Last month, The Chicago Community Trust announced its six Trust Fellows for 2014, and LAF’s own Miguel Keberlein Gutiérrez was on the list. Miguel is the supervisor of the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project (IMLAP) and Co-Director of the Immigrants and Worker’s Rights Practice Group here at LAF. He was named an Emerging Leader by CCT, metropolitan Chicago’s community foundation. The Trust Fellowship recognized his leadership talent for nonprofit organizations, his excellence in the sector, and will grant $30,000 to Miguel to fund his professional development.
“The Trust Fellows are individuals who will pave the next decade of innovation for our region,” says Terry Mazany, president and chief executive officer of The Chicago Community Trust, and “we have a chance to celebrate the contributions of these individuals and support their innovative spirit.”
You can read more about the fellowship here, and read their profile of Miguel here.
Way to go, Miguel!
As we slog through polar vortex after polar vortex, we know that our clients are struggling with the weather even more than we are. When the temperature drops down into the single digits and their heat gets turned off, real trouble comes fast. Luckily, LAF has the resources to help. Our attorneys, paralegals, and pro bono volunteers can contact the power company, call out a shady landlord, and get real help to our clients so they can get on with the rest of their lives in safety.
In this month’s eNewsletter
, you can read about our pro bono volunteers who helped with nearly 600 cases last year. You can learn about our Community Engagement Unit’s work, our new online access system for clients, and another training at McDermott Will & Emery for legal aid attorneys and paralegals from across the state who work on foreclosure prevention and litigation. You can support all of these efforts by joining us at our Young Professionals Board’s second annual Justice is Served gala on March 7th. Read more about the event below, and get your tickets here
. If you can’t join us that night, you can always make a tax-deductible donation
to support our work.
Check it out here!
Sharlyn Grace, a VISTA attorney working with LAF’s Juvenile Expungement Help Desk, helped a group of high school students develop a website that allows people to find out if they are eligible for Juvenile Expungement and then leads them to the resources available at our Help Desk. You can check out her new website app here. Since last night she has gotten 60 submissions via this Expungio App.
And she’s been on the radio and the news to tell the story of this great achievement. Check out the Vocalo Story here, and WGN’s coverage here.
Way to go, Sharlyn!
Meghan Carter is a staff attorney in LAF’s Housing Practice Group. She sent us this reflection on this weekend’s holiday, and we wanted to share it with all of you.
“But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr., in an address at Western Michigan University, 12/18/63
Dr. King’s words apply to all people bound in struggle who seek protection under the law. I was introduced to the above quote by Marca Bristo, a disability rights activist who worked to create and pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the time Ms. Bristo introduced me to these words, I was a law student who ardently hoped for the opportunity to use the law to restrain the heartless. Now, as an attorney in the Housing Practice Group at LAF, I try to live this goal for each of my clients.
LAF attorneys cannot lobby for changes in the law (we are prohibited from doing this due to congressional restrictions on our funding), but we can make the law as it exists work for our clients. In LAF’s housing practice, our clients come to us when they are on the defense, facing eviction from subsidized housing or termination of a housing voucher without which they would become homeless. Our clients live in poverty, and are people with disabilities, people of color, single mothers, unemployed fathers, seniors, and victims of crime, abuse, and marginalization. My colleagues and I give our clients a fighting chance in a system that otherwise may have steamrolled them. We do this by forcing this system to follow the law. Through just that, sometimes, we are able to restrain the heartless.
Mara Block, LAF’s newly-appointed Director of Volunteer Services, works with our pro bono partners and helps extend the experience of helping our clients to the private bar and volunteer attorneys. When asked why she works at LAF, she said:
“My role here at LAF is a little different than most. Even though I came up through the ranks as a litigator at LAF’s Westside office in Lawndale, I now have only a little day-to-day contact with our clients. As LAF’s Director of Volunteer Services, my role is to engage private attorneys and the broader community involved in our clients’ cases and supporting LAF’s operations.
In its essence, I get to help people help people!
I loved directly representing our clients in court and administrative proceedings, and still love doing it when I get the chance, but I find it immensely satisfying to help others have that experience, too. I love the excitement and joy that our volunteers feel when they get a successful result for a client. I get to share that good result and hard work with the attorneys’ firms and partners, telling managing partners at law firms that their associate knocked it out of the park! It’s good for the attorneys, good for LAF and great for the low-income clients we serve. The added bonus is that I get to expose the private bar to LAF’s fabulous staff attorneys as the bulldog experts they are.
I am really proud of the work LAF has done over the past two years to evolve our Pro Bono Project into a well-respected and supportive place for volunteers. We have devoted valuable resources to make sure that volunteers have a good experience in the work they do with LAF and to ensure that clients get great representation to achieve their legal goals.”
As we wrap up 2013, you still have a few hours to make a tax-deductible contribution to LAF so we can continue to be there for those who need us most. This post also wraps up our “My Work Matters” series. Thank you for your support, and thanks to Mara, and everyone at LAF, for all you do!
Today we hear from Joann Villasenor, a supervisory attorney in our Children & Families Practice Group. Her work at LAF helps people start their lives over after abuse and tragedy:
“I like my work at LAF because I am able to help people who cannot afford to pay for private attorneys. The court system is intimidating and especially so if a person does not have an attorney. I represent victims of domestic violence in court to help them obtain orders of protection, custody orders, and divorces. Through my work, these victims obtain safety and financial security and they are able to start over, free from abusers.”