Collin County Steps Up To Help Legal Aid
Contributed by Penny Phillips and Chris Krupa Downs, Event Co-Chairs
Your daughter is being beaten by her spouse. Your children/grandchildren are being neglected. Your elderly neighbors face abuse and neglect. You cannot access your Veterans’ benefits or others your family desperately needs. Your home was foreclosed while you were on active military duty. Your employer refuses to give you your job back despite federal protections for everyone on active military duty. Your landlord threatens to evict you without cause.
Where do you go for help?
On October 2, 2016, Legal Aid plans to have our fourth Builders of Justice Progressive Dinner in downtown McKinney. We need your help. We hope to begin building community awareness and financial support for the services provided to low income families in Collin County who desperately need legal aid to help solve family legal problems for which they cannot afford to pay an attorney. Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that has provided civil legal aid to the poor since 1951. We are the only provider of free civil legal aid in Collin County. Last year alone, more than 2,000 families and individuals asked for help from the attorneys and support staff in our McKinney office.
In the past 6 years, funding has become more difficult to maintain. As a result, although more people ask for our help each year, we are able to help fewer clients with the legal representation that they need. We hope you will be able to join with us to ensure we can continue to serve those for whom we are the last best chance before their family suffers irreparable harm from a civil legal problem. If you have any questions, please call Sam Prince at 817.339.5334 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you very much for your kind consideration.
About Legal Aid
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (Legal Aid) offers free civil legal assistance to low-income Texans who wouldn’t otherwise be able to secure such legal representation. Legal Aid helps to ensure equal justice by providing high-quality civil legal aid to people living in poverty. We believe that no one should be prevented from equal access to the rule of law due to limited financial resources.
Founded in 1951 by the Tarrant County Bar Association, Legal Aid has offered civil legal aid assistance to low-income people for 65 years. With a staff of more than 200 people in 114 counties, we are the fifth-largest legal aid organization in the country, and have 15 branch offices to serve clients in North and West Texas: Abilene, Amarillo, Brownwood, Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, Lubbock, McKinney, Midland, Odessa, Plainview, San Angelo, Waxahachie, Weatherford, and Wichita Falls.
Isabella Green* came to Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas desperate and afraid. Her husband was about to be released from prison and she feared for the safety of her children. She had to protect them. Her deep desire for her children’s safety compelled her to meet with Laurie Hallmark, a staff attorney in the Midland office. Isabella came to us terrified that her husband’s explosive anger might lead to the serious harm of their children. We offered Isabella hope and legal assistance to obtain a divorce with appropriate legal protections for herself and her children.
Laurie met with Isabella several times over the next few months. Recalling the first time Isabella came to the legal aid office, Laurie says, “We communicated through a pane of tears.” It was clear that Isabella was terrified, Laurie recalls, saying that her client answered every question with a soft-voiced “Yes, please.”
Only after trust had been established between the client and her attorney during these emotional meetings did Isabella admit that she had been the victim of extreme domestic abuse by her husband and needed help, not just for herself, but especially for her children. Isabella, like so many domestic violence victims, assumed a protective order would instigate her husband’s abusive anger rather than help free her from it. “Because of the way I practice law, I was able to take the time necessary to develop a relationship with Isabella,” says Laurie, who was able to help her client gather strength and find her voice.
On the day of the final hearing, Isabella spoke clearly and confidently. She recounted the ongoing threats that her husband made to her in his letters from prison that referenced a red car: "The first time he raped me was on a red car. I knew it was a threat."
In a pointed decision, the court found in favor of Isabella and her children and ordered that permanent protective orders be in place preventing her former husband from contacting her or the children. Patrick McMonigle, Laurie’s Managing Attorney, explains: “In addition to obtaining a divorce and child support, Laurie was able to obtain a relatively new remedy for the client in the form of a permanent protective order.”
Today Isabella is on her way to achieving an advanced degree as a certified nursing assistant and feels the need to share her story to let other women know that they, too, can find safety for their children and themselves and gain control over their lives.