From meeting through their work on mission trips in Mexico to cofounding the Hand in Hand Multicultural Center (HIHMC) in January 2000, Dr. Judith Gonzalez and Julie Humphrey have long had a passion for helping others. Julie serves as the executive director, and Judith, who has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and is fluent in both English and Spanish, supervises the group’s mental health offerings and immigration services.

With a whole-person approach to health, HIHMC provides professional counseling, interpretation and translation services, tutoring, health and nutrition education, and legal immigration assistance. Community partners that range from federal agencies to local banks and churches support Julie and Judith in delivering on their mission.

“We’ve partnered with more than two hundred community organizations to serve Missouri families and individuals,” Judith says. “Faith communities, universities, colleges, day cares, foundations, and more have been part of the success of HIHMC.”

Dr. Judith Gonzalez

Julie adds, “We take the time to learn people’s stories so we can support them as much as possible. When someone calls and needs something, we try not to say no. We look for a way to figure it out.”

Over the years, HIHMC has hosted health fairs, grocery giveaways, and flu vaccine clinics as well as camps for young girls aimed at boosting self-esteem and processing cultural differences between the United States and their home countries.

Legal immigration assistance is their most in-demand program. HIHMC is recognized and accredited by the US Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to provide legal help for applications and other documents related to citizenship, family petitions, green cards, visas, and more. The organization’s partnership with Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. provides access to lawyers and other legal resources.

“Immigration is not an easy process,” Julie says. “The laws and policies are always changing, and the process can take years and years. Most of the people we work with are motivated to get their documentation so they can fit into the system, contribute to their communities, and make a better life for their families.”

Julie Humphrey

The majority of HIHMC’s clients are Hispanic/Latino, a group that makes up about 4 percent of Springfield’s population. A considerable number of people have also come from Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To accommodate the needs of their diverse patrons, everyone on the four-person office staff is bilingual. Among them, they speak Spanish, Portuguese, and Vietnamese in addition to English. They have relationships with translators who can meet any other language needs.

After two decades of running HIHMC, Julie and Judith continue to evolve their organization by leading with the simple motto of “Healthier Choices for Healthier Families.”