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Supporter profile: Sylvester Brooks

Posted March 20, 2024
1:10 pm

Longtime advocate continues to invest in Legal Aid

Sylvester Brooks, Esq.

In 1973, fresh out of law school, Sylvester Brooks joined Legal Aid as a Staff Attorney. He remembers his first day fondly. “I walked through the door, right up to the front desk, and no one was expecting me,” Sylvester laughs. “I sat in the waiting room with the clients, watching them come and go. The employees were trying to figure out what to do with me. I would later realize that they were a very talented staff, and absolutely dedicated to the mission.”

More than 50 years after his employment first began with Legal Aid, Sylvester and his wife Semanthie remain steadfast supporters, making donations using his IRA.

He explains that when someone reaches 73 years of age, the IRS requires them to take a minimum distribution from their IRA account.

In 2023, he decided to use those funds to make a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) to Legal Aid – an option where your IRA funds go directly to a nonprofit organization. The donation is not taxed, making it a win-win for both Legal Aid and the Brooks family.

“I chose to donate to Legal Aid because I continue to believe in the mission. And because this is a time when the rights of low-income citizens, and especially people of color, are under siege,” Sylvester said.

Sylvester urges others to support the work of Legal Aid. IRA giving is easy to do – you don’t need to be a billionaire like MacKenzie Scott to give back (referencing the single largest gift Legal Aid has ever received – a $2.5 million dollar gift in 2023).

“When I look back over my many years in legal services, I am reminded of the songwriter’s words - ‘we were moving mountains, long before we knew we could.’ Yet still today, challenges remain,” Sylvester said. “So, I urge you to move these mountains – mountains of injustice, mountains of inequality, mountains of poverty and despair. And in that spirit, I encourage each of you to support Legal Aid and its mission of hope and effective enthusiastic representation for all people.”

A longtime advocate for legal services, Sylvester knew in high school that he wanted to be an attorney. “I believed that if I became a lawyer, I could help bring about significant change,” said Sylvester.

Indeed, throughout his employment with Legal Aid, his career with UAW Legal Services, his volunteer work, and his financial support of change-making organizations, Sylvester continues to be a positive force for change.

Want to explore different ways to support Legal Aid, such as giving through your IRA or donor advised fund? Contact Legal Aid at 216.861.5217.

Originally published in Legal Aid's "Poetic Justice" newsletter, Volume 21, Issue 1 in Winter/Spring 2024. See full issue at this link: “Poetic Justice” Volume 21, Issue 1.

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