In This Issue
 
Volunteer Appreciation Event
Volunteer Honor Roll
Volunteer Spotlight
Unemployment Case Win
AmeriCorps Advocates 2018-2019
New Staff
CORI Reform Outreach
BBA Summer Youth Jobs
WE MOVED! VLP’s new address is 7 Winthrop Square, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA - on the corner of Summer and Otis St. Stop by to say hello or email mblack@vlpnet.org to schedule a tour.
Thank you!
Volunteer Appreciation Event

VLP hosted its annual Volunteer Appreciation Event on September 12 at the Adams Courthouse. Keynote speaker Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu gave a moving speech about her family’s personal struggles with the court system to emphasize the need for affordable legal help. Attorney Ann Baum (Ret.) was honored with the Gideon’s Trumpet Award for her exceptional work providing pro bono family law representation and mentoring newer attorneys as a member of Senior Partners for Justice. Justice Jeffrey M. Winik (Ret.) received a special award for his decades of work as a professor and judge. Attorneys Rosalyn Garbose Nasdor, Carla Reeves, and Steve Greenzang were all presented with the Denis Maguire Pro Bono Award for their commitment to assisting low-income clients and spreading awareness of the importance of pro bono work. VLP thanks its sponsors for helping make this event possible!
Check out our event photos on our Facebook page !
Volunteer Honor Roll

Thank you to all the volunteer attorneys and law students who assisted VLP clients from January - October 2018. Your commitment to Pro Bono Work truly makes a difference for our clients and we are so proud to have your support. Click here to see the VLP Honor Roll .
Attorney Spotlight
Volunteer Spotlight

Attorney Miryam Cissero recently won a complicated divorce case for her VLP client. The client’s husband obtained a divorce in another country without notifying the her. She found about the divorce when her health insurance was cancelled. Once the divorce was finalized, her husband put their home on the market and offered her $5,000 to walk away from the house and his retirement. The client was going to be homeless, and $5,000 would not support her for long. She came to VLP for help, and Attorney Cissero accepted the case pro bono.

As one of her first actions, Attorney Cissero combed the husband’s flight records to prove he was in the US at the time of the divorce, thus voiding the divorce entirely. She then found every asset and account she could, even uncovering bank accounts the husband had never disclosed to the wife. Attorney Cissero represented her client in the divorce, and her client was awarded half of the money, half of the business, and the entire home. Now the client is living in her own place with enough money to support herself. Attorneys like Miryam Cissero do not come along everyday, and VLP is so thankful she has chosen to provide us and our clients with her time and passion!
Unemployment Case Win

VLP is always proud of our pro bono attorneys and the time they provide, but we relish the chance to celebrate our staff as well. Recently, VLP’s Bankruptcy and Unemployment Staff Attorney Natasha Lewis helped a VLP client win a complicated unemployment insurance case. The client’s unemployment insurance was being withheld due to an error on application. The client received help from an agency filling out the form and did not know at the time that this error existed. In addition to the application error, the client’s employer not only argued that the client unable to work due to lack of housing and medical issues, but alleged that the client went as far as to refuse suitable work , thus violating the terms of her unemployment insurance eligibility.

The client came to VLP to find out what options she had to claim her unemployment insurance. Attorney Lewis’ tireless work, along with mentorship from GBLS attorneys, helped the client win her case. Attorney Lewis was able to prove that the client was accepting the work being offered even though she had no obligation to accept suitable, part-time work; the original application was completed incorrectly; and the client was able and available to work. The client was awarded more than $16,000.00 in retroactive unemployment insurance benefits! The work of VLP staff and volunteers is truly life changing.
New Faces at VLP!
2018-19 AmeriCorps Advocates: VLP welcomes its new AmeriCorps Advocates!

Jake Lebovic is a VLP/ERLI AmeriCorps Legal Advocate from Orange County, CA. Before joining VLP, Jake studied Political Science at Tufts University and interned in the office State Senator Jamie Eldridge. When he’s not serving as an advocate, Jake enjoys playing soccer, watching soccer, and hiking.

Hannah Singer is from New York City and comes to VLP/ERLI as an AmeriCorps Legal Advocate. Hannah graduated from Bates College in May 2018, where she majored in Sociology and Education Studies. Hannah also interned for the judge at the Lewiston, Maine District Court during her senior year of college. While not serving as an advocate, Hannah enjoys studio art, specifically using clay for ceramics or sculpture.

