September 21, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: DC Bar Pro Bono Program

Bread for the City certainly has grown since its inception in 1974. But even after all those years, volunteers are still at the heart of everything we do. The Good Hope Awards is our chance to thank all of our volunteers for their tireless support of our good work. This awards breakfast is also a chance for us to especially honor those volunteers who have gone above and beyond in transforming the Bread for the City community.

The 5th Annual Good Hope Awards will be held this year on October 7, 2010 at The National Press Club. The series of posts over the coming days leading up to the event will highlight this year's GHA recipients. Please join all of us at Bread for the City in extending an especially warm "thank you" to these organizations and individuals -- without whom, our work would simply not be possible.

2010 Community Partner Award - DC Bar Pro Bono Program

Bread for the City has grown tremendously over the last decade. Heck, we’ve basically doubled our budget in the last four years. Yet the need for legal services has increased at such a rate that we simply cannot address all of this need on our own -- even with our growth. If anything, having more attorneys has increased our reputation and has brought even more people coming through our doors asking for help.

That’s where the DC Bar Pro Bono Program comes in. Whenever we have too many cases to handle -- be they landlord/tenant, or disability, or family, or cases outside of our practice areas, or some weird issue that we just just can’t fathom -- the first place we turn is the DC Bar Pro Bono Program. And they always come through. Their vast network of firms and lawyers is essential to Bread for the City being able to function. We refer scores of cases to them for full representation every year.

The Pro Bono Program also runs the Landlord/Tenant Resource Center and is our close partner in the Attorney of the Day Project. Let’s face it, I, Vytas, used to BE the Landlord/Tenant Resource Center, fielding dozens of calls a month, trying to talk tenants through the maze of landlord/tenant court. Now we just tell all our clients to go to the Resource Center, where the Pro Bono Program has assembled a fantastic stable of volunteer attorneys, all supervised by incredibly competent Pro Bono Program staffers…or Dan. (Kidding, Dan! Just kidding!)

The Program helps hundreds of clients get through their court dates and/or find representation. They also screen almost every case the Attorney of the Day office handles, saving us time, and assuring that tenants are provided the best chance of saving their homes and experiencing actual justice in that Branch of the Court. Finally, the Pro Bono Program continues to run the Advice and Referral Clinic at both of BFC’s Centers on the second Saturday of the month. This clinic continues to help more and more people with every kind of issue imaginable, efficiently, compassionately, and without cost. This is also where we send all the clients we don’t know what to do with. It’s the perfect catch-all, and we love it.

On a personal note, the people I work with the most -- Mark, Dan, Maureen, Leah, and Kristi -- are all wonderful to work with. Well, maybe not Mark so much, but 4 out 5 is pretty good. (Kidding again!) In short, the DC Bar Pro Bono Program is a fantastic and necessary component of not only DC’s legal services community, but Bread for the City Legal Clinic’s functionality and sanity as well.

In all sincerity, THANK YOU for all of your contributions to our work.

-- Portions of this post (the good parts) contributed by our Lord High Legal Clinic Director, Vytas V. Vergeer.

-- ed. note. The DC Bar Program Program was also really, really important in getting 2009 Good Hope Award Recipient, DLA Piper to secure nearly $2 million (MILLION) for our expanding Northwest Center. Read more about that here.

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