By Leslie E. John, Partner at Ballard Spahr and President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
Fall is usually one of the busiest seasons at the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, with many activities and a fundraising push to secure much-needed grants for our nonprofit partners. Although this year may look different, the work continues, and we will gather virtually this month to make an impact collectively on access to justice.
Our nonprofit partners are fighting for the rights of individuals and families across Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and they need our support now more than ever. In response to the pandemic, the Bar Foundation released emergency grants in April to help alleviate some of the unexpected pressure on our grantees, and the Foundation intends to provide additional grants in December, pending our fundraising achievements through the rest of this unprecedented year. Please consider donating to support the Foundation and our grantmaking efforts at www.philabarfoundation.org/donate.
Our 2020 Access to Justice Awards Benefit, scheduled for October 20 at 5:00 p.m., will be the first-ever virtual Access to Justice celebration. Join us in celebration of Philadelphia’s public interest community, civil legal aid organizations, and the businesses and firms that partner with the Bar Foundation. Rosemary Connors, NBC10 Anchor/Reporter, will be our guest emcee, and our keynote will be announced soon. During the event, Comcast NBCUniversal and Dechert LLP will each receive the 2020 Pro Bono Award. Kelly J. Gastley, Esq., Managing Attorney at Philadelphia VIP, and David Keller Trevaskis, Esq., Pro Bono Coordinator at the Pennsylvania Bar Association, will each receive the 2020 Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award. We are so grateful to the organizations who have joined us as sponsors, including Comcast NBCUniversal at our Brotherly Love level sponsorship. If you’re interested in registering for the event or becoming a sponsor, please visit our website for more information.
We recently completed the matching process for the 2021 Board Observer Program. This award-winning program offers a unique experience for young lawyers and local nonprofits by providing the opportunity to serve for a year on a nonprofit board of directors through a partnership between the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, and the Delivery of Legal Services Committee and the Young Lawyers Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association. Observers have the opportunity to engage with a working Board, strengthen leadership skills, and grow their professional network. We’re looking forward to a great year with our 2021 cohort and participating organizations.
The Morris M. Shuster Public Interest Fellowship Program was established in 2003 to provide educational loan repayment assistance in the form of forgivable loans to legal aid attorneys working at our nonprofit partner organizations. The program helps eligible lawyers retire their law school debt to help position them for continued careers in the public interest legal sector. Applications for the 2020 Shuster Fellowship are now open, and eligible attorneys are encouraged to apply on our website's Shuster program page.
As we move into the last quarter of the year, I hope you will reach out to me at any time with your thoughts, questions, and ideas for the Bar Foundation. Even though the pandemic continues to keep us apart, we have many ongoing programs and virtual events and activities that depend on your support and engagement. I look forward to continuing to engage with you.