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Presidents Reception Raises $955K to Support Pro Bono Center

June 25, 2021

By John Murph

Becky Troth 2021 Presidents Reception

The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s unceasing service during the coronavirus pandemic was the theme of last night’s virtual Presidents Reception, which welcomed D.C. Bar President Chad T. Sarchio and raised more than $955,000 for the Center through the support of more than 100 District-based law firms and hundreds of individual supporters.

“Holding this event again virtually recognizes that we are not back to normal,” said Rebecca K. Troth, executive director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. “The pandemic’s devastating effects will be felt far into the future and will continue to hit our clients particularly hard.”

Troth reported that the Pro Bono Center served more than 20,000 individuals, families, nonprofits, and small businesses throughout the pandemic year. Geoffrey M. Klineberg, immediate past president of the Bar, said the pandemic exposed the many inequities lower-income residents face daily, including quality housing, health care, secure and safe employment, and equal justice under law.

Geoffrey M. Klineberg, 2021 Presidents Reception“I’m proud of all the Pro Bono Center has accomplished during these unprecedented times to bridge the access to justice gap,” Klineberg said. “Through two new legal assistance networks, we’re helping parents and caregivers protect their children and families to avoid homelessness. We relaunched our legal advice clinics to ensure that our neighbors would continue to receive the civil legal help they need remotely. And we supported more than 3,000 nonprofits and small businesses by giving them legal support to survive the pandemic.”

Two videos played during the reception highlighted the reach and breadth of services of the Pro Bono Center. The first was of Girls Rock! DC, a music education nonprofit for youth dedicated to social activism that sought counsel from the Pro Bono Center’s Nonprofit Legal Assistance Program. Because of the program’s services, “Girls Rock! DC is a more sustainable organization,” said Noel Schroeder, co-executive director of the nonprofit. “We have the foundation that we need to grow our organization and serve even more young folks in D.C.”

The second video focused on a father of two who sought help from the Family Law Assistance Network, a partnership between the Pro Bono Center, the DC Affordable Law Firm, and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia that launched in 2020 shortly before the pandemic shutdowns. The father had joint custody of his older child and was seeking custody of the younger one after the mother was in a serious accident and could no longer care for them. An extended family member had taken both children to Virginia and refused to return them. The father was fighting an uphill battle, but with help from the Pro Bono Center, the court granted him emergency custody of both children.

Because the case involved multiple jurisdictions, the Pro Bono Center extended more legal assistance through its Advocacy & Justice Clinic by placing his case with two pro bono attorneys from the federal government. With the team’s excellent help, he maintained custody of his children.

Chad T. Sarchio, 2021 Presidents ReceptionIn his speech, Sarchio emphasized lawyers’ ethical duty to serve the community. “As we near the end of the health emergency, we cannot become complacent,” he said. “When the moratoria on evictions and debt collections are lifted, thousands more District residents will turn to the Pro Bono Center and its partners for help.”

The Center has prepared for the coming legal needs surge by launching new services, finding new ways to serve its clients, and training more volunteer attorneys than ever, “but it needs our continued support to ensure that our neighbors get the help they need — where and when they need it the most,” Sarchio said.

“As lawyers and Bar members, we can prevent suffering and transform lives for the better. It’s a commitment I will take seriously as Bar president, and I implore you to join me,” he added.

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