Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) Announces 7 New Staff Members

BALTIMORE, October. 20, 2022 – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the
largest provider of pro bono legal services to low-income Marylanders, today announce the recent hiring of seven (7) new staff members – Kim Caspari, Esq., Maura Connell, D’Khyra McFadden, George Townsend, Esq., Theo Sullivan, Imani Walton, and Ian Williams.

“MVLS is pleased to welcome these seven talented individuals to our team.” said Susan Francis, Executive Director. “MVLS’ impact is ultimately made meaningful by people, including our volunteers who accept pro bono cases and our staff, who create a supportive environment for our clients and our volunteers. We look forward to having these new staff members join us in our efforts to ensure a fair legal system.” she added.


Kim Caspari

“I am excited to join MVLS because
this organization is a great vehicle for pro bono legal assistance. MVLS is a great model for community service.”

Kim Caspari, Esq., APGRB Staff Attorney
Maura Connell

“I am excited to join MVLS because I want to learn more about the legal issues that Marylanders face.”

Maura Connel, Legal Advocate
D'Khyra McFadden

“I am excited to join MVLS because I am striving to serve a community that is being given little to no resources due to a negligent system.”

D’Khyra McFadden, Intake & LITC Legal Advocate
George Townsend

“I am excited to join MVLS because: I am excited to work with Marylanders in need of legal assistance, to support folks in asserting their legal rights and accessing the resources they need to thrive.”

George Townsend, Esq., Workforce Development Attorney
Theo Sullivan

“I am excited to join MVLS for the chance to meet and help clients from all over Baltimore city and Maryland.”

Theo Sullivan, Workforce Development Paralegal
Ian Williams

“I am excited to join MVLS for the chance to meet and help clients from all over Baltimore city and Maryland.”

Ian Williams, Consumer Protection Project Paralegal
Imani Walton

“I am excited to join MVLS because I align with the mission and vision of this organization and find it rewarding to be able to play an important role in accomplishing the organizational goals.”

Imani Walton, Administrative Assistant

About Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) removes barriers to justice through free civil legal
help, community engagement, and advocacy for equitable laws. The organization matches clients with
volunteer lawyers, tax professionals and staff attorneys who represent them in a wide range of
consumer finance, family and housing situations, including foreclosure, bankruptcy,
divorce/custody, deed changes, as well as income tax disputes, estate planning, and criminal record
relief. MVLS advocates for racial equity in Maryland’s legal system and works in concert with
community partners to move toward a fair legal system that is free of injustice and equitably
serves underrepresented Marylanders. For more information about MVLS, please visit www.mvlslaw.org.

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Media Contact
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
Chandler Walters
Phone: 443.451.4095
Email: cwalters@mvlslaw.org

Community Partner Spotlight: Mr. Mack Lewis Foundation

Each month we recognize one of our community partners who displays the values that we expect of ourselves and seek in our partnerships.

How long have you been in existence, and what is your organization’s mission?  

The Mr. Mack Lewis Foundation has been in existence over 71 years. Our Mission is to save youth in underserved communities while reducing juvenile delinquency, neighborhood destabilization and combating racism. 

Gregory Wilkes – Executive Director

Get the full story, and learn more about the Mr. Mack Lewis Foundation on our Community Partner Page!

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) Announces Two New Staff Members

BALTIMORE, June 6, 2022 – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the largest provider of pro bono legal services, today announced the recent hiring of Aisha Snead, Community Outreach Coordinator-Financial Stabilization and Novlette Haughton, Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) Intake Paralegal. As a HAF Intake Paralegal, Novlette is responsible for connecting clients to the housing assistance program and assisting MVLS’ intake team with direct client screenings. Novlette plays a crucial role in ensuring clients are receiving the free civil legal aid they need. As Community Outreach Coordinator, Aisha is responsible for developing strong relationships with community leaders to increase engagement in estate planning by underserved Marylanders through outreach and education.

“MVLS is thrilled to be able to comprehensively support housing stabilization for Marylanders. By having Aisha and Novlette join MVLS, we are able to help Marylanders proactively preserve their homes through critically important housing funds and estate planning.” said MVLS’ Executive Director, Susan Francis.

