Statewide Legal Aid Group Celebrates 25 Years, 4 Million Served
By Csaba Sukosd | September 25, 2019
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum commemorates countless people whose mission was to serve others. Recently, the building hosted hundreds of Ohioans who do the same - not members of the military, but attorneys.
The occasion was the 25th anniversary celebration for the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, now called the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation (OAJF). Started in 1994, the statewide, nonprofit organization strives to provide and fund civil legal aid for low-income Ohioans in need. To date, the group has funded help in civil cases for more than 4 million people, including children, seniors, veterans, and domestic violence survivors.
"When we started, we were a tiny organization that sat in the [Ohio] Public Defender's Office. So, it has been a tremendous journey of collaboration and commitment on the part of all Ohioans to help," said OAJF executive director Angie Lloyd.
Through numerous partnerships, including the Ohio Supreme Court, the state legislature, and the governor's office, the organization has grown to a reach that can service all 88 counties.
As a way to have a greater awareness about the entity and its work, OAJF is developing relationships beyond the legal profession, including Ohio State University Athletics. Former OSU basketball great and NBA star Clark Kellogg was the anniversary event's keynote speaker.
"Many of you are on the ground, in combat doing that work, but it also takes those of us who may not be on the ground to advocate, educate, to support with our time, resources, our connections, network," said Kellogg.
Since there are any number of legal issues that can arise all across the state, OAJF is initiating its next generation of assistance with a "justice bus," which will travel around rural Ohio to offer legal help to those in smaller communities. The visits will deliver legal and referral services directly to Ohio citizens at senior centers and public libraries.
"We really feel privileged and lucky to be a part in helping every Ohioan reach their fullest potential to work, to live in a safe home, to have their children be successful in school," Lloyd said. "That's what we fund through legal services."