Mary Townsend – Executive Director
Mary Townsend is a native of Pass Christian, Mississippi. She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1974 with a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science. She worked for a number of years as a computer systems analyst, until she began volunteering with the immigrant community in 1998 in Central Mississippi. She established and taught English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Morton, MS, arranged for an immigration attorney to provide low-cost immigration services at the local Catholic Center and worked as an interpreter and advocate for the Spanish-speaking community.
She also taught ESL classes at Trinity Mission Center of the United Methodist Church in Forest, MS, and at Tyson Foods in Carthage, MS, over a period of 8 years. She helped to establish the Immigration Clinic of Catholic Charities Jackson and was the Director of that program from 2003 to 2004. She was a founding member of MIRA! (Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance) and served as an officer and member of the Board of Directors for several years.
Ms. Townsend returned to the Gulf Coast in July, 2006 to work for Hispanic/Latino Ministries of the United Methodist Church as a long-term recovery caseworker for Spanish-speaking victims of Katrina. She helped to found El Pueblo in 2007 and has been providing immigration legal services there ever since then. She is a Department of Justice Fully Accredited Representative and she now serves as the Executive Director of El Pueblo.
Sophie Woodruff – Staff Attorney
Sophie Melissa Woodruff is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana; where she graduated near the top of her class at Grace King High School. Her high academic achievements allowed her to attend Hampshire College on full scholarship, which imprinted on her early a deep value for social justice and respect for diversity. Her studies there led her to a dual Fulbright award to study abroad in Germany and Turkey, where she worked on translational immigration and integration. Before eventually bringing her back home to Tulane University where she studied law and graduated summa cum laude in 2014. Following her graduation, she clerked for an immigration judge In New York City’s immigration court, followed by two years representing children in removal proceedings with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Unaccompanied Minor’s Program. She now works on defending immigrants of all ages in removal proceedings, both in detained and non-detained settings. She remains committed to a more just world for immigrants.
Jeremy Eisler – Staff Attorney
Jeremy Eisler is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
After organizing textile workers in South Carolina and Georgia he became a member of the Mississippi Bar in 1982 and the North Carolina Bar in 1987. Thereafter he worked in Legal Services in both Mississippi and North Carolina, eventually becoming Mississippi Legal Service’s statewide director of litigation a position he held until 2012.
Subsequently he worked for the Mississippi Center for Justice for 8 years as an Education Attorney.
Among various other activities Jeremy served on the Consumer Advisory Council to the Federal Reserve Board, on the Governor’s Task Force on Child Support, as a monitor for LSC and as the author of a consumer advice column for the Sun Herald.
Iveth Diaz – Paralegal
Iveth has 10 years of experience interpreting for individuals to ensure they have access to accurate information as they navigate systems that often lack language accessibility. She started working at El Pueblo as a receptionist and interpreter and has since been promoted to paralegal. She is a Department of Justice Accredited Representative.
Iveth is committed to providing high quality legal services to the immigrant community, while working on expanding equal access to opportunities, and advocating for just and fair treatment of all people.
Laurie DeVecca – Program Operations Director
Laurie DeVecca has worked as a cook, a housekeeper, an accountant, and a teacher. She lived in New Orleans for many years and taught in Catholic schools there, as well as volunteering with Congreso de Jornaleros and her parish’s ESL classes. In 2017, Ms. DeVecca decided to devote more of her time to volunteer work and began volunteering at El Pueblo that summer. She moved from New Orleans to Mississippi in the summer of 2018 so that she could begin working at El Pueblo full-time. As Program Operations Director, she is responsible for grant writing and reporting, HR, A/P, assisting the Executive Director with budgets and financial reports, and lending a helping hand wherever needed. Ms. DeVecca finds great joy in her work, and when not at work she finds happiness in her family, her land, and the many animals that call her property home.
Allison Hanson – Language Access Program Director
Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Allison Hanson is a human resources professional, specializing in literacy and language access programs. After arriving in the United States in 2004, her entrepreneurial spirit resulted in establishing her own successful business in the construction industry where her bilingual capabilities allowed her to interact with the large Spanish speaking population of southern Florida.
Since a large number of her employees were from various Latin-American communities, she was intimately aware of the difficulties encountered by immigrant families, and soon found herself drawn back to her roots in Human Resources.
Upon coming to Mississippi she continued to operate her business, but became much more involved in providing services to the community. She refined her skills by training for paralegal services at El Pueblo and ESL (English as a Second Language) and ELL (English Language Learners) programs for various Gulf Coast school districts.
She serves as a professional Interpreter and interfaces with government institutions, hospitals, courts, law enforcement, and all community agencies and guidance services helping ensure a smooth and caring transition with educational guidance and other family services. She loves what she does, and is very passionate about it.
Mayra Ramshur – Victims Advocate Coordinator
Mayra is from Honduras. She worked as an elementary school teacher for eight years and one year as a high school teacher. She is currently a writer for Periodico Latino. Her newspaper articles address issues regarding education, immigration, labor, and other topics of interest to the Latino community. Mayra is writing a book, “The Dangers in an American Dream Suitcase,” and hopes to publish it soon.
She is also a full-time student at William Carey University and has made the Dean’s list twice. She is passionate about helping people overcome hardships and live successful lives in the United States. One of her dreams is to be able to provide psychological services to people in need.
Monica Soto – Community Outreach
Monica Soto was born in Colombia, South America. She came to the states when she was seven years old. She lived in California for ten years before coming to Forest, Mississippi. Monica has worked at Forest Elementary School as an English Language (EL) tutor for the last 20 years. Monica loves helping children learn, feel welcomed and included in a new environment. As part of her EL job she gets the opportunity to work with the families in her community. This has been a very rewarding experience where she has met lots of new people. She has been married to Benny Soto for 13 years and they have three children. In her spare time, she loves to travel with her family. They love the beach. Monica also likes to read and do art crafts. She is very grateful to be part of El Pueblo. Monica still holds her EL position at Forest Elementary and works part time as outreach coordinator for El Pueblo.
“Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person” –author unknown
Anthony Irving – Custodian
Anthony is a native of Biloxi, Mississippi. He has worked at a retirement home for veterans, recycling center, and a couple of casinos. Anthony has been a part of Seashore Mission day shelter in Biloxi for about 8 years.