College Columns December 2021 - Page 7

As the song says , it is “ The Most Wonderful Time of Year .” For me , it is not just the holidays that make this time special . I am again reminded of the power of the College and Foundation to change lives across the country . Because once again , the College and Foundation was able to award grants to pro bono legal service programs that provide assistance to the most vulnerable . Because of the generosity of the Fellows , the College and Foundation awarded $ 456,200 to 46 organizations , funding programs in 25 states plus the District of Columbia . The grantees include organizations in large metropolitan areas such as New York , NY and Miami , FL , as well as grantees in smaller cities such Rogers , AR and Bloomington , IN . The grantees seek funds to assist with volunteer trainings , pro se clinics , self help desks , and technology or equipment , often to assist in remote communications with clients and volunteers . Many of the grantees have partnered with local bar associations or bankruptcy professionals to maximize their reach .
Among the grants this year , the Foundation awarded the Michael L . Cook Extraordinary Grant to Her Justice , based in New York , NY , to support its Marital Debt Project . The Marital Debt Project provides assistance to low-income women dealing with consumer debt issues caused by divorce . The majority of the clients are women of color and survivors of intimate partner violence or other gender-based violence . The domestic

From the Pro Bono Committee

Hon . Janet E . Bostwick , U . S . Bankruptcy Court Co-Chair , Pro Bono Committee
abuse often includes financial abuse , such as identity theft , withholding of income , requiring an individual to incur debt , or saddling the individual with debt incurred unknowingly through the actions of their spouses . Through the Marital Debt Project , volunteer attorneys provide information , brief advice or full representation to women who seek to file divorce and have accrued consumer debt . The attorneys are trained to recognize the particular issues arising as a result of the debt and can assist their clients in resolving them .
Although Her Justice is a first-time grantee , the organization is very familiar to bankruptcy professionals in the area , with several bankruptcy professionals on its Board of Directors . Its Marital Debt Project is a worthy recipient of the special recognition provided by the Cook grant , because the program focuses on an underserved need , women who are dealing with divorce and related financial distress . The Michael L . Cook Extraordinary Grant was created in 2016 to honor Michael Cook for his contributions to the College and the Foundation , including as Chair and President of the College and Chair of the Pro Bono Committee . It is awarded to a legal services organization that offers an innovative and exemplary approach to a previously under-served area of need .
Other grantees will also use grant funds to leverage the reach of their programs :
• Veterans Legal Services in Boston MA will use the grant funds to educate volunteer attorneys regarding the special issues facing veterans in financial distress , and to recruit more volunteer attorneys . continued on page 32