noticing the challenges and needs of the community, we were recalling how our mothers, aunts and grandmothers of the previous generation had worked so hard for the children of our community. We decided we wanted to not only carry on this tradition but hopefully expand on their idea.
Sisters of Watts make it their business to engage with and support small businesses, and entertain their talents, to see where the professional skills can be used as a useful resource for the Watts community. What sets us apart from other nonprofits is that we really care this is our home, our families and our friends. We live and breathe helping people. We want to make a change in our community. There’s not a day that we are not thinking about what can we do next to help. We love the children, and because the kids are our future, we put a lot into putting on events for them and their families. The services that we have been able to provide help with families and the homeless, with food, clothes, school supplies, shelter, and free events for the community.
Watts, itself, is a very special place. It has so much history that is researched all over the world. Regardless of the negative reports surrounding the community, we are strong. We fight for what is right for our community. We love the fact that it is a small community which gives us a chance to stay connected to each other as family, friends and neighbors. Local mom and pops stores have fed a lot of us in some of our hard times.
This is one of the reasons why we chose the name Sisters of Watts. As a community we are sisters and brothers. We work closely with each other and we love that we are products of Watts. We are a team of people who care. There is no “I” in the word team, we all started this together and because our bond is so strong, we will always be together. It takes a lot of work that goes into running a non-profit and we do not take one another’s time or skill set for granted.
As a paralegal for 18 years, I strive to utilize, the majority of my spare time volunteering, and giving back to the community that paved a way for me to be a positive figure as an adult, despite the challenges I faced as a female youth in Watts. Sisters of Watts presented me with the great opportunity to assist parents, ex-felons, youth in foster care and neighbors with understanding the legal forms, filing processes and legal verbiage. The areas Sisters of Watts have found to have the greatest need is in family law, small claims and unlawful detainers. Helping the people of my community gain a better understanding of their civil rights and assisting small, local, nonprofit organizations in their applications for state contracts has been some of my most rewarding work.
Due to the financial strain of court costs, attorney costs and filing fees, my job as a volunteer with Sisters of Watts is to educate our community, to ensure they are aware and have the knowledge to confidently, complete small legal procedures that do not require legal advice. Through the past four years, I have serviced over 34 families, with completing forms, and filings for various cases.
2020 was set for the First Annual Sisters of Watts Free Legal Form Workshop. Due to COVID-19, the event has been postponed. This event will service up to 100 clients in one day, free of charge. We, at Sisters of Watts foresee, a successful outcome. During this restrictive time, as we must adhere to the social distancing requirements, the members of the organization continue the planning, with an anticipated launch of the event, later this year. Although we have a pinned the event, the free assistance will continue to be available.
It has not been a smooth ride, but we knew that when we said yes to the cause we would have to work hard. Getting people to volunteer and getting funding was our biggest struggle. We had to put in a lot of our personal time and money. Being a small, and new nonprofit organization, we had to get our feet, ankles, and legs wet along the way.
In the beginning, we applied for grants and were denied. We had people who said they were going to help but did not. This was disappointing but it made us stronger. We made things happen with whoever we had to help make each event successful. Because our goal was bigger than our struggle and we prayed over everything that we wanted to do it kept our heads above water and made it.