Aisha SneadAisha comes to MVLS with experience in community organizing, outreach, and project management, previously serving as Project manager at the R. Willie Group which provides mentorship services to underserved youth. She is also a trained advocate for victims of sexual violence and a doula, specializing in supporting clients and families who are navigating a death. Born and raised in Baltimore City, Aisha brings a multitude of her own community partnerships, relationships, and experiences which she will integrate to engage in estate planning conversations.

Novlette HaughtonNovlette comes to MVLS from the Marian House, where she worked directly with women and their children who are in need of housing and rehabilitative services as the Operations Manager. She also serves on the Board at the Marian House where she leads the acquisition sub-committee. Novlette was recently selected as the Ladies of Hope Ministries EPIC (End Poverty and Incarceration for Women and Girls) Fellow where she will serve as an advocate and educator. Novlette will bring her wealth of different experiences to ensure MVLS clients are receiving the help they need.

To learn more about MVLS staff, please visit www.mvlslaw.org.

About Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) removes barriers to justice through free civil legal help, community engagement, and advocacy for equitable laws. The organization matches clients with volunteer lawyers, tax professionals and staff attorneys who represent them in a wide range of consumer finance, family and housing situations, including foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce/custody, deed changes, as well as income tax disputes, estate planning, and criminal record relief. MVLS advocates for racial equity in Maryland’s legal system and works in concert with community partners to move toward a fair legal system that is free of injustice and equitably serves underrepresented Marylanders. For more information about MVLS, please visit www.mvlslaw.org.

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Media Contacts:
Susan Francis, Esq.
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)
phone: 443-451-4084
email: sfrancis@mvlslaw.org

Chandler Walters
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)
phone: 443-451-4095
email: cwalters@mvlslaw.org

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) Announces Sheila J. Stewart to its Board of Directors

BALTIMORE, April. 8, 2022 – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the state’s largest provider of pro bono legal services, today announced the election of a new board member–attorney Sheila J. Stewart. MVLS’ Board of Directors is responsible for governance and directing the organization’s strategic plan to deliver life changing pro bono legal services to Marylanders. In addition, board members serve as MVLS volunteers and are generous supporters of its mission.

“We are thrilled to have Sheila join the MVLS board” said MVLS’ Executive Director, Susan Francis. “Sheila has demonstrated a deep commitment to MVLS for several years and has prioritized providing access to justice through pro bono since she graduated from law school. I have no doubt she will bring that same commitment and vision to her board membership.”

Ms. Stewart has accepted 25 MVLS cases since 2018, including expungement and family law matters. In 2021, her efforts were recognized at MVLS’ Celebrate Pro Bono, where Stewart Law & Associates received the Law Firm of the Year award. Ms. Stewart has been a stalwart volunteer, proactively accepting cases throughout the pandemic to ensure continued support of MVLS clients.

Shelia J. StewartSheila J. Stewart is Associate Corporate Counsel for Amazon Services LLC where she provides accurate and timely counsel to businesses on a variety of legal issues regarding marketing, privacy, and compliance. Outside of her practice, she volunteers with other organizations, previously serving as Executive Board Member (President) for the Good Hope Estates Civic Association and currently serving as a Member of the NAACP Parent Council in Montgomery County, MD. In addition, Ms. Stewart serves as Parent Teacher Student Association President at Briggs Chaney Middle School. Ms. Stewart earned her J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

To learn more about MVLS programs and volunteer opportunities, please visit our website.

About Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) removes barriers to justice through free civil legal help, community engagement, and advocacy for equitable laws. The organization matches clients with volunteer lawyers, tax professionals and staff attorneys who represent them in a wide range of consumer finance, family and housing situations, including foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce/custody, deed changes, as well as income tax disputes, estate planning, and criminal record relief. MVLS advocates for racial equity in Maryland’s legal system and works in concert with community partners to move toward a fair legal system that is free of injustice and equitably serves underrepresented Marylanders. For more information about MVLS, please visit our website.

