To My Dearest Florence:

By Angela Doughty

The ravaging of my beautiful hometown of New Bern and the decimation of so many wonderful homes and families has broken my heart and irreversibly altered my soul.  The images, videos, and stories cannot do justice to the devastation experienced by those hit hardest. There are not words to express the feelings swirling deep in my heart about the wake of destruction left behind in our communities.

Yet, I am one of the lucky ones.  My loved ones are safe.  My home is habitable with relatively minimal damage. I am left, however, with a feeling of helplessness, of survivor’s guilt, of the desire to assist with more than care packages and donations.

As my family set out to volunteer, I mistakenly assumed that as a contractor my husband’s skills would far exceed my own when it came to assisting those in need.  But as I stood outside a friend’s porch while all of her precious personal belongings were pulled from her flooded home to be unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road as trash, I realized that those affected will need so much more than muscle and construction knowledge.  These same individuals will need assistance and counsel on a variety of legal issues throughout their journey back to normalcy.

We often hear and use the phrase “pro bono” and consider it an equivalent to all types of volunteerism, but unlike traditional volunteer opportunities, “pro bono” means to use and provide specific skills to those in need.  We all have specific legal skills we can offer to those in need.

As an intellectual property and privacy attorney I was hesitant, concerned that while I may have legal skills, my areas of expertise are useless to hurricane victims.  As it turns out, my concerns were baseless, because the North Carolina Bar Association, ABA Young Lawyers Division, FEMA, and Legal Aid of North Carolina had me covered with both volunteer opportunities and training resources through the North Carolina Disaster Legal Services (NC DSL) effort, supported by the North Carolina Bar Foundation.

So, my dearest Florence, for those encouraging me to find the silver lining in our time together, it is that I have a much deeper and richer understanding and appreciation for the true need and purpose of pro bono legal services.