Posted December 5, 20178:20 am
Ten days after its 112th Annual Meeting and Report to the Community, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland met and surpassed the BakerHostetler matching grant challenge of $35,000 through the generous gifts of diverse supporters. Between the ticket sales, sponsorships, gifts and the BakerHostetler match more than $335,000 was raised. The event drew more than 1,000 guests and became a nexus for clients, staff, volunteers and supporters to share their personal Legal Aid stories.
Held at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown on Nov. 20, the luncheon featured Legal Services Corporation President Jim Sandman as keynote speaker. Speaking on the preeminence of justice in the founding framework of our nation, Sandman praised Cleveland Legal Aid’s and its supporters’ role in upholding that ideal.
“What The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland does is to make this value real for people to whom it might otherwise be just a cruel illusion,” Sandman said during his keynote.
Familiar with many legal aid organizations throughout the country, Sandman said the Cleveland’s program stood out from the rest, citing four “hallmarks of excellence.”
“The first is that you are uncommonly good at meeting your clients where they are, literally being out there in the community,” Sandman said, pointing out examples such as neighborhood clinics and the medical-legal partnerships with local hospitals.
“Second, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is a talent magnet,” Sandman said. “I know of no Legal Aid program in the country that does a better job of recruiting and retaining dedicated, creative, innovative, brilliant people.”
Several outstanding volunteer attorneys among more than 2,000 of Legal Aid’s pro bono volunteers were also recognized. Click here to see the full list and award descriptions.
Sandman also praised Cleveland Legal Aid’s “remarkably broad and deep” relationships with community partners, pointing to the banquet hall’s packed out attendance as evidence. Finally, Sandman said, Executive Director Colleen Cotter is an extremely valuable asset in leading the organization in its mission to be there for families living in poverty when and where they need help most.
Cotter and Board President Vanetta Jamison showcased Legal Aid’s 2016 accomplishments, including impacting more than 17,000 people through more than 7,000 legal cases, increasing assets and income and reducing client debt by a combined $15.7 million, preventing 92% of evictions, and securing safety for clients and their families in 98% of cases.
John Levi, winner of the 2017 Stokes Paragon Award, also shared how his position as board chair of the Legal Services Corporation inspired him to represent a U.S. Veteran who struggled with PTSD after surviving a terrorist attack. Levi took the case pro bono and was able to win his client both back awards and future benefits to cover treatment costs.
“When I got word that we had been successful, it was more than a legal aid moment for me — it was life changing for him and his family.” Levi said. “It allowed them to stay in their home.”
In addition to stories, Legal Aid experienced an outpouring of financial support from sponsors, individual ticket donors, and the many people who accepted BakerHostetler’s $35,000 match challenge. These gifts support Legal Aid’s work to meet people at the critical moment when only the services of a skilled attorney will stop their civil legal issues from escalating.
The Annual Meeting also marked the launch of the #MyLegalAidStory social media campaign, an effort to increase awareness of Legal Aid’s work through the sharing personal stories of how the organization has touched the lives of volunteers, staff members and community partners. Stories can be submitted at www.MyLegalAidStory.org or shared on social media channels with the hashtag #MyLegalAidStory.
Click below to see the new #MyLegalAidStory video that premiered at the event.