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Media Contacts:

Susan Francis, Esq.
Executive Director
phone: 443-451-4095
sfrancis@mvlslaw.org

Chandler Walters
Communications & Outreach Manager
phone: 443-451-4084
email: cwalters@mvlslaw.org

Important Resources Are Available to Help Stabilize Housing

Local and State Housing, Tax and Water Discount Programs and Clinics  

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) emphasizes the importance of investing in our community partners and building strong relationships through outreach and advocacy. Spring is nearly here, which means tax season has arrived making it all the more important to connect residents with critical resources. Several programs have been recently rolled out from the state of Maryland and the City of Baltimore including the Water4All Discount Program, Maryland Homeowner Assistance Fund, and the Statewide Water Delinquency Program. In addition, to state and city programs there are local organizations like MVLS and Securing Older Adult Resources (SOAR). Here’s the information you need to know to help us spread the word.  

Water 4 All Program  – Baltimore City 

What is it? 

This new water assistance program provides a monthly discount for water and sewer costs based on a percentage of residents’ income for Baltimore City Residents. Homeowners and Renters are available. For the first time, tenants who do not directly pay their water bills are eligible to apply for water payment assistance.  

Where do I find more information?  

Find more information here – Water4All | City of Baltimore (baltimorecity.gov) 

How do I apply? 

Apply direct on Water4All | City of Baltimore (baltimorecity.gov) or call (410)-369-5555 

The Emergency Mortgage & Housing Assistance Program (EMHAP) – Baltimore City

What is it?  

EMHAP provides further assistance to Baltimore City homeowners whose homes are at risk of foreclosure due to economic hardship related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Where do I find more information?  

Find more information here – Emergency Mortgage & Housing Assistance Program | Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development

How do I apply?   

You can apply for EMHAP online at Neighborly Software. Click on the Register tab and register for a free account with your name and email. After registering, click Sign In to enter your email and password. Then, under Start a New Application, click Emergency Mortgage & Housing Assistance Program.

If you need assistance, call the LIGHT Intake & Assessment Unit at 410-396-3023. If you do not wish to complete the application online, you can download and print the application, or you can pick up a paper application from us at 417 E. Fayette St., Suite 1125.

Maryland Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) 

What is it?  

The Maryland HAF helps homeowners who need assistance with paying their mortgage, property taxes, and ground rent. Additionally, the homeowner assistance fund provides help to in need of home repairs or weatherization to remain in their homes.  

Where do I find more information?  

Find more information here – Maryland Homeowner Assistance Fund 

How do I apply?   

Apply directly at Maryland HAF or call 833-676-0119, Mon-Fri 8 am to 7pm and Sat 9am to 4pm.   

Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) 

What is it?  

The LIHWAP is available statewide and provides Maryland households with financial relief toward water and/or wastewater bills. Eligible households may receive up to $2,000. LIHWAP funding is limited, and applications will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. 

Where do I find more information?  

You can find more information about the program here – Low Income Household Water Assistance Program – Maryland Department of Human Services 

How do I apply?   

You can apply for LIHWAP assistance online using the consumer portal at mymdthink.maryland.gov. If you are unable to apply online, you may request an application be mailed to you through the service hotline at 1-800-332-6347 or by calling your local Department of Social Services or Office of Home Energy Programs office. A printable paper application can be found at their website

SOAR With Maryland’s Consumer Rights Coalition   

Securing Older Adult Resources (SOAR) supports the financial wellbeing of older adults. They can help you receive a renters’ tax credit which could result in a credit of $1,000 to income-eligible renters. If your name is on the deed, you may be eligible for a homeowners’ tax credit which will cap your property tax. To learn more information and apply please visit Take the Credit — Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (marylandconsumers.org) or call their tax credit hotline directly at (443)-961-6220. 

“Nonprofit Legal Services Help Homeowners Struggling With Property Taxes Keep Their Homes” – By Kristen Griffith

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service’s tax sale work was featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy in an article published by Kristen Griffith on February 23, 2022. 

Here is a brief excerpt: “Elizabeth Vermillera, a retired pharmaceutical technician, spends her days handing out donated clothes and food to people in Baltimore. Since 1997, she has lived in the three-level rowhouse on East Monument Street…

‘I almost lost my house for $1,000,’ Vermillera shared.”

Read the full article here: www.philanthropy.com/article/nonprofit-legal-services-help-homeowners-struggling-with-property-taxes-keep-their-homes

Continue reading ““Nonprofit Legal Services Help Homeowners Struggling With Property Taxes Keep Their Homes” – By Kristen Griffith”

Have You Heard of The Water4All Program?

