VLP Newsletter | September 2020
VLP Operations, Initiatives, and Rapid Response
An update from Heidi Lee Henderson, VLP President and Chief Executive Officer
Because of the novel coronavirus crisis, the VLP's offices at 44 Court Street remain closed to the public. While we make plans for a safe return to in-person services, staff is working remotely, intake lines are open, and attorneys are meeting with clients via calls and web conferences, coordinating with volunteers, and making virtual court appearances.

Unfortunately, from loss of jobs to loss of lives, once again, our communities - specifically communities of color - have suffered the greatest toll, devastated by COVID-19. In response, the VLP evaluated how best to extend our programming and help level the playing field for Brooklyn communities that remain marginalized and overlooked. As a result, we launched two new COVID-19 Response Initiatives: the VLP COVID-19 Frontline Workers Initiative in partnership with Akin Gump LLP, recognizing the sacrifice of essential frontline 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East members by providing free legal services to prepare life planning documents and the VLP Probate Initiative, in partnership with the Brooklyn Bar Association Trusts & Estates Section and Surrogate's Court Committee, offering pro bono services in probate matters for qualifying 1199SEIU members and NYC residents facing the untimely death of a family member as a result of COVID-19.

These initiatives were made possible in part by generous COVID-19 funding provided by Brooklyn Community Foundation, Macquarie Group Foundation, and The New York Bar Foundation. The emergency grants provided by the Foundations have enabled the VLP to remain nimble and responsive to the needs of our community.

With a growing unemployment rate, ongoing displacement, and rise in family instability, the VLP's direct legal services, education, outreach, and know your rights trainings are not only essential, but crucial to the dismantling of systemic barriers in accessing justice and equality. We are grateful to our board, dedicated volunteers and supporters for your continued commitment to the VLP and those we serve. We thank you and we appreciate you.
Do you or someone you know need legal help? Call the VLP's intake line at (718) 624-3894 or start an online intake here.
Joint Public Hearing: The Unified Court System and COVID-19
On Friday, August 21, 2020, The New York State Senate Committees on the Judiciary, Codes, and Housing, Construction, and Community Development held a joint public virtual hearing to examine the re-opening and operation of New York's courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. VLP Director of Legal Services, Sidney Cherubin, testified on behalf of unrepresented consumer debt litigants, calling on the courts to commit to (1) improve messaging and communications to litigants and legal advocates, (2) develop policies, procedures, and access to technology for unrepresented litigants, and (3) ensure access to justice remains a priority. Sidney's testimony in full can be viewed here. For a complete list of witnesses, submitted testimonies, and a recording of the hearing, please visit The New York State Senate website.
Highlighting our Impactful Interns and Committed Coordinator
Matthew Boyd
Brooklyn Law School, Rising 2L

"My summer with the VLP has shown me that low-income Brooklynites are supported by a network of dedicated legal professionals, doing all they can in the midst of a pandemic to ensure justice in the courts and combat undue harm. I've now seen and experienced what a community of lawyers ought to look like, and I hope to continue striving for mission driven advocacy in this way as my career progresses."
Alex Hong
Cornell Law School, Rising 3L
Recipient of the Liz Kasulis Padilla Public Interest Fellowship

"I am deeply interested in protecting the rights and interests of people and having their voices heard. In joining the VLP team this summer, I gained hands-on experience in legal areas such as consumer debt, bankruptcy, and family law. I was impressed by the diligent work ethic of the VLP staff and their commitment to the most vulnerable New Yorkers who are so often denied access to justice."
Michael Kenneally
Brooklyn Law School, Rising 2L

"As a result of my internship, I realized that many VLP clients are in situations where they just need a small push in the right direction, an ally in their corner, to ensure that they are not taken advantage of by powers that perceive them to be defenseless. I’m reminded to be aware of moments where I can have a positive impact on my environment and community, and that those moments arise more often than they may seem to."
Bess Murad
Bucknell University, '21
"Interning with the VLP this summer has secured my interest in pursuing a career in the legal sector. I am driven by the rewarding work I have completed and the extreme gratitude I have received from the clients I assisted. The dedication I have witnessed from the supervising attorneys has inspired me to continue working hard to become a part of the next generation of public interest lawyers."
Nicole Yagupolsky Brooklyn Law School, Rising 2L

