Legal Aid launches 65th Anniversary Spring Appeal

Non-profit hopes to raise $20,000 toward programs and services 

Community Legal Aid, a non-profit law firm, has launched a fundraising drive in honor of its 65th anniversary year.

The organization, which serves low-income residents of eight northeast Ohio counties, relies on the support of individual donors to provide free legal help and representation to those in need.

“Each year, we only receive enough funding from government and private foundations to help one in every three people who come to us for help,” shared Executive Director Steven McGarrity. “Imagine – turning away two of every three people. And it’s not that they don’t qualify or don’t truly need help. It’s just that we simply don’t have the resources. The goal of our fundraising drive is to help us make up that difference.”

Legal Aid is hoping to gain the support of local attorneys, court personnel, and other community members who are passionate about the justice system and providing equal access to everyone.

“Our work is important because in the civil legal world, there is no guarantee of a right to representation, like there is in criminal law,” McGarrity explained. “Legal Aid makes up that difference and makes sure those who can’t afford representation have someone on their side.”

 

How Legal Aid is funded

Historically, Legal Aid has relied heavily on grant dollars, explained Maria Duvuvuei, Director of Development and Communications, while individual contributions made up a relatively small percentage of the overall budget.

“We’re looking to shift that paradigm,” she said. “We’re really focusing on outreach and building better connections with our donor base. We want to connect with them and understand why they give and what they’re most passionate about.”

Like every non-profit, Legal Aid operates on a lean budget for the reach and impact it has. But as McGarrity points out, the nature of the group’s work can often mislead people in regards to financial needs.

“People think that because we’re a group of attorneys, we don’t need money,” McGarrity said. “But we don’t collect fees, and we don’t charge our clients. So really, we operate as any other non-profit does – through grants and private donations.”

And according to Duvuvuei, those donations are something to be admired.

“Our supporters are so enthusiastic and passionate about our work,” she said. “Many of them give their money and their time, volunteering as pro bono attorneys to help the clients we don’t have staffing to reach. So the response we’ve seen from the community has been really positive.”

 

Legal Aid’s impact

In 2016 alone, Legal Aid was able to help 12,360 people in Columbiana, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, and Wayne counties. The non-profit provided over $17.8 million in economic benefit to their clients – a financial impact metric that measures dollars obtained or saved for clients.

“For a staff of under 55, I think that’s pretty incredible,” McGarrity said. “You won’t find a group of more dedicated and passionate people.”

In addition to individual legal advice and representation, Legal Aid also provides educational workshops and presentations to partner organizations and to the community. In 2016, over 1,300 community members attended these events, and over 248,000 self-help legal materials were downloaded from the organization’s web site.

“The reach is truly remarkable, when you think about it,” said Board President Nancy Grim. “And I think it really emphasizes the need, when you take into account how many people we still aren’t able to help due to lack of resources.”

 

How to give

Legal Aid’s 65th Anniversary Spring Appeal is running now through the end of June. To learn more about the fundraising drive, or to make a secure online donation, visit www.communitylegalaid.org/spring2017.

Interested donors also can send cash or checks payable to Community Legal Aid to 50 South Main Street, Suite 800, Akron, OH 44308.

Posted: April 21, 2017