What is the Water4All Program?  

The Water4All (W4A) program has officially launched in Baltimore City and aims to create more equitable access to financial assistance for eligible residents who need help paying their water bill. The W4A Program provides a monthly discount for water and sewage bills based on a percentage of a resident’s income.  

Am I Eligible?  

The program is open to Baltimore City residents with an income less than 200% of the federal poverty level. The W4A program uses a formula to create the maximum amount a resident should pay for annual water and sewer services, based on a percentage of their annual household income.  

Why it Matters.  

Baltimore’s goal in the W4A program is providing more equitable access to financial assistance for those who need help with their water bills. It may also provide financial assistance for tenants who do not have their own account with the Department of Public Works, but instead pay their landlord for water directly.  

How do I Apply?  

The W4A program has an active online application, however if you need to apply with a paper application please call (410)-369-5555. If you are a Baltimore resident currently receiving BH2O Assist or BH2O Plus financial assistance, you must apply for the Water4all program. You must do so to continue receiving financial assistance prior to the end of your current annual coverage.  

For more information on the Water4All program please visit Water4All NOW Accepting Applications | Baltimore City Department of Public Works  

MVLS Succeeds In Getting Client’s $11K Refund Released

Janice Shih, Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Director at MVLS spoke with CNN correspondent Gabe Cohen on January 25th about problems with the IRS, most notably the delays in receiving refunds, and why it is happening. Many taxpayers have not yet received refunds from tax returns filed from last tax season. MVLS’ LITC has been helping ensure that Marylanders of limited means obtain critical funds during the pandemic including the stimulus payments and their long-overdue tax refunds. 

However, the story does not end there for client Jasmine Jones who came to MVLS for assistance with her missing refund in late November. The LITC accepted her case and reached out to the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) to learn why it was being held up. The TAS was able to determine what the issue was, saw that it had been resolved internally but that her refund had not been queued up for release. TAS put in a request for release of the refund, allowing Jasmine to receive it 3 weeks later. Had TAS and MVLS not intervened, Jasmine’s refund might still be sitting there.  

Learn how to get involved with MVLS and take a case. 

Questions? Please contact Janice Shih, LITC Director.  

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) Announces New Pro Bono Program Manager

BALTIMORE, Jan. 31, 2022 – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the largest provider of pro bono legal services in Maryland, today announced the promotion of staff member, Makeisha Gibson, from Senior Paralegal to Pro Bono Program Manager. In her new role, Makeisha will be responsible for the successful operations of our Pro Bono Program. In addition, she will manage a team of five intake paralegals and support MVLS’ staff attorneys and volunteers. 

“We are so pleased to welcome Makeisha into her new position at MVLS.  Makeisha is not only a highly competent team member, but she also exhibits a deep commitment and empathy to our clients and volunteers.” said Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service’s Executive Director, Susan Francis. “Makeisha has demonstrated committed leadership to her MVLS colleagues both as a paralegal and Senior Paralegal, and we have no doubt she will continue to be a key element to MVLS’ success in her new role.” 

Makeisha GibsonMakeisha joined MVLS eight years ago as a paralegal and was previously promoted to Senior Paralegal in 2019. Makeisha continues to grow, and provides excellent communication, guidance, and structure for her paralegal team. She is currently a co-chair of MVLS’ Anti-Racism Committee, and member of the Pro Bono Coordinating Council Leadership Committee. Makeisha graduated from University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Arts.  

To learn more about MVLS and its volunteer opportunities, please visit ways to get involved. 

About Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) 

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) removes barriers to justice through free civil legal help, community engagement, and advocacy for equitable laws. The organization matches clients with volunteer lawyers, tax professionals and staff attorneys who represent them in a wide range of consumer finance, family and housing situations, including foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce/custody, deed changes, as well as income tax disputes, estate planning, and criminal record relief. MVLS advocates for racial equity in Maryland’s legal system and works in concert with community partners to move toward a fair legal system that is free of injustice and equitably serves underrepresented Marylanders. For more information about MVLS, please visit www.mvlslaw.org 

Written by: Chandler Walters, MVLS’ Outreach and Communication Manager