By Erin Giglia

As of 2020, I’ve rotated off of the Orange County Charitable Fund Board of Directors. I have enjoyed several years in this Board position, and have had the opportunity to meet many Orange County Justice Warriors. They are a remarkable, inspiring group, all working tirelessly to mitigate or solve community issues and to increase access to justice. They truly are making our community, and the world, a better place.

Each year, I am humbled by the grant applications, and am incredibly honored to help allocate portions of raised funds towards their goals.

First, I must mention the OCBA Charitable Fund itself. The Charitable Fund is the charitable arm of the Orange County Bar Association, and is led by Executive Director Trudy Levindofske. The OCBA Charitable Fund Board of Directors is comprised of the busiest people I know: hard-working lawyers who volunteer their time to raise money to donate to legal charitable organizations.  The Charitable Fund hosts fundraising events such as the Annual OCBA Golf Tournament, and the Annual Raise Your Glass event. The Charitable Fund’s goal is the provide resources to organizations and programs in order to enhance the system of justice and promote equal justice for all.

This year, we were honored to distribute $200,000 in grants to Orange County legal charitable organizations as follows:

California Youth Connection – Providing a transformative experience for current and former foster youth through its dual goals of empowering youth and improving foster care.

Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, Bette and Wylie Aitken Family Protection Clinic – Provides free legal representation, legal advice, and pro per workshops to indigent and low-income people and survivors of family violence, sexual assault, and trafficking.

Collaborative Courts Foundation – Provides court-requested assistance to participants in the various Collaborative Courts programs such as Drug Court, DUI Court, Veterans & Military Diversion Courts, and Mental Health Courts.

Community Legal Aid So Cal – Provides on-site screening and “legal check ups” relating to civil litigation matters for individuals at the collaborative courts, performs intakes for eligible individuals, and provides referrals to pro bono attorneys for ineligible individuals.

Constitutional Rights Foundation – Provides civic and law-related educational programs made available to all high school students in Orange County including Mock Trial, Peer Court, Constitution Day, Law Day, and the Orange County Career Forum.

Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) – Provides a voice for youth in the child welfare system through a unique one-on-one relationship with trained and supervised court-appointed volunteer advocates.

Elder Law & Disability Rights Center (ELDR) – Provides community legal education, advocacy, and representation to disabled children and their families in the area of special education law.

Human Options – Provides victims of domestic violence and late life family violence with education on legal rights, court accompaniment and support, direct assistance resources.

Laura’s House – Provides victims of domestic violence with a broad range of services and support to assist them in understanding and securing their legal rights so they can lead safe, productive, and violence-free lives.

OCBF Project Youth – Project SELF – Provides low-income and at-risk high school students with hands on internships in the legal field. Project Youth/Shortstop – Provides a juvenile crime diversion program for at-risk OC youth and their families to prevent youth delinquency from escalating into chronic criminal behavior.

OC GRIP Foundation – Provides a partnership program between the OC District Attorney’s Office and law enforcement to prevent at-risk minors in grades 4th through 8th from joining criminal street gangs and promotes opportunity and education to help students make the right choices.

Orange County Justice Fund – Coordinates efforts among the legal community to enhance deportation defense services.

Public Law Center – Provides free civil legal services, including counseling, individual representation, community education and strategic litigation and advocacy to challenge societal injustices.

University of California, Irvine School of Law – Pre-law Outreach Program – Provides assistance to undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds to prepare for the law school application and admissions process. Saturday Academy of Law – Provides an educational pipeline program for under-served 9th grade students from Santa Ana, Garden Grove, and Anaheim school districts.

Veterans Legal Institute – Provides pro bono legal assistance to homeless, at-risk, disabled, and low-income veterans and service members. Seeks to eradicate barrier to housing, education, employment, and healthcare, and to foster self-sufficiency.

Women’s Transitional Living Center – Assists individuals and families to escape the depths of domestic violence and exploitation, and specifically assists survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking with immigration relief such as U-Visas, T-Visas, and VAWA petitions.

If you are looking for a way to make an impact in our community, look no further than this list, especially if you are an attorney. There are so many ways to give, including volunteer hours, and donations. These organizations stretch dollars and time in ways that seem to defy reality, and we should all be grateful. If you are passionate about access to justice, please support the Orange County Bar Association Charitable Fund, and any of these deserving organizations.

Thank you to the Charitable Fund for the opportunity to serve. Montage Legal Group looks forward to many more years supporting your excellent work!

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