Legal Aid raises $100K in six months

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, October 29, 2015

In only six months, the Virginia Legal Aid Society (VLAS) has raised $100,000 to match a challenge grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation which will pay off about two thirds of the cost of its new Farmville location.

“Everything came together, and with what we raised and the $100,000 grant from the foundation we were matching, that’s going to retire almost two thirds of the cost of the new building,” said Bill Shear, who along with his wife Noelle, led the capital campaign.

Email newsletter signup

“These funds have been raised through the tireless efforts of the VLAS Capital Campaign Committee … and VLAS Director of Development Rhonda Knight for the purchase of a new service office at 217 E. Third Street in Farmville,” a VLAS release stated. “The funds raised came from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, the Walter J. Payne Foundation, the Marietta McNeill Morgan and Samuel Tate Morgan, Jr. Foundation, many individual donors and members of the committee.”

The completion of the capital campaign has resulted in VLAS meeting a strategic goal to own all of its service offices, the release stated.

“After 34 years of renting an office on High Street, purchase of this building is a further commitment to and investment in providing legal aid to those in need in Amelia, Cumberland, Buckingham, Prince Edward, Nottoway, Lunenburg, Charlotte, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties. VLAS has provided free legal advice and representation in civil cases every year since 1977 to thousands of clients in South Central Virginia, helping them to stabilize and strengthen individuals and families,” the release stated.

“We did the campaign in just six months. My wife Noelle is a good organizer, and she did most of the work. She was able to convince people this was a great cause,” Shear said.

He said there were many individual contributors to the campaign fund, along with the grant funding.

“Our first move was to put together a committee that represents the area of nine counties served by [Farmville office of the] VLAS. We had a pretty good representation from all of the area. We told them we would run the campaign through the middle of September. Sure enough, we met our goal,” said Shear.

“What amazed me [was that] we were really starting from a point where VLAS was kind of a secret,” he said.

“Not many people knew about it or what kind of services it provided. There was a lot of educating we had to do along the way, as well as ask for money.”

Shear said that being able to pay off the mortgage “means that instead of having to use money out of operating funds for the mortgage, that money can go to actual services.”

“Virginia Legal Aid is a big organization. It covers a huge area, and the headquarters is in Lynchburg. Farmville is the last office to get its own building,” he said.

“The legal system is really complicated,” Shear said. “People who can’t get legal advice just get chewed up in that system. [VLAS] provides a really significant way for people to make sure that they [VLAS clients] get justice. VLAS only handles civil cases. That means you’re dealing with things like family law, unjust eviction, disputes with neighbors or spousal abuse. It’s a very important service for the whole nine counties surrounding us.”

Staff member Jordan Miles contributed to this story.