Caroline Longstreet: Celebrating LAF

Today we hear from Caroline Longstreet, the Director of the client screening unit at LAF. Caroline shared with us how thankful she is for the hard work of the LAF’s intake specialists:

​On December 10, 2009, CSU Intake went live for the first time. Most of that day is a blur to me, but the dominant impression I had as I left the office was of the dedication, patience, intelligence and passion of our Intake Specialists.

We began with 10 Intake Specialists: Elaine Minniefield, Mona Green, Amanda Palacios, Norma Viveros, Yolanda Madrigal, Melissa Lopez, Jose Tobias, Justine Rodriguez, Stephanie Kollar and Eva Ortiz.

I am proud today to acknowledge the faithful five who are still with us: Mona, Amanda, Yolanda, Melissa, and Justine. Melissa, of course, has become our indispensable Intake Administrator.

Amanda, Yolanda and Justine interpret for the practice groups regularly, in addition to their duties at CSU.

Justine serves on the Veterans’ Task Force, the Domestic Violence Task Force, does intake at De Diego Clinic once a month, and works on the Social Committee as well. She has taken 40 hours of domestic violence training and is responsible, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for opening intakes for direct referrals from Mujeres Latinas.

Mona takes live calls from clients with HIV/AIDS and answers all voicemails on the HIV/AIDS hotline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Yolanda is Mona’s counterpart for HIV/AIDs intakes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and, on the same days, is Justine’s counterpart for Mujeres Latinas. She also completes intakes for our new CLASP grant serving domestic violence and sexual assault victims in the suburbs. Yolanda commutes to the Woodlawn Clinic once a month to do intake there in the evenings. Yolanda has also completed 40 hours of domestic violence training.

Together, this group are CSU’s connection to our past, mentors to our newer members, and examples of patience, kindness, and passion for our mission.

I also want to thank Lisa Gonzalez, who manages to conduct intake for both CSU and Chicago Seniors’ Project with grace and intelligence. She is our most senior Intake Specialist after our original five. She also interprets on a regular basis and helps out with the front desk.

AND Ana Franco, who has also been with us almost from the beginning, and is interpreter extraordinaire, calls back all our tenant-in-foreclosure voicemails, and is so smart, so thorough and so kind to all our clients and co-workers.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention Justyna Jachna. Although she is our newest Intake Specialist, she has proved herself indispensable as a Polish interpreter and a terrific Intake Specialist.

And last, but very significantly, I want to thank our outstanding Intake Attorneys who have been incredibly resourceful in working with our Intake Specialists, providing brief services to clients, and providing excellent advice to our clients.

Awesome work, thank you Caroline!

Irma Amaro: Celebrating LAF

Irma Amaro has been a valued member of LAF for a very long time. As the office assistant, she goes above and beyond to make sure the staff and clients here at LAF have whatever they could possibly need. Just as we are thankful for Irma, she is also thankful for us. She takes pride in being part of an organization filled with hardworking paralegals, intake specialists, grant writers, and fundraising experts. Working the reception desk has allowed Irma to see firsthand the struggles our client’s face, which has made her especially thankful for the work of our many Attorneys:

photo (3)“When people ask me where I work, I always feel so proud to tell them I work for LAF. Working for LAF for 29 years has given me the opportunity to work with attorneys that care for people. When I interpret for our Spanish speaking clients, I see their desperation, frustration, and pain. Seeing the gratitude, and smiles on their faces after they get the help they need from the attorneys at LAF makes me feel so proud to be part of this agency. “

You’re the best Irma, and LAF would not run as smoothly as it does without you. Thank you for being part of our team!

Kenneth Carr: Celebrating LAF

Today we hear from one of our board members, Kenneth Carr of New Star Legal LLC. Kenneth has been serving as a member of our board for the past four years, and recently he shared with us how it feels to be on the board of our organization:

“I joined the Board in 2010, and when I joined I didn’t know much about LAF, but since I’ve been on the Board, I’ve learned that LAF is basically a winning team. And to be a winning team, we have to be passionate, innovative, and you have to get results, and I’m proud to be part of an organization that gets results in this area.”

Thank you for all that you do for us, Kenneth!

Mara Block: Celebrating LAF

Mara Block, Director of Volunteer Services, feels lucky to be a part of LAF every single day. She enjoys working with such talented and supportive colleagues as well as volunteers in the Cook County community. She recognizes the barriers that many of our clients have to face in order to make the legal system work for them. “Many of our clients don’t have a formal education. They don’t have access to reliable transportation to get them to and from the courts and administrative offices they need to go to. Some have disabilities that make it difficult for them to understand or follow instructions, or to navigate the physical spaces they must go. Many are not native English speakers.” Mara became even more aware of the struggles our clients have to face when she witnessed one of her employees being denied benefits:

“The realization of just how tough our system can be came to me about 4 years ago whenmara1 I was working with one of LAF’s rock star VISTAs. At the time, Samantha had just graduated from Northwestern and was dedicating a year to helping people come out of poverty at LAF. And because the VISTA program encourages people to experience poverty-level wages while serving, Samantha was eligible for food stamps. But Samantha couldn’t get through the bureaucracy. She applied. And was denied. She appealed. DHS lost her appeal. She went to the local DHS office with proof she filed her appeal timely. She cited to the regulations. She tried to work her way up the chain of command. It wasn’t until an LAF attorney got involved, that Samantha got the benefits she was eligible for. If Samantha can’t do it on her own, it’s no wonder clients call us every day unable to make the systems work for them. And we jump in and help. I am extremely proud to be a part of LAF, part of the solution.”

Thank you, Mara!

Jennifer A. Beardsley: Celebrating LAF

Jennifer A. Beardsley, a Staff Attorney in our Consumer Practice Group, has worked for three other legal service programs around the country before she ended up here at LAF. Although each one has its quirks and stories, she shared one specific client story. Jennifer worked with this client for two years and talked about the different ways this work made her appreciate LAF:

Olympic National Forest“In just over two years I have represented Ms. Johnson in three suits where she was sued by various debt buyers who did not have sufficient proof that they owned her alleged debts. Ms. Johnson is 79 and on a fixed income. We have been able to get each case dismissed, which saved her home and kept her out of bankruptcy. I even helped her complete the paperwork to change her first name to the one she has been going by for 50+ years. She calls me her extra daughter and always gives me hugs. That type of appreciation reminds me why I chose poverty law as my career.”

Help us to keep changing the lives of individuals like Ms. Johnson by donating to LAF this holiday season.

Thank you, Jennifer! Keep up the great work!

Jennifer Payne: Celebrating LAF

One of the greatest rewards you can receive from working at an organization like LAF, is realizing the major impact your daily work has on the lives of others. Jennifer Payne, a Supervisory Attorney in our Children and Families Practice Group, came to this realization when she received this heartfelt thank you note from one of her clients:


I am so blessed to have you in my life. I’m actually tearing up right now knowing how lucky I am for everything you have done for me. A lot of times I feel so alone but I know that will change now that I have custody of my children and they are safe. “

We are so proud of you, Jennifer!