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 when 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!