Repentance, then a life of service to others

Bob Buckley
Legal perspectives
Bob Buckley

Last week, I introduced you to my friend, Barbie Daniels, whose life and family were nearly destroyed by her addiction and life of dealing illegal drugs. She knows that she would have died one night in November 2012 if the Independence Police Department had not come to her house and prevented a robbery and murder.

Three people were murdered that same night, including an innocent child in a similar occurrence. The Apostle Paul had his conversion on the Road to Damascus after living his own life of persecuting and aiding others in the murder of Christians. Paul was blinded in his conversion experience. Barbie’s eyes were opened in hers that one November night and on the streets of Kansas City; she knew that she had to make dramatic changes in her own life and leave her life of self-destruction.

One of her biggest challenges on her road to recovery was finding a good job. She worked in a nursing home for minimum wage, but she could not live in the Healing House indefinitely and she knew that she needed to provide a decent home for her and her two daughters that could only happen if she found a better job.

She still had those charges pending against her that dated back to her arrest in November 2012. If those charges remained, her chances of getting a better job were minimal. I am no criminal lawyer. I have never handled a criminal case in my long career. My pastor asked me to assist Barbie, which was an odd request because of my lack of experience in that realm.

Yet I agreed to talk to the prosecutor to see if we could work out a plea arrangement that changed more serious charges into less serious ones. I decided that the truth was the best option, so I told the prosecutor her story and explained how she had made dramatic changes in her life.

Whatever I said must have worked because she walked out of the court that day with a conviction for littering. When Barbie gives her testimony, which she does quite well, she loves to say that the only conviction she has ever received despite her life of drug dealing and other crimes to support her addiction is for littering.

Barbie was then able to land a job with Heartland Center for Behavioral Change, initially doing urinalyses for the center and Drug Court, and then as a counselor helping other people who were living similar lives. She remained at Heartland for three years when she was approached by her first employer at the Healing House, Natasha Kirsch, to come help her with a project she had started at an organization called EPEC – Empowering the Parent to Empower the Child.

The Grooming Project was inspired by Barbie’s inability to find a living wage. Natasha believes in a two-generation approach to breaking the cycle of poverty. Basic needs for food and shelter must be met before a parent can focus on breaking the cycle of poverty and guiding children through school. The program helps impoverished families become self-reliant through job training in the high-demand, high-pay trade of pet grooming. It is a 650-hour program that not only educates and trains students for pet grooming, but also provides focus on improving their family’s future through parenting and budgeting classes, mental health support, life skills courses, and other needed medical services coordinated with many local organizations.

Barbie was hired as a case manager at EPEC, where she brings a wealth of knowledge about community services and human behavior with a background in substance use disorder counseling and recovery support systems. She has turned her own “street life” into a passion for helping people overcome obstacles and barriers in their own lives that they can live an empowered life.

Since joining the Grooming Project, Barbie realized one of the biggest challenges facing students in the program were legal issues. Barbie’s response was to start a legal clinic. Barbie works with men and women in the project to go over the pending court cases and charges and connects them with volunteer attorneys. Traffic violations, drug possession and paraphernalia charges are handled with Barbie’s assistance.

Barbie works with Probation and Parole, Drug Court, and Heartland Center for Behavioral Change. She has negotiated thousands of dollars of fines which have been converted into hundreds of hours of community service, a resolution that benefits the students and the community. In the first seven months of 2021, Barbie and her pro bono attorneys have resolved over 60 warrants and closed 80 cases for students of the Grooming Project. Barbie has credibility with the judges who know the outstanding work she is doing for the students who appear before them.

She was recently granted membership in the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City (AWL) as a legal associate. One of the pro bono lawyers wrote a letter in support, praising Barbie’s advocacy and knowledge that equals that of any attorney practicing in the courts. She recently attended AWL’s annual Christmas party along with several lawyers and judges. She has also spoken to family law classes multiple times at the UMKC Law School.

Barbie and I have begun talking about how to expand her law clinic. We both have some ideas, but she obviously has the expertise. I don’t know where it will lead, but it cannot fail because we both know that God works for the good of those who love him.

Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence. Email him at bbuckley@wagblaw.com.