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2018 Campaign for Justice kicks off to support three legal service providers.

Byline: Nora A. Jones

A friendly competition among many loyal volunteers who have worked on the Campaign for Justice year after year created an energetic launch to the 2018 fundraising campaign that supports Volunteer Legal Services Inc. of Monroe County (VLSP), Legal Aid Society of Rochester (LAS), and Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY).

The chart below shows where the competition was by the end of the night on Nov. 7, indicating who got the most pledges and most dollars within a couple hours of launch of the 2018 Campaign for Justice. The campaign goal this year is $260,000.

Phone-a-thon begins

VLSP Executive Director Tina M. Foster welcomed some 20 volunteers who gathered at the Telesca Center for Justice prepared with laptops and cell phones to start the annual phone-a-thon the CFJ has used since 1986.

"The process is a bit different than the reams of paper records we used to use, but the concept is the same: making calls to people you know to talk about the civil legal service providers who serve the Rochester area which has a significant level of poverty," explained Foster.

This is the third year the Campaign for Justice has relied on an electronic database, accessed through the VLSP website. Those volunteering to make calls can access the database to sign up for people they will contact, and track their responses via the same web portal. They can make calls anywhere, anytime. And donors do not have to wait for a phone call to make a pledge they can go to and make a pledge online.


This year's CFJ Cabinet is headed by Thomas P. Durkin, Jonathan Falk and Sharon Stiller. Falk's day job is at the Rochester Legal Aid Society, and this is his second year promoting the CJF to his young colleagues throughout the legal community.

Stiller, partner at Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara & Wolf LLP, serves as the cabinet co-chair focused on law firm donations, and Durkin returns in his role focused on corporate counsel participation.

This year's CFJ Cabinet also includes Joshua Agins, Bryan Babcock, Duwaine Bascoe, Brittany Belknap, John Bringewatt, T. Andrew Brown, Margaret Clemens, Connie Doherty, Megan Dorritie, Jonathan Ferris, Tina Foster, Jerry Holmes, Barbara LaVerdi, William Lowe, James McElheny, Marueen Mulholland, Hannah Nezezon-Mayne, Gail Norris, Stephanie Nott, Frank Novak, Donald O'Brien, Lori O'Brien, Carla Palumbo, Christina Petrella, Thomas Richards, Paul Richardson, Kelley Ross Brown, Arline Santiago, Fernando Santiago, Karen Schaefer, Michael Schnittman, Laura Smalley, Louise Spinelli, Steven Tranelli, Sharon Underberg and Michael Wegman.


When Hanna Cohn was heading up VLSP, she wanted to join forces with her sister legal service providers, not compete for funding, so she had the legal organizations collaborate and create a single fundraiser to help all three groups. That was back in 1986 when typewriters and landlines were the key communication tools.

Cohn was still around for some of the technology changes as we moved into the 21st century, but she didn't live to see the day when all three organizations would reside under one roof and collaborate daily to best serve our community. She certainly would be proud of what gets accomplished year after year.

VLSP receives a substantial part of the CFJ funding, recruiting and coordinating more than 1,600 pro bono attorneys, paralegals and legal professionals on its panel providing services primarily in the areas of family law, consumer debt, unemployment and health law to approximately 1,800 clients last year.

In 2017, LawNY closed 8,880 cases benefiting 18,906 people within its 14-county reach. The breakout of cases was as follows: income maintenance (29%); housing (23%); family (18%); health (15%); employment (5%); consumer (4%) and other (6%).

The Legal Aid Society, with Carla Palumbo as president and CEO, averages 10,000 cases per year, servicing low- to moderate-income households in Rochester in many of the same types of civil matters but on a sliding fee basis, determined by income level.

Campaign funding is also given to the Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellowship each year, which supports the hiring of a public interest attorney to work at Empire Justice Center. The fellowship is primarily underwritten by the Cohn family and the Hanna S. Cohn Memorial Fund.

Importance of campaign

Take a minute to acknowledge how comfortable and fortunate we are in regard to shelter, food and safety. Look elsewhere in the world and you will see bone-chilling poverty, lack of sanitary water supply, and people in war and chaos. Yet some of our neighbors right here in Monroe County and surrounding areas are struggling with issues of eviction, health, safety and child custody matters that can be resolved with proper legal guidance.

Donations to the Campaign for Justice ultimately help level the playing field for so many of our neighbors who cannot afford at attorney.

Nora A. Jones is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

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Publication:Daily Record (Rochester, NY)
Date:Nov 12, 2018
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