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  • August 19, 2020

    Lawyers Help Kids via Wisconsin Law Foundation's McNulty Grants

    Each year, the Wisconsin Law Foundation uses member donations to fund programs that directly impact Wisconsin residents – especially children. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Foundation's McNulty grants helped these programs continue with their missions.
    Crawford County Teen Court participants

    The Crawford County Teen Court program, which relies on Wisconsin Law Foundation grants, has diverted nearly 100 teens from the juvenile justice system. Pictured: Program advisor Kari Sanding with teen court peer jurors, from October 2019.

    Aug. 19, 2020 – As everywhere else, programs supported by grants from the Wisconsin Law Foundation that help Wisconsin children were abruptly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

    Such was the case for the Boys & Girls Club of Portage County, according to executive director Kevin Quevillon. But thanks to donations from State Bar members, a Foundation Truman Q. McNulty grant helped the club be there for its kids.

    The club in Stevens Point provides a space for children to go to when their parents are at work – a space for learning, staying active, and having fun, Quevillon said.

    “We explored nontraditional programming during the shutdown,” supported by money from the Foundation. The grant “helped us stay connected and committed to our mission of serving youth through this difficult time,” Quevillon said. “They continued to help them with homework virtually, and we were able to deliver meals to families without transportation.”

    In Crawford County, a McNulty grant is an integral part of keeping the county’s teen court program going – helping kids stay out of the justice system. “To date, we served 118 kids – and have four on a waiting list because of COVID-19,” said Kari Sanding, program coordinator. The program has a strong impact on the teens “sentenced” by their peers, including one who taught a class on the negative effects of vaping. Other teens receive counseling and guidance. “I am very passionate about this project because it works,” Sanding said.

    In Madison, a McNulty grant helps immigrants receive affordable legal representation through the Catholic Multicultural Center. In 2019 the center handled 305 clients from 44 countries. “Because of the changing federal immigration policy, some immigrants must now complete additional paperwork,” said Laura Green, grants and volunteer coordinator for the center. The additional paperwork requires more time and resources to prepare applications and maintain records.

    The center, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, quickly transitioned to operating its program remotely to keep up with the ongoing high demand for low-cost immigration legal services. While the transition required unexpected costs, it allows the center to reach more clients, such as those in rural areas who are unable to travel to the center for meetings. “Thanks to the Foundation’s support, we were able to do more for them,” Green said.

    How to Make a Contribution

    Supported by donations from State Bar members, the Foundation’s Truman Q. McNulty Grants fund innovative programs that improve our justice system, such as teen courts in our state and programs that lessen the chances of Wisconsin’s youth becoming victims of sexual exploitation and violence.

    The Foundation annually provides six to 12 high-impact McNulty grants of $1,000 to $2,300 each to charitable or educational programs or projects that promote greater public understanding of the law and improve the administration of justice, and to projects that directly impact Wisconsin residents. In 2020, the Foundation awarded $24,400 in grants.

    Past grants supported projects to educate the public on health care reform, guide pro se litigants through bankruptcy issues, assist Spanish-speaking residents understand family court issues, and provide prevention and intervention assistance to first-time juvenile offenders in teen court programs.

    About the Wisconsin Law Foundation

    wisconsin law foundation logo

    The Wisconsin Law Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational organization that serves to promote public understanding of the law, improvement of the administration of justice, and other law-related public services through funding of innovative and creative programs that improve the vision of the American justice system.

    Wisconsin Law Foundation Truman Q. McNulty Grants 2020

    In 2020, the Foundation awarded a total of $24,400 in grants for these projects:

    • ABC for Health, Madison – community legal education initiatives;

    • Briarpatch Youth Services Inc., Madison – Restorative Justice Program Youth Peer Court;

    • Catholic Multicultural Center, Madison – low-cost Immigration Legal Services;

    • Centro Legal, Milwaukee – Family Law Consultation Program;

    • Milwaukee Justice Center – creating a touch-free intake process due to COVID-19;

    • RISE Law Center, Madison – End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin;

    • State Public Defender’s Office, Madison – the Student Expulsion Prevention Project;

    • Wisconsin Teen Court Association – Restorative Justice Summit; and

    • Teen courts in Crawford, Grant, Portage, and Winnebago counties.

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