I started volunteering for Maryland’s Access to Justice Commission in May 2020. My husband and I had retired in December 2015 and had been doing a lot of traveling until the COVID pandemic. In addition, I had been doing volunteer work, including helping to start (and participating on the initial boards of) two nonprofit groups, Villages of Kensington and Mini-Musicals on the Move®. An additional volunteer effort involved starting the Montgomery County chapter of Project Linus.
By the time the pandemic started, I had decreased my involvement in all three volunteer activities and was starting to think about what volunteer work I might do that would use more of my skills. With a Ph.D. in statistics, I had worked for 30 years contributing to and managing projects involving surveys, data management, and data analysis at various companies in Washington, DC, and Maryland. Most of the companies were federal government contractors. contributed to or managed projects involving data analysis and program evaluation for many government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Mental Health Services and the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.
My main activity during the early part of the pandemic, when almost everything was shut down, was reading and learning about the history of racial justice and economic equity in the United States. Thus, I decided to find a volunteer position in which I could contribute my data and statistical skills to improving racial and economic equity. When I conducted an internet search for this general type of position in May 2020, Maryland’s Access to Justice Commission (A2JC) appeared. Reena Shah is always on the lookout for good volunteers, so the Commission’s website permanently contains a statement inviting volunteers to contact her. The “call for volunteers” lists some skills that would be particularly useful to the Commission, including data analysis. I knew very little about the civil justice system, so I did some reading and decided volunteering for the A2JC might be a very good fit for me.
When I talked with Reena about volunteering, she described a few data projects she wanted to pursue. She also described the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force, which was just getting started. It all sounded very exciting and useful to the people of Maryland. I participated in the Data and Legal Technology Committee of the task force, and I continue to participate in that committee now that it is under the auspices of the A2JC. I worked with another volunteer to create the Civil Justice for All story map and a dashboard illustrating trends in housing legal actions. I have also contributed to several surveys and data analysis efforts. It has been enormously rewarding to work with Reena and the A2JC, and to “meet” (virtually) and work with many people with many different skills and talents.