My hope as you read this is that you are recovering from the winter storm that left so many in our city without power, water, food and other essential elements in what was already a challenging year. My heart is with you, and with all of those who have suffered and continue to struggle with the storm’s effects.
You are one of the most long-standing and generous supporters of the Foundation. This letter is to express my gratitude and to share some reflections as I reach the end of my term as Chair of the HBF’s Board of Directors.
My term as Chair began in a business-as-usual environment at our Annual HBF Luncheon on February 25, 2020, at which we honored the Foundation’s Board of Directors, pro bono legal service champions, and those who have made special contributions within our Houston legal community. As we all know, events did not stay normal for long.
Within just a few weeks after the Luncheon, our legal and business communities felt the swift and dramatic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the issuance of stay-at-home orders, rapid conversion to remote work environments when possible, and when not, making necessary adaptations to new business realities.
The mission of the Houston Bar Foundation, as the charitable arm of the Houston Bar Association, has never been more important to our community as many Houstonians found themselves out of work, homeless, or trapped in painful or abusive relationships. The community needs for the pro bono legal services that Houston Volunteer Lawyers (“HVL”) provides, and which the HBF funds in large part, only increased as the pandemic continued.
Never have I been so proud of lawyers in the Houston Bar as I have been this year. It was immensely gratifying to watch our Houston lawyers answer the call, stepping up to assist with evictions and volunteering to help our neighbors understand the dizzying array of orders, relief packages and moratoriums, as well as pivoting to provide virtual legal advice to those in need.
Because of COVID-19, we were unable to hold our annual Harvest Celebration party, which is the central fundraising vehicle for HBF, funding a large part of its commitment to Houston Volunteer Lawyers. We also were forced to make the difficult decision to pause fundraising for the Kay Sim Endowment for Access to Justice in Houston. Against this backdrop, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of our Houston legal community when—even without the Harvest party—the HBF 2020 Harvest Campaign raised a record amount to support Houston Volunteer Lawyers and pro bono legal services.
For this reason, it has been a source of great pride to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Houston Bar Foundation at this critical time. However, the legal needs and the work continue, and have even increased as the pandemic has continued. That is why I am asking you now consider further sustaining the work of the Foundation by joining me in the inaugural launch of an Annual Sustaining Life Fellows Campaign.
This campaign seeks to have those in each of our Fellows categories make a 2021 Sustaining Life Fellow Gift of $250. Some of the programs that your 2021 Sustaining Life Fellow Gift will support include:
Legal Clinics: Clinics run by Houston Volunteer Lawyers provide low-income clients an opportunity to apply for assistance with HVL and receive free legal advice.
HVL Support: HVL provides support and coordination for volunteer lawyers who provide free legal services to the most vulnerable members of the Houston community.
Veterans Clinics: Low-income military veterans are served through the Veteran’s Legal Initiative, a collaboration between HVL, the Houston Bar Foundation and the Houston Bar Association.
Continuing Education Grants: These grants provide Harris County court staff with educational programs that improve the administration of justice for all Houstonians.
Consumer, Elder & Family Law Handbooks: Free printed and electronic handbooks that explain common legal issues and remedies in a simple Q&A format.
To help HBF continue to support these initiatives and the wonderful work being done by HVL, please click here
to contribute to the 2021 Sustaining Life Fellow Campaign. Or, you may also click here
for a printable contribution form.
Please let me know if I can answer any questions or you may also contact HBA Membership Director, Ron Riojas, at email@example.com
or Executive Director, Mindy Davidson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued support of HBF and for your help to fill the justice gap. It has been a privilege to serve as Chair of the Houston Bar Foundation.