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12 May 2011

AmeriCorps Members Help Legal Aid Clients Access Justice

 

For a second year Community Legal Aid is pleased to be a host site for six AmeriCorps members who are spending 1700 hours in service to the community over the course of 12 months. The AmeriCorps program strives to promote a spirit of civic participation and service across the country, and the six members spending the year at Legal Aid embody that spirit. These members join the more than 637,000 other Americans who have been AmeriCorps members since 1994. AmeriCorps Week, celebrated nationally from May 7-14, is an opportunity to recognize AmeriCorps members and their service to the community.

The AmeriCorps members serving at Legal Aid – Carla Boyle, Edward Burns, Lori Schoenfelder, Kofi Semenya, Chad Setliff, and Anahid Thompson – are spending their service year assisting staff and helping clients in Legal Aid’s Akron and Youngstown offices. Ms. Boyle, an attorney, is providing support to Legal Aid’s Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP.) Mr. Burns helps clients complete documents to file ‘pro se’ (without legal representation) with the Court, and Mr. Semenya assists clients through Legal Aid’s health Education Advocacy and Law (HEAL) program. Ms. Schoenfelder and Mr. Setliff provide support for Legal Aid’s foreclosure attorneys and Ms. Thompson, also an attorney, works with Legal Aid’s housing team.
 
The members not only provide valuable support to staff and volunteers, but have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the need for, and impact of, Legal Aid. “It is an incredibly eye-opening experience dealing day in and day out with people in poverty,” says Edward Burns of Canton. “To see the way a large population of my community has to scrape through each and every day has made me want to pursue volunteer opportunities in the future and has helped me realize that one person can really influence another’s life.”

For Ms. Thompson, a newly licensed attorney and law school graduate originally from the Cleveland area, this year is an opportunity to start her career using the law to help the poor. For Ms. Boyle, a native of Cincinnati who is returning to the legal profession after several years, her AmeriCorps service year is an opportunity to put her beliefs into action. “We pride ourselves on a justice system that treats every individual fairly,” Ms. Boyle says. “However, without access to legal representation society’s most vulnerable and weakest members often cannot access the benefits the law provides. Legal Aid staff and pro bono attorneys ensure families who would otherwise go without help have the opportunity to obtain justice.”

The Board, staff and clients of Legal Aid thank these six members for the work they have done to help Legal Aid clients, and for their commitment to ensuring everyone, no matter their income, has access to justice.

To learn more about AmeriCorps Ohio visit www.serveohio.org. To learn more about Legal Aid visit www.communitylegalaid.org. Need legal assistance? Call our HelpLine at 1.800.998.9454

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