Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
September 2, 2016

Have a safe and dry Labor Day weekend!

"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. 
It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."
-United States Department of Labor

"Building a Just Society"
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The Legal Aid Society  of  Hawaii presented  Bank  of  Hawaii  with the  Pro Bono Award  for its work with Legal Aid's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. 
Each year,  Bank   of  Hawaii  volunteers receive training to help qualified clients file their tax returns for free. This year, Legal Aid VITA volunteers helped over 2,100 people file their taxes and receive nearly $900,000 in state and federal refunds.

Legal Aid's Executive Director M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina and Legal Aid board Vice President Joanne Grimes (center) presents the Pro Bono award to Bank of Hawaii Vice Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer Mark Rossi and Vice-President Scott Fujii. Bank of Hawaii VITA volunteers  (L-R) Rodrick Spadinger, Andrew Boyle, Wayne Keawe (Legal Aid comptroller) and Ryan Renio.
Dear Ms. Mileur,

Thank you from the depths of my heart for all you have done to help my son. It is obvious he could not afford an attorney so your help was a life saver. We just never anticipated that you would take such an interest in his heart breaking situation. Without your help he might never have seen his son again. 

The court order that you accomplished was beyond our greatest hope. It will help him deal with his former wife's efforts to prevent him from seeing their son for at least the next 5 years. Nobody has ever paid attention to the details of this case or helped him with the basic issue of wanting to have time with his son.

There just aren't words adequate to tell you how much our family appreciates all you have done. I am a firm believer in Karma or paying it forward or however you want to express it. I pray that the good you have done for us will be returned to you and your family ten fold.

[Allison Mileur is a staff attorney at the Maui Legal Aid office.]
Legal Aid Executive Director Selected for 2016-2017 Omidyar Fellows Program

Legal Aid's Executive Director, M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina, has been selected as one of the 2016- 2017 Omidyar Fellows. The fifth cohort of Omidyar Fellows is made up of emerging, high impact executives who were selected through a rigorous application and selection process.

Chosen based on her achievements and promise she shows in professional and community leadership as well as her commitment to a bold vision for Hawai'i's future, Nalani will have the opportunity to participate in the rigorous development program that cultivates, trains, and educates leadership for Hawaii.

The fifth cohort of Omidyar Fellows includes local leaders from a wide range of sectors, including business, government, labor, and nonprofit. Fellows of the previous cohorts have come together to form the Forum of Fellows, through which they remain connected as they grow their reach in their respective roles in the community. 

Throughout the initial 15 months of structured curriculum, which begins in October 2016, Fellows will participate in one full-day session each month, executive coaching, conversations with community, business, and government leaders, and more. Following this, Fellows continue their leadership development and contribution through their active participation in the Forum of Fellows, comprised of past and present Fellows.

For more about Nalani and the other Omidyar Fellows, please visit www.omidyarfellows.org/hawaii.

Talk Story: Linda M. Vass

Legal Aid's managing attorney feels 'so fortunate to be able to do the work that I do'

Sunday, August 21, 2016
Michelle Iracheta - The Garden Island

photo credit: Michelle Iracheta/The Garden Island

For Linda Vass, managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, helping people navigate the legal world at little or no cost is extremely close to her heart.
As the managing attorney in an office with six staff members - including two attorneys, three paralegals, an AmeriCorps advocate and one-quarter time AmeriCorps member who works at the Fifth Circuit Courts Self Help Center - Vass provides legal assistance in civil legal matters. But she handles other types of matters, too.

Vass handles mostly family law cases, but also handles Social Security, housing and consumer law cases.
The Bakersfield, California, native, who studied at San Francisco State and Seattle University of Law, has been with the Kauai office of the non-profit organization since December 2006 and became managing attorney on Jan. 1, 2014.

Why did you move to Hawaii?
After finishing law school I moved back to my hometown, Bakersfield, California. After being there for a year I wasn't happy and wanted to move back to Seattle. I wanted to go back to a place that is green and close to the water. My friend and schoolmate, Emiko Meyers (the former managing attorney of the Kauai office) convinced me to apply for a job at Legal Aid on Kauai. I was reluctant at first because I had never been to Hawaii. I imagined Hawaii being hot, humid and full of tourists. But when I looked at the map of Kauai and pictures of Kauai, I decided to apply for the job. Kauai seemed like a beautiful place and I figured, "Why not? It might be fun for a couple years." I moved here in December of 2006 and have been here since. I am still amazed that I get to live on this beautiful island and have a hard time imagining not living here.

What are your responsibilities?
I manage the Kauai office and supervise the Kauai office staff. We have a great staff that believes in the importance of our work, and does their best to provide quality services to our clients. I work to maintain relationships with other service providers by conducting outreaches, in-services and attending community meetings. I also have my own full caseload.

What does the Legal Aid Society do? Why is this an important need for the community?
Legal Aid is Hawaii's biggest and oldest non-profit law firm. We provide free or low cost services to Hawaii's low income to moderate income residents. Our mission is to address critical legal needs through high quality legal advocacy, outreach and education in the pursuit of justice and fairness.

I think what we do is important because we help people maintain their basic needs through legal advocacy. We help keep families together, we help people obtain or maintain housing, we help people obtain the public benefits they are eligible for. We help people navigate the legal system, which can be complicated and hard to understand. People come into our office overwhelmed because they have a legal problem and have no idea what they are supposed to do. We first try to educate and advise people on the process so that they better understand the legal process. We then assist in a variety ways from clinics where the person is given the tools to represent themselves to providing full representation.
Please support the Aloha United Way Campaign

L-R: Sarah Robert, Tammy "Hoku" Taroc, Destiny Brown, Joanne Loeak, John Talkington, Sergio Alcubilla, Cinder Sonis, Sereny Cholymay.
Pl ease remember to support the Aloha United Way Campaign or your local United Way Campaign. Your support will help continue the work that many non-profit organizations, including the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii,  do in our community! Visit Aloha United Way for more information
SAVE THE DATE! Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center Iijima Fellowship Fundraiser

The event raises money for a law student to serve as an Iijima Fellow summer law clerk.  The fellowship is a commemoration of  Chris Iijima , a professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law. Chris was active in the Pre-Admission program to assure that all Hawaii residents have an equal opportunity to enter the challenging curriculum of law school by easing them into school with preparatory classes.  For more information, please contact Bow Mun Chin (HIJC Staff Attorney) at bowmun.chin@legalaidhawaii.org.

Date: Thursday, September 22, 2016
Time: 5:00-9:00 PM
Venue: Kan Zaman @ 1028 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu, HI 
In the Community

Magdalena Bajon was listed in "2015 People Who Made a Difference Award" in Maui

Congratulations to Maui's AmeriCorps Advocate, Magdalena Bajon! She will be attending the William S. Richardson School of Law beginning this semester and was awarded the Arthur T. Ueoka Memorial Scholarship from the Maui County Bar Association to help her pay for law school.