We find ourselves in a very different place this year, like no other in our lifetime. Many of our loved ones, colleagues, and friends find themselves unemployed or underemployed, as the pandemic relentlessly takes its toll and our nation continues to struggle with the scourge of racial injustice.
Despite all this, I remain an optimist. Why? In large measure because of you. During these last several months I have seen our members and my colleagues step up, pull together, and keep moving forward. Some of you have done this while supporting extended family who have struggled with layoffs and illness. At the same time, many of you have had to navigate the difficult path of helping school your children, while continuing to balance work and other family needs.
Despite these many challenges and difficulties, I have learned of countless stories of people giving their time, talent, and treasure helping those in greater need.
As we struggle to keep our communities whole, I have come to learn that where and how you spend and invest your money is as important as who you vote for. Suddenly, ordering takeout from the restaurant down the street, making a purchase at the local bookstore, or stopping in at a downtown specialty shop could be an act that helps save a local retailer and the jobs that come with it. By some estimates, 50 percent of locally owned, small businesses may close in the next three months.
Worthy charitable organizations are being hit hard too, at the very time when their work is needed in our communities more than ever. This includes the Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund (WEJF) and the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF). Both organizations play a critical role in funding key legal services working to provide access to justice across our state.
Both need our support now more than ever.
For more than 500,000 low-income Wisconsin citizens, access to pro bono civil legal aid is a source of hope and of justice. Pro bono civil legal aid can be the dividing line between safety and domestic abuse, shelter and homelessness, and health and sickness.
The WEJF is the designated fundraising arm for three organizations that provide pro bono civil legal aid services for countless Wisconsin residents who live in poverty: Disability Rights Wisconsin, Legal Action of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Judicare. These programs are often the last line of defense for low-income individuals facing homelessness, unemployment, and devastating poverty.
WisTAF works with over a dozen civil legal aid organizations throughout Wisconsin to invest in services and projects that help people access justice and resolve legal problems. The Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program and the Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF) program traditionally have provided WisTAF with the financial support needed to administer their grants. However, increasingly needed additional support has come from private donations.
Finally, our own Wisconsin Law Foundation (WLF) also faces a hole in fundraising efforts this year with the cancellation of our single largest fundraising event – the annual Fellows of the Wisconsin Law Foundation Recognition Dinner.
For those of us who are in a position to do so, I urge you to join me in supporting the work of these critically needed organizations.
Support these organizations whose work is critical to civil justice for Wisconsin residents.
Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund
PO Box 475
Wausau WI 54402-0475
Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation
4600 American Pkwy, Ste 104
Madison WI 53718
Wisconsin Law Foundation
5302 Eastpark Blvd.
Madison WI 53718-7158