By Meredith S. Auten, Acting President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation
Last month we celebrated our 2021 Award Recipients and the businesses and firms that partner with the Bar Foundation at our annual Access to Justice Awards event. Thank you to everyone who joined us for an inspiring evening. We were thrilled to honor Nilam A. Sanghvi, Legal Director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and a past Trustee of the Bar Foundation, with the 2021 Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award, along with 2021 Pro Bono Award Recipient White and Williams for their decades-long commitment to volunteer legal services. As we learned during the event, William T. Coleman Jr., the 2021 Trailblazer for Justice, was an iconic and titan Philadelphia lawyer, who believed in using what is best about this country – the law’s commitment to equal justice – to fix what is worst about it – racism and debilitating inequities caused by poverty.
The Bar Foundation believes that an equitable and well-resourced civil legal system is essential in the fight to fulfill the late Mr. Coleman’s legacy. Fortunately, there is currently an upswing in understanding and recognition of the critical value of civil legal aid services, both regionally and nationally. Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program, a collaboration that encompasses City offices, the courts, and a number of our nonprofit partners, is being lauded as a national model, and the Attorney General of the United States has restored the Office of Access to Justice, a standalone office within the Department of Justice that works to address the most urgent civil legal needs of communities across the country.
Nevertheless, the need for these services – especially in Philadelphia with its high rate of poverty – is still outstripping the capacity of the civil legal services system. We must do more to strengthen the capacity of the system and expand access to justice. Our generous Unified Giving contributors, event sponsors, and individual donors make the work of the Bar Foundation possible. As we prepare to make our annual grants to nearly 40 nonprofit partners at the end of this year, we will once again ask you to make a meaningful end-of-year donation in these final weeks of 2021. Our unrestricted grants have a substantial impact on our nonprofit partners. Please give generously and help us to vigorously support the nonprofit civil legal aid providers who are on the frontlines of every major crisis in our society.
Every day, the work done by our City’s incredible civil legal aid agencies significantly improves the quality of life of individuals, families, and communities in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s ability to robustly fund these important organizations relies on your generosity. Please make a donation by mail or online at PhilaBarFoundation.org before December 31st. Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Holiday season!