By Carley Conrod
At the 43rd Annual Dinner and Reception on June 27, more than $63,000 was raised in support of the Foundation’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). Through LRAP, the Foundation helps legal aid organizations recruit and retain high-quality lawyers. It does this by funding a $5,000 annual paydown of individual student loans if a lawyer continues to work for a legal aid organization for a year and uses the loan proceeds to pay down student loan debt.
The goal of LRAP is to incentivize a career as a civil legal aid lawyer so more poor and at-risk Floridians can receive the help they need with legal issues. Since its inception in 1992, LRAP has granted more than $9 million in loan repayment assistance to eligible legal aid lawyers.
Dinner attendees made donations through Give By Cell, an interactive fundraising tool in which pledges are made via text and the total amount of money raised can be seen in real time. Many donations were made in honor of Judge William A. Van Nortwick, a former Foundation president and 2015 Medal of Honor winner who passed away in January. Van Nortwick was also the subject of the renaming of the Steven M. Goldstein Award for Excellence, which will henceforth be named the Goldstein – Van Nortwick Award for Excellence.
Speaking of the Foundation in 2015, Van Nortwick cited its uniqueness as a pillar of its effectiveness, saying, “They don’t just say, ‘Let’s give grants to these grantees and continue to serve the same population over and over and over,’ knowing that they can only serve 20% of the need. They say, ‘What is the problem, and can we solve that problem in some other way?’ They say, ‘I’ll treat the back-end problem because it’s there and I’ve got to deal with that, but let me find what the systemic issue is so that I can come back and attack it that way and maybe eliminate the back end.’ And that’s not necessarily universally true with many organizations.”
Maria Henderson, a former Foundation president and Van Nortwick’s wife, made a generous matching pledge of $25,000 in support of LRAP and in honor of her husband. Other notable pledges made in Van Nortwick’s honor include former Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente’s gift of $5,000 and $10,000 from Van Nortwick’s siblings and their children.
In total, nearly $45,000 was raised in honor of Van Nortwick. Combined with the night’s other donations, enough money was raised to help 12 civil legal aid lawyers pay down their loans for one year.