By Leslie E. John, partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
In Philadelphia, we are fortunate to have a vast community of dedicated individuals and nonprofit organizations committed to making a change in the City, the state, and around the country. The Philadelphia Bar Foundation is proud to fund and partner with nearly 40 nonprofit legal aid organizations who are committed, as the Foundation is, to fighting for equal access to justice for all. Our nonprofit partners provide services ranging from anti-poverty advocacy to justice and court reform. As the year draws to a close, we wanted to share some of the life-changing work our nonprofit partners have undertaken.
To give you an idea of the impact these organizations have had on our community, in the past year our nonprofit partners spent 97,734 hours on over 11,000 pro-bono cases. Their dedication provided millions of individuals with legal aid that they may not have been able to attain otherwise.
Five of the organizations we fund specialize in immigration and employment; together, they employ 115 individuals who provided pro-bono services to over 150 clients in the last year, providing guidance on a myriad of different issues.
One of our nonprofit partners, Public Interest Law Center, is celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2019. PILC uses high-impact legal strategies to serve a wide population, with help from 144 pro-bono attorneys that work with their 17 staff members.
Last year, over 2,000 attorneys offered their time and talents to pro-bono work in support of the missions of our partners. Out of those attorneys, 77 worked with nonprofits specializing in women’s rights and disability rights on 162 cases, serving over 22,000 clients facing injustices such as abuse and discrimination.
Five of our nonprofit partners are dedicated to the issues surrounding child welfare, education and youth. This is one of the most vulnerable demographics in our community, but these organizations are providing them with vital services such as advocacy against abuse and neglect, ensuring access to education, and reforming the juvenile legal system.
Health and elder justice is another sector that three of our partners specialize in. Their commitment to advocacy and education has had a tremendous impact. One of our partners and a founding member tenant of the Equal Justice Center, SeniorLAW Center, served nearly 600 clients last year improving their quality of life and protecting their legal rights.
The numbers do not lie – these organizations are making a big impact on the Philadelphia community every day. The Bar Foundation is proud to be one of the few sources of unrestricted funding for these organizations. The unrestricted grants that the Bar Foundation provides allow our nonprofit partners to pursue an array of strategies in order to best serve the direct needs of their clients. In addition, such flexibility allows legal aid leaders to respond to changing circumstances and pressing needs. If you would like to learn more about the Bar Foundation’s grantmaking or about our nonprofit partners, or want to contribute to fund our unrestricted grants, visit our website www.philabarfoundation.org