MBF Makes $108,000 Impact in 2016 and Kicks Off Campaign!
Thank you! With your generous support, the Mecklenburg Bar Foundation (MBF) awarded 13 grants totaling $108,543 in the first quarter of 2016. Before looking ahead to the 2016 Bar Foundation Fund (BFF) campaign, MBF is pausing to celebrate and express gratitude to the individuals, law firms, legal departments, and corporations that generously supported the 2015 Lawyers’ Impact Fund. This unrestricted fund allows the Foundation to support local legal nonprofits as well as the projects/initiatives of the Bar and Foundation.
Your generosity allowed the Foundation to award grants to the following projects/organizations:
· Assistance League of Charlotte: To support its Mecklenburg County Teen Court program. The Teen Court program is an alternative justice system that offers youthful offenders ages 10-15 with no previous convictions an opportunity to avoid a permanent criminal record and take responsibility for their actions before a jury of their peers. The program helps alleviate the large number of cases processed by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Teen Court can currently hear 176 cases each year. In 2014-2015, Teen Court worked with 510 youth offenders. Volunteer teens provided 4,350 hours of community service.
· Council for Children’s Rights: To help support legal representation and advocacy through their legal advocacy programs. The advocacy team consists of social workers, attorneys, and other researchers and staff. In 2014-2015, the Council provided individual legal representation to 2,012 children in mental health, family and delinquency court proceedings and school meetings. Roughly 200 volunteers dedicated their time to advocate for children in difficult custody cases. CFCR provides legal representation and advocacy to children ages 0-18. In 2015-2016, CFCR expects to provide services to 2,100 children. Their vision is to build the capacity to serve every child in Mecklenburg County who needs their services.
· International House: To help fund the needs of the Ginter Immigration Law Clinic. The Ginter Law Clinic provides family reunification assistance to immigrants and refugees who recently arrived in the U.S. and have little to no income. The Clinic serves low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylees who live in the grater Charlotte area and have annual income below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Over the past few years, the Clinic has seen increased demand for family reunification services. The Clinic opened 729 cases in 2015 and expects to open approximately 650 cases in 2016.
· Larry King's Clubhouse: To provide program support including contracted services, business insurances, and professional or legal fees. The Clubhouse provides a safe, secure, and enriching place for children who must be at the courthouse because they are witnesses, they are the subject of child neglect or abuse or custody proceedings, or their parents or guardians have business at the courthouse. The center offers quality care and developmentally appropriate activities for children, age 6 weeks-12 years, on all days that the court is in operation. Children are removed from environments where they might hear inappropriate and psychologically damaging testimony, their families’ access to justice is improved by addressing child care barriers, the efficiency of court operations is increased by removing distracting and disruptive activity, and families are linked to needed community services. The center had 7,599 visits during fiscal year 2015.
· Latin American Coalition: To support its Immigration Law Clinic. The Law Clinic provides high quality legal services to low income immigrant families, increases community understanding of immigration and other laws impacting immigrants, and reduces the incidence of unauthorized practice of law in the immigrant community. The Law Clinic provides legal services to hundreds of clients a year and anticipates opening over 100 new cases. They also organize multiple naturalization workshops using volunteer attorneys and complete over 160 naturalization applications annually. The Immigration Law Clinic fills a significant gap in the availability of legal services in the region and provides a visible, viable alternative to engaging a notario.
· Legal Aid of North Carolina: To help fund a Housing Screener to screen the calls of tenant families seeking assistance when being threatened with eviction with the goal of preventing more homelessness in Mecklenburg County. LANC is a statewide, non-profit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low income people to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. The LANC-Charlotte office receives 20-40 new calls per day from tenants threatened with eviction. As a result of the high volume of evictions of subsidized housing families and the loss of their most experienced housing staff attorney in August 2015, LANC-Charlotte had to close intake of new cases for several weeks. The Housing Screener will allow LANC to screen more of the callers and accept the apparently meritorious cases, thereby serving more of these families by a combination of staff advocates and pro bono attorneys.
· Legal Services of Southern Piedmont: To support the Access to Justice Pro Bono Program. The program provides high-quality direct legal services to help low income clients meet their most important needs for income, shelter, safety from violence, health care, education of children, fair treatment as consumers, and equitable access to public and private benefits. These services are offered regardless of clients’ race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, or immigration status. The pro bono program has grown dramatically since its inception. Pro bono case handling increased from 166 in 2009 to more than 500 cases in 2015.
· NC LEAF: To assist with recruitment and retention of public interest attorneys through loan repayment assistance for mortgage-size law school debt loads. Sixteen public interest attorneys in Mecklenburg County with annual incomes less than $50,000 applied for NC LEAF loan repayment assistance. All of the attorneys have graduated from law school within the past 5 years and NC LEAF’s goal is to help them remain in the profession they love.
· Pat's Place: To help fund a social worker on the Forensic Interview Team. Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center coordinates the investigation of reports to law enforcement or the Department of Social Services that a child may have experienced sexual abuse, serious physical abuse or neglect, or when a child may have witnessed serious violence or a homicide. The forensics interview is the foundation of child protection and criminal investigations. In many child sexual abuse cases, there is no witness other than the child and often times, there is no corroborating evidence. The interview is a developmentally-sensitive, non-leading conversation with a child that is intended to elicit detailed information about events that the child may have experienced or witnessed, and is conducted by masters-level, clinically licensed social workers who have received advanced training on the forensics interviewing of child victims/witnesses. Pat’s Place servers Mecklenburg County children from birth through age 17. This year, more than 500 interviews were conducted by Center staff, and an additional 20% increase in the number of children served through 2017 is anticipated.
· Safe Alliance: To help fund the salary for a full time staff attorney working for their Legal Representation Project (LRP). The LRP provides free legal representation in hearings to obtain Domestic Violence Protective Orders as well as acting as a conduit to allow local attorneys to donate their time to victims. With a staff lawyer, Safe Alliance will be able to continue to represent more victims as well as assist in the training and mentoring of more pro bono attorneys. LRP’s goal for fiscal year 2016 is to provide legal representation to 375 clients, with 150 of those being served by volunteer attorneys. Since 2008, the LRP, through both pro bono attorneys and Safe Alliance staff, have provided almost 2,000 clients free legal representation.
· MBF Professional Assistance Financial Fund: To support five public interest agencies in Mecklenburg County (District Attorney's Office, Public Defender's Office, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, Legal Aid of North Carolina, and Council for Children's Rights) to help offset the financial hardship associated with rising professional development costs for qualifying attorneys.
· MCB Diversity & Inclusion Committee: To support Diversity Day, the annual one-day conference engaging minority students in a discussion about the legal profession and law-related careers. Students hear about the role individuals with legal training play in everyday society, meet with attorneys, judges, law school admissions officers, and law students, and have an opportunity to share their views of the law and lawyers..
· MCB & MBF Bar Leadership Institute Committee: To cultivate future leaders with an emphasis on giving back to the Bar and the community through involvement with the Mecklenburg County Bar and Mecklenburg Bar Foundation leadership projects.