Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri: It’s Not Just for Lawyers

By Blake Heath, Chair of the Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri

Since September of 2011, I have had the privilege of serving as the chair for the newly formed Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri (YPB).  The goal of the YPB is to support the mission and programs of Legal Aid of Western Missouri through social events, fundraising initiatives, and community outreach efforts.  Many people are unfamiliar with the work that Legal Aid does or they assume that the organization is just a bunch of lawyers so there is no need or way for them to get involved.  The YPB hopes to spread the message of what Legal Aid does and to change the perception that the organization is just for lawyers.   Below is more information about the YPB and a brief description of some of the work we have done and will be doing in the future.

In December of 2010, the staff at Legal Aid put together a small focus group of various young professionals in the Kansas City area to explore ways Legal Aid could raise awareness about the mission of Legal Aid, recruit volunteers, and raise financial support.  Legal Aid recognized that older more established attorneys made up the majority of its volunteer and financial support base.  Legal Aid wanted to expand that base to younger individuals, and Legal Aid wanted to find support outside the legal profession.  After several more meetings, the YPB was officially formed to help Legal Aid recruit young professionals willing to further the mission of Legal Aid.

While Legal Aid’s primary purpose is to provide access to the legal system for clients who are normally shutout of the legal system, the work has a much deeper impact on our community.  For instance, Legal Aid is a leader in converting abandoned properties in the urban core of Kansas City into occupied, high quality housing.  Every year, their Economic Development team works with the City and other not-for-profit agencies to bring litigation that brings 80-100 abandoned properties up to code.  Legal Aid’s work in obtaining Protective Orders and divorces for hundreds of victims of domestic violence every year has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of stopping the cycle of violence.  And, every year they get hundreds of people who are permanently and totally disabled access to long-term, pro-active medical care by getting them onto Medicaid when their benefits have been wrongly denied or terminated.

To help support these programs and the mission of Legal Aid, the YPB has been active since its formation in September of 2011.  We have participated in the annual Party with a Purpose, held informational sessions where Legal Aid staff attorneys described their practice areas, assisted with the construction of a one-of-its-kind playground for children with disabilities, and participated in the Run for Justice 5K put on by the Lawyers Association of Kansas City.  In addition to these events, we will be sponsoring a charity bingo event this summer, we have tables for our members at the Legal Aid Justice for All luncheon, we will promote and participate in Legal Aid’s annual golf tournament, and in the fall we will travel to rural Lafayette County Missouri to volunteer with Legal Aid’s Migrant Farm Workers Project Monday Night Outreach.

If you would like to find out more about the YPB or any of our upcoming events, then please feel free to contact me at blake@boughlawfirm.com.  You can also find us on Facebook at Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri.

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