By: Roxane Ramos
Lucy Howell, Fund Development Committee Chair
For Lucy Howell, working on immigration issues and advocating for more compassionate and just treatment of the undocumented migrants who cross into the U.S. is not only a matter of conscience. It is a matter of faith, gratefulness for the blessings in her life, and a conviction to help those in less fortunate circumstances. As a mother who raised four children and grandmother who dotes on four grandkids, she finds the plight of migrating women—and what they must suffer through if deported—particularly heartwrenching. “To leave one’s children behind,” says Lucy, “either to find work in the U.S. or because one is deported back to Mexico after years here, must be the source of unimaginable pain.”
Back in 1998, Lucy joined the board of the Phoenix Diocesan Board of St. Vincent dePaul (SVdP), just when the national charity was about to launch Voice of the Poor (VOP), the advocacy arm of the organization. For Lucy, advocacy offered both an education and a way to get more involved. She became a designated lobbyist for SVdP, making annual trips to Washington, D.C. and chairing VOP from 2000 to 2011. As SVdP members became more aware of the destabilizing impact of deportation on families and in the community, they included immigration reform on the VOP agenda for the Arizona congressional delegation.
That’s how Lucy met Father Sean in 2009, and learned about the work of the Kino Border Initiative. “I was so inspired, I invited Father Sean to speak to our delegation,” Lucy remembers of that Washington visit.
Soon after, a tour of the KBI shelter and direct aid center convinced Lucy and other VOP members that they must do more. So they organized a Phoenix fundraiser. That first dinner was an exercise in resourcefulness and tenacity—no budget, donated space at St. Paul’s, and volunteer chef and committee member Ron Meyer barbecuing for a crowd of 60. The event raised $18,000 for the KBI. Last year, those numbers rose to 140 attendees and $65,000, with an extra $5,000 raised that very evening for a new, more permanent aid center. The Fourth Annual KBI Dinner, chaired by Lucy as previous ones have been, will take place on March 29 and attendance is expected to double yet again. This year, local philanthropist Joe Anderson has offered to match the first $50,000 raised.
All part of Lucy’s unstinting work for the KBI and her gift for rousing others with her enthusiasm and passion, whether as neighbor, lobbyist, board member, or event planner. She also serves on the board of Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego, a public interest law firm providing free legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations, and is a member of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps of San Diego, where she and her husband Steve now live.
Over the years, Lucy has been honored for her volunteer efforts, but she would be the first to tell you that the work itself—helping to keep families together, advancing just immigration policies, supporting those in need—is its own reward. Many years ago, a good friend offered Lucy the following advice: Go with your first inclination. Guided by faith and supported by family, Lucy has done just that, following her instincts throughout her many years of service, right to the doors—and dinner table—of the KBI.