FORT LAUDERDALE — Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc., celebrated 35 years last week in an event at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina.
The May 15 event at the hotel also honored outstanding community advocates and those who have advocated on behalf of children and families.
“It’s all about the pro bono work provided to our clients,” said Kathleen Thomsen, Legal Aid’s director of development. “Those are the people and organizations we honored with awards.”
About 280 people attended the event, themed “You’ve Been Served,” and the organization raised more than $100,000, according to Thomsen.
Proceeds from the event will be used to benefit Legal Aid Service’s projects and programs that benefit children and families.
“It will go to our children’s advocacy unit,” Thomsen said.
Legal Aid is a non-profit law firm whose mission is to provide high-quality, free legal advice, representation and education to the poor and disadvantaged people of Broward County. The organization seeks to improve the living conditions of the low-income community, and seeks to encourage self-sufficiency.
The service opened in 1974 in conjunction with the Broward County Bar Association. Outreach centers are located in Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Pompano Beach.
“We are celebrating our thirty-fifth year of equal justice, providing civil legal services to the residents of Broward County,” Thomsen said.
The event’s major sponsors included JM Family Enterprises, Inc., Broad & Cassel Attorneys at Law, Dr. Arthur and Belinda Kaiser, and Russell E. Carlyle, Esq.
“It‘s a true honor to have the opportunity to recognize the honorees,” said John G. “Jay” White, III, president of the Florida Bar, who served as the event’s guest speaker. “They have not only advocated, but donated both hundreds of hours of their time and money.”
White described the event as “significant not only for the honorees, but the families who receive the legal services they require.”
Adele I. Stone received the Russell E. Carlisle Advocacy Award.
“It’s one of the most prestigious,” Thomsen said.
Legal Aid has suffered budget cuts, resulting in the lay offs of and reduced hours for some of its employees.
“In losing staff, we now have to limit the services we can provide to our clients,” Thomsen said. “And because of that, there’s been an explosion of people needing our help, especially because of the foreclosures.”
Thomsen added that they “tried not to affect any unit largely. We try very hard to see as many people as we can, but with the staff cutbacks, it’s difficult.”
Legal Aid has also reduced its outreach programs, Thomsen said.
Most non-profit organizations in Broward County, according to Thomsen, have their clients utilize services provided by Legal Aid.
“We are the only civil legal services available to these people; there aren’t any more,” she said.
Using Women in Distress as an example, Thomsen explained that “if Women in Distress has a client needing representation for a domestic violence issue, they contact us.’’
She added, “If you go to Kids in Distress and there is an issue of kinship, meaning someone, maybe the grandparents, has custody of a child, but not legal custody, should the child become ill, he or she may not be allowed admittance to the emergency room. They send that client to us as well.”
Thomsen said that Legal Aid interacts with several of these types of organizations.
Legal Aid also handles issues including homelessness, landlord-tenant disputes, immigration, bankruptcies, affordable housing and children’s advocacy.
The agency does not handle criminal matters, Thomsen said.
Here is the list of people and entities that Legal Aid Service of Broward, Inc., honored on May 15:
CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY AWARD
COMMUNITY ADVOCACY AWARD
BROWARD LEGAL IMMIGRATION PROJECT (BLIP)
• BROWARD COUNTY HISPANIC BAR ASSOCIATION
• HISPANIC UNITY OF FLORIDA (HUF)
• CATHOLIC CHARITIES LEGAL SERVICES
• LEGAL AID SERVICE OF BROWARD COUNTY
CONSUMER LAW AWARD
JOHN D. BRISTOL, ESQ.
LAW OFFICES OF JOHN D. BRISTOL
FAMILY LAW AWARD
NATHALIE PARCHMENT, ESQ.
LAW OFFICES OF NATHALIE PARCHMENT
HOUSING LAW AWARD
EUGENE LEWIS, ESQ.
LAW OFFICES OF EUGENE LEWIS
LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR AWARD
LIPPMAN & GREGOIRE, PLLC
LEGAL CLINIC OF THE YEAR AWARD
ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW
PROF. LARRY FEDRO
REP. ARI PORTH – DISTRICT 96
VOLUNTARY BAR ASSOCIATION AWARD
BROWARD COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION
YOUNG LAWYERS AWARD
AHMAND JOHNSON, ESQ.
SHUTTS & BOWEN LLP