Charity Contest Nominee – Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado Helping to Protect the Underprivileged

Citywide Banks’ next Charity Hand-Up Contest will take place on the bank’s Facebook page from September 1-14, 2012. The Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado is one of seven nominated charities that will be spotlighted leading up to the contest. The Denver/Boulder community is invited to participate and help raise awareness for these seven Colorado causes. The charity receiving the most votes on Facebook will receive a $5,000 donation from Citywide Banks. Voters can enter to win 1 of 7 prizes.

In spite of what you see on television, not everyone is entitled to an attorney. On TV, most of the shows are about criminal cases where the justice system does provide you with a public defender or defense attorney, if you can’t afford one. In civil cases (in the real world), such as child custody, bankruptcy and foreclosure, if you can’t afford an attorney  — you’re out of luck. And the consequences can be disastrous. 

“I think people assume that if something is bad enough someone will help you,” explains Diana Poole, executive director of Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado. “So people facing serious civil legal problems with potentially devastating consequences if they lose …they are not entitled to a lawyer.”

That’s where the Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado (LAF) and its service organization Colorado Legal Services (CLS) come into play. The Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado is the fundraising arm to Colorado Legal Services (aka Legal Aid), the only statewide legal aid program that provides free general legal assistance to low-income people.

The LAF was formed in 1981 in response to a cut in federal funding that created the need to establish another way to fund the civil aid delivery system, since not enough federal dollars were coming forth and the gap for civil legal aid was tremendous.

Because of LAF’s work, the CLS was able to close 11,500 cases in 2011, which in turn altered the trajectory of many people’s lives. For example, one woman came to CLS because her wages were being garnished and she was unable to pay her bills. She was looking to declare bankruptcy. Instead, a legal aid attorney was able to remove her garnishment, which turned out to be illegal, and was even able to get her garnished wages returned.

To qualify for legal aid, a person needs to be at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. That’s about $28,000 a year for a family of four. There are potentially about 850,000 people in Colorado who qualify for legal aid and only 50 lawyers and a small team of paralegals on staff to fill that need.

Unfortunately, Poole explains, they are only able to handle about half the cases that come through their door. And the bigger problem is that with the economic downturn, their client population is growing, as are cases that go along with economic distress like bankruptcy and foreclosure.

One of the ways they’re looking to expand capacity is through technology. To help them with that goal, Poole says a $5,000 donation would go toward new computers and a new network printer for their volunteers.

For more information about the Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado’s programs and ways to donate your time or money, please visit www.LegalAidFoundation.org.  

Vote to Give the Legal Aid Foundation a $5,000 Hand-Up
As part of its larger community outreach program, Citywide Banks is spotlighting the great work and ongoing needs of local charities around metro Denver. Based on the results of a 14-day public vote on Facebook, the community will determine how $7,500 is split among seven Colorado charities nominated by Citywide Banks employees. The charity receiving the most votes will receive $5,000 and the runner-up will receive $1,000. The remaining donation amounts will correspond to the voting results for each nominated charity. The voting public can also enter to win 1 of 7 prizes, including dinner for two at some of Denver’s top restaurants. Official prize drawing rules are available by clicking here.

How to Cast Your Vote – September 1 -14, 2012
The voting will take place at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Users will need to make sure they are logged into their personal Facebook account. If a user doesn’t have an account, it only takes minutes to set up a new Facebook account and it’s free. The online voting form will only be accessible for Citywide Banks Facebook Fans. To become a Fan, simply click on the “Like” button on top of any of the pages on Citywide’s Facebook Fan Page at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Then, click on the link for the ”Charity Contest” tab to access the online voting page. Each Facebook account will be permitted one vote during the 14-day voting period.

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