Volunteers Give $38,000 to Tennessee Immigrants

Kathryn and Richard Spry hold hands furtively when she tears up. It happens twice during our meeting. They are that rare and inspiring couple that appears to be young and in love and ready to take on the world.

Did I mention that they married in 1969?

Kathryn gets emotional when we speak about families separated at the border and  low-income families who aren't able to work the U.S. immigration system like the millionaire class. By contrast, Richard grins from ear to ear when he talks about the fact that they have raised more than $38,000 through a program called Chimes for Justice.

For more than ten years, she and Richard have devoted more and more of their free time to the cause of justice for people seeking to immigrate here. They started as volunteers at immigration legal clinics held at Hillcrest United Methodist Church, a mostly white congregation that responded to the changing demographics of their Nashville neighborhood. Today, the Sprys spend hours in their garage workshop creating stained glass windows, wind chimes, and stepping stones. They're at their busiest during the holidays, helping others stock up on Christmas gifts and contributing 100 percent of their earnings to the legal services provided by Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors (TNJFON). They raised $7,700 in 2018 and all of the funds helped support the salaries of our legal team, who are on the front lines of the immigration debate and act with expertise and compassion.

We talk about the government shutdown and the border wall, but they become animated when they talk about their art. It's as if they carried this inspiration with them all of their life and it's finally coming out; overflowing, in fact. As Richard tells me about his college art appreciation class that began his fascination with stained glass, I overhear Kathryn say, "color is really important to me" when it comes to her art.

They recognize that they are a unique couple, because of their zeal for helping others who just want to make a home here in the United States. But they are unique in many other ways. Their volunteer spirit is unmatched, their kindness is infectious, and their impact is unparalleled. Since they've been involved with TNJFON, more than 2,300 Tennesseans have had the time to meet with an experienced immigration attorney that they couldn't afford otherwise. This is such an important milestone for an immigrant family because a meeting with a lawyer can mean escape from the cartels or other dangers abroad.

As I tell them about the impact they've had on so many lives, I'm certain Kathryn is thinking about the children and grandchildren who are now sleeping safely in bed in a home somewhere in Tennessee, thanks to the Sprys’ hard work. As Kathryn tears up again, Richard is holding her hand, and she reaches for mine, too.