David Spinosa comes to VLP/ERLI as an AmeriCorps Legal Advocate. Before joining VLP, he served as an AmeriCorps member in his home state of Virginia and managed a political campaign in Boston. David is a graduate of Columbia University where he studied English and pitched for his college baseball team. 

Diandra Velazquez joins VLP and the ERLI Call Center as an AmeriCorps Legal Advocate. Prior to VLP, Diandra interned with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission in Washington D.C. She recently graduated Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a BLA in Political Science and Sociology. Diandra also studied abroad in Prague, where she first tried her current favorite food, gnocchi.
New Staff: VLP has welcomed 8 new staff members recently!

VLP Main Office

Miranda Black is VLP’s new Pro Bono Manager, and she will be recruiting new volunteers, sending out cases, and working with VLP’s website and social media. Miranda is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and Northeastern University, and before VLP she worked in refugee resettlement. When Miranda is not at work, she enjoys traveling and making crafts.

Victoria DeLaney is VLP’s newest Paralegal working in the Family and Guardianship units. Victoria is a graduate of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. She previously worked as an ESOL instructor at Mujeres Unidas Avanzando through AmeriCorps. Victoria loves to bake bread and is currently working on perfecting her garlic knots,

Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro joins VLP as a Housing and Family Staff Attorney. Geraldine is a graduate of Interamerican University of Puerto Rico School of Law. Before VLP, she worked as an attorney at CLSACC . Geraldine is an avid Elvis Presley fan who hopes to visit Graceland one day.

Amy Anthony joins VLP as a Staff Attorney practicing housing and bankruptcy law. Amy is a graduate of Columbia University and American University, and before VLP, she worked as an attorney for the Northeast Justice Center. In her free time, Amy enjoys food-based travel and all things outdoors.

Colin Harnsgate comes to VLP as a Staff Attorney, practicing housing and consumer law. Colin is a graduate of Suffolk University and Suffolk University Law School after which he practiced with AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts for two years. Prior to attending law school, Colin was a tour guide at the historic Old North Church in Boston and still loves to talk about Paul Revere and the American Revolution.
ERLI Call Center

Taïsha Lazare joins VLP as Legal Advocate for the ERLI after also serving in AmeriCorps. She is a graduate of John Jay College in NYC. Taïsha’s name uniquely includes a European umlaut, which she constantly has to remind people to include.

Mikerline Paul is VLP’s newest Legal Advocate at ERLI. She is a graduate of University of Massachusetts Amherst. Prior to VLP, she worked at W.E.B DuBois Library.

Deyanira Gonzalez is one of VLP’s new Legal Advocates at the ERLI call center. She joins VLP as a staff member after serving as an ERLI AmeriCorps participant last year. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara and worked with City Year Boston previously.
In the Community
CORI Reform Outreach

On Monday, VLP joined Greater Boston Legal Services and Roxbury Community College for an outreach clinic on the New CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) Reform Laws. During the event, attorneys and advocates from several legal service organizations provided a room-full of clients with information and advice on sealing or expunging juvenile and criminal records. Many individuals also received help with obtaining their CORI reports. Among the guests in attendance were local leaders and champions of the bill including State Representative Chynah Tyler, who discussed the long-term effects of incarceration in neighborhoods like Roxbury. The historic and landmark Criminal Justice Reform Bill went into effect Sunday, October 14th and as a result, more people will be eligible to seal their CORI reports and reintegrate into their communities. 
BBA Summer Youth Jobs

Since 2012, VLP has participated in the BBA Summer Youth Jobs Program by hosting local high school students interested in spending their summer working. The Summer Jobs Program provides local high school students the chance to gain valuable work experience while they learn job skills and discover industries that interest them. VLP has been fortunate enough to employ students the past six years. VLP trains, mentors, and guides students by helping them think about their future goals while helping them gain hands-on job training. This summer VLP employed Betty Alemayhu who provided VLP with valuable administrative help. Betty was integral to VLP’s daily operations by answering phones, sending out emails, keeping documents organized, and being the smiling face clients and attorneys saw when they walked in the door. VLP is honored to help high school students delve into the legal field and explore their interests in law.