In 2022 alone, MVLS has handed out more than 600 bags to neighbors in the Greenmount West, Barclay, and Midway neighborhoods of East Baltimore. That equates to 4,200 fliers and factsheets with information that ultimately connects residents to free legal help like the kind we provide. We couldn’t have that kind of impact alone.
It’s the efforts of community partners like the ones being honored at this year’s Celebrate Pro Bono awards ceremony – the Greenmount West Community Association, Greater Greenmount Community Association, and Jubilee Baltimore – that make it possible.
Lauren Kelly-Washington, President of the Greenmount West Community Association and Community Engagement Specialist at Jubilee Baltimore, spoke to us about her work with MVLS. MVLS undertook an effort to stuff bags with fliers and factsheets, including about accessing the Water4All Discount, applying for the Homeowner’s Assistance Fund, and getting connected to free legal help to prepare deeds, expunge criminal records, and navigate tangled titles. Then, Kelly-Washington worked with her community association’s resident ambassadors to knock on doors and deliver these resources throughout the neighborhood.
Kelly-Washington shared that her neighbors were grateful for the outreach, “There was a resident who said that receiving the bag was like Christmas coming to her door.”
The community association members also worked to identify neighbors who were on the 2022 tax sale list. Block captain Nancy Kinlin remembers “There were plenty of neighbors on the list. Homeowners living in their primary residence…affected by tax bills to the point where they could be potentially evicted from their homes.”
“No one wants to lose good neighbors over something as easy to remedy as a tax sale bill,” emphasized Kelly-Washington.
In addition to the resource distribution effort, MVLS volunteers are working with homeowners from the Greenmount West neighborhood on legal issues central to them keeping their homes, including tangled titles, estate planning, and applications to the City’s various homeowner incentives.
“It’s really this opportunity to say: how can I be of service? And that’s exactly what MVLS is doing. They provide a service where they are committed to helping our residents who have been here a long time,” explained Kinlin.
Melvin Jadulang, of the Greater Greenmount West Community Association, helped coordinate similar work in the Barclay and East Baltimore Midway neighborhoods and will join Kelly-Washington in accepting a 2022 Community Partner Award this fall.
“Our volunteers work tirelessly to advocate and connect our neighbors to resources that enable us to have a vibrant and connected community,” explained Jadulang. “Getting the word out isn’t easy and partnering with MVLS has helped us support a better quality of life for our neighbors.”
Community associations like Jadulang’s, Kelly-Washington’s and Kinlin’s are crucial to raise awareness about the kinds of issues that can be resolved with free legal help, and their relationships with their neighbors help MVLS establish a baseline of trust with incoming clients. That’s not always easy, given that the legal system has caused grave injustice in these same people in the past.
But free legal help also has the potential to empower communities, something that is central to why Kelly-Washington and Jadulang see partnership with MVLS as worthwhile. Both cite pro bono legal representation, estate planning, outreach, and advocacy as crucial services that contribute to the fabric of neighborhood stability.
Susan Francis, Executive Director of MVLS, discussed why community partnerships are central to the mission of MVLS:
“Working with Jubilee, working with Greater Greenmount Community Association, working with Greenmount West Community Association, really enabled this opportunity for MVLS to get into targeted communities. She concluded, “We are so grateful to Lauren, Nancy, Melvin, and all of our incredible partners for helping us get legal help to the people who need it most.”