The feelings of panic and helplessness that overcame us as we watched Hurricane Florence ravage our state have dissipated only slightly as the skies have cleared. The persistent question remains: “How can I help?”
The North Carolina Bar Association and Foundation have several answers to that question. Among them is NC Disaster Legal Services (NC DLS), a collaborative effort to provide immediate pro bono legal assistance to survivors of Hurricane Florence, supported by the North Carolina Bar Association, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association and Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC).
Volunteers who worked with NC DLS following Hurricane Matthew in 2016 keenly understand the powerful ways this program can support victims who are facing legal questions and conundrums they have never been faced with before. After Matthew, nearly 200 North Carolina lawyers volunteered to assist more than 300 storm survivors. The comments of a few of them below attest to the power of this volunteer work.
Rachel Blunk, NCBA YLD Chair
“From preventing evictions, to securing FEMA benefits that were initially denied, or helping to sort out insurance claims, our volunteer attorneys readily stepped in to help survivors begin to rebuild their lives.”
Will Quick, NCBA YLD Administrative
“Volunteering with NC DLS was a tangible way for me to make a positive difference for people who are just trying to put their lives back together. The thing that sticks out the most to me from clients I’ve helped is that sometimes all that is needed is a willing ear and a sympathetic heart – not necessarily a deep well of legal experience. Many of the clients are just deeply touched that someone cares about them and is willing to help with their problems.”
Brooks Jaffa, NCBA YLD Standing Committee on DLS
“As attorneys we occupy a position of privilege and possess a unique set of skills. We have the responsibility to use these gifts to assist those in need. After Hurricane Matthew, many attorneys from across North Carolina graciously volunteered their time, energy and expertise to assist victims with what, in many instances, were their most challenging obstacles to recovering. Through their efforts and kindness, many of our fellow citizens who otherwise would have been unable to address these obstacles were able to put their lives and the lives of their families back together.”
Other Ways to Help
Signing up as an NC DLS volunteer puts your name in a database of attorneys willing to volunteer. Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) will assign questions as they come in from clients, but it may be some time before you are called. For more details on the DLS process, see the details at www.ncbar.org/florence. For volunteer-related questions, email NCDLSVolunteers@gmail.com.
In addition to NC DLS, attorneys can provide help via a pro bono service new to North Carolina: NC Free Legal Answers. NC FLA is a virtual, pro bono legal advice clinic for attorneys to help victims of Hurricane Florence who have law-related needs or questions.
No matter how you choose to help, those you serve will remember your efforts long after you have finished your work with them. As one victim told North Carolina Lawyer magazine in an anonymous account of her post-Matthew ordeal:
“I don’t have words to describe how professional he was, his attention to detail, how thoughtful and kind he was, how basically he restored our faith in humanity. We did not have the money … to afford an attorney. Sometimes you just don’t know where to turn; just maneuvering through FEMA took a lot of understanding. … For him to explain and to know what to do to help us through this process, I just don’t have the words to describe it.”
https://ncbarblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Florence.jpg8502375NCBARBLOGhttps://ncbarblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Blog-Header-1-1030x530.pngNCBARBLOG2018-09-18 16:35:002018-09-26 08:19:12Providing Legal Aid To Hurricane Florence Victims Will Help Them -- and You