Here at Helm & Hue, we love working with our amazing clients! Whether they’re a solo entrepreneur or a global company, our clients are all making an impact in their communities. We’ve developed this series as a way of helping them expand their reach and spread the word about how they are making a difference.
This month’s featured Client Spotlight is Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), a nonprofit agency seeking equal justice for all by solving clients’ legal problems, strengthening the voices of low-income communities, and rooting out the inequities that keep people in poverty. We talked with Jessica Wright, their Chief Development Officer in Richmond about the organization’s who, what and why. Take it away Jessica!
Tell us a little about LAJC – what’s the primary goal you’re trying to accomplish?
Our mission is pretty simple: More Justice, Less Poverty in Virginia. We do that throughout the state, working with clients and communities to combat issues that keep people in poverty through the legal system. We focus on children’s education and justice, economic issues such as housing and employment, immigration advocacy, and civil rights.
Tell me how you got involved with your organization.
I had been working in development in social service organizations for about nine years when I heard about the position. I wasn’t immediately familiar with LAJC’s work but the more I learned, the more I loved what the organization does and wanted to be a part of the team. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of such a talented and passionate group of people.
Describe a day in the life of LAJC…
Like many client-facing non-profits, every day is different. We have four offices across the state and have a wide range of clients. My first year has been especially varied as much of our work is impacted by legislative decisions on the state and federal level. Our goal is to broaden our message so more people hear about our work. Every time a new policy comes out affecting one of our client populations, we try to relay what we are doing, how we are supporting our clients, and how people can get engaged. There are a lot of stories that break your heart but seeing the solutions our attorneys come up with and the tenacity of our clients as they work together – it really lifts your spirits.
What is one of the organization’s biggest challenges?
People don’t often understand what we do. It is sometimes complex work or we are confused with other organizations. We have been working to craft a consistent message and look, so people know it is LAJC with feet on the ground, doing the work, making the long lasting impact. That has been a big push in our work with Helm & Hue.
What might our readers be surprised to learn about your organization?
The simplest things really have widespread effects on people in poverty. A broken tail light or an unpaid parking ticket can compound to have devastating issues such as losing one’s employment or housing. How our children are disciplined in schools can be criminalized, pushing them into the school to prison pipeline and rob them of their future. How truly frightened people are about losing their immigration status, housing, or healthcare. It truly is a delicate balance to keep your head above water, but our clients really fight for the ability to do just that.
Tell us a recent success story.
There are so many, I think the most recent is a case that was closed against Hopewell’s recent public housing issues. A private non-profit had overtaken the public housing and was not complying with HUD requirements. Their practices resulted in many families losing their housing and one death. Our attorneys partnered with another organization and saw that changes would occur to protect tenant rights and care for the families most grievously harmed.
What’s next for LAJC?
We always have a few irons in the fire but currently, our big cases are:
- The Driver’s License Suspension case which has been filed for appeal which will affect almost 1 million Virginians. We released a report called Driven by Dollars about the national importance of this issue with a state by state analysis.
- We are fighting for immigrant rights in two cases, one in racial profiling and another concerning due process of immigrants detained by ICE.
- Lastly, working to change how Virginia can change our model of juvenile detention to be less institution centered and more child-centered. We have been seeing increases in the disparagement in how children are disciplined based on disability and race and have included the results from each locality in Virginia in our latest Suspended Progress report. We will be using it to inform the upcoming General Assembly about school suspension reform.
As always, you can learn more about LAJC and connect with them below!