"I had a fantastic summer with the VLP. Despite world events that effected our in-office internship, the VLP provided me with hands on practical experience in multiple practice areas. The staff was extremely patient, helpful, and generally just a pleasure to work with. I hope to continue to shadow and learn more from the VLP as I advance in my studies and career."
Koby Jackson
Kings College, '21
VLP National Grid Foundation Senior LEAP Coordinator

"As a former VLP intern, having witnessed the organization's deep commitment to the Brooklyn community, I was eager and delighted to join the team more formally as the NGF Senior LEAP Coordinator this summer. I aspire to practice law in the public sector and the experience and knowledge I am gaining here at the VLP fuels my goals even further. I am grateful to be a part of the VLP's service to our Brooklyn neighbors."
VLP 30th Anniversary Virtual Event Series: Presentations & Programs
Brooklyn has seen the most severe and devastating effects of COVID-19 with long lasting impacts on our community and those most vulnerable. With increasing debts and looming foreclosures, access to legal resources is more critical than ever.

On Thursday, September 3, 2020 from 6 PM - 8 PM, the VLP in partnership with Senator Roxanne J. Persaud (SD-19), Center for NYC Neighborhoods, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and NHS Brooklyn will present:

Foreclosure: What you need to know in the age of COVID-19

All are welcome to join via Senator Persaud's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sd19senatorpersaud.

At our core: VLP Community Legal Education
On Tuesday, August 4th, the VLP hosted a virtual CLE: The Basics of CLARO, COVID-19 Protection Updates and Helping our CLARO Clients Remotely, presented by VLP staff attorneys, Jenni Cook and Daniele Wilson and moderated by VLP Director of Legal Services, Sidney Cherubin. Over 30 attendees gained valuable knowledge on CLARO operations, the VLP's volunteer model and in-house consumer debt programming, and an update on the courts and a virtual CLARO pilot program.

The CLE was made possible in part by generous grants provided by the American College of Bankruptcy Foundation and The New York Bar Foundation. We are grateful to the Foundations for their support of and commitment to the VLP’s Consumer Law and Bankruptcy Initiatives and the Brooklyn community.
Chat & Chew:
Staying connected and supporting one another is more important than ever. The VLP's Chat & Chew events provide open forums for discussion, designed to engage all who attend and bring our community up to speed on the VLP, the status of the courts, and rising legal trends. On Friday, July 31st, we held our second virtual Chat & Chew, attended by VLP staff, volunteers, board members, interns, and supporters. Guest speakers included the Honorable Elizabeth S. Stong, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of New York and the Honorable Ellen M. Spodek, Civil Term, Kings County Supreme Court. Please view coverage of this event from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, including additional program details, here.
Senior Outreach: Creatively Connecting
During these difficult times, when our seniors need us most, the VLP is proud to have mobilized and reimagined our well-respected National Grid Foundation Senior Legal Education and Assistance Program (NGF Senior LEAP). Determined to continue to provide seniors with community-based legal education and ongoing advice and counsel in grave areas of concern, we have leaned on our strong partnerships with local senior centers, including Glenwood Senior Center and Heights and Hills, to rethink outreach programming amid the pandemic.

From telephonic conference calls to zoom, NGF Senior LEAP is expanding delivery of presentations. Most recently, sessions have included a range of topics including wills and other life planning documents, consumer debt, and deed theft.

For more information or to schedule a presentation, please reach out to NGF Senior LEAP Coordinator, Koby Jackson, kjackson@brooklynvlp.org or (718) 624-3894.
Community Support: Philanthropic Pierogies
In times of trouble, Brooklyn comes together. Early in the summer, and in the midst of challenging times, we were honored by a simple, kind gesture by a local restaurant, Baba's Pierogies. Their campaign: for one weekend, the restaurant participated in a cross borough delivery service, where a portion of the proceeds would be donated to the VLP! We loved this creative and unexpected fundraising effort driven by a Brooklyn small business. Brooklynites helping Brooklynites. Keeping it local!
VLP Emergency Response Campaign: Every Dollar Counts
During this ongoing global health crisis, the VLP’s services are more essential than ever. As a result of the immediate and increased need for rapid response initiatives and programs, the VLP launched the VLP Emergency Response Campaign in efforts to strengthen organizational capacity through the unrestricted support of generous individual and corporate donors.

Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project | 718-624-3894 | info@brooklynvlp.org | www.brooklynvlp.org