Pro Bono Spotlight: Jordan Forsythe

jordan-forsythe-pb-spotlight-9-16Jordan Forsythe opened Forsythe Immigration Law in 2009. Seven years later, her desire to do pro bono work remains strong as she’s seen a lot of changes for immigrant communities in Charlotte and abroad.

How did you get into immigration law?
“I found myself as a single mom with two kids. My roommate was from Venezuela. We shared expenses and the goal was that her daughter could come join us and we could share childcare duties to make it together. I worked in law firms during the day and worked in the service industry at night to make bills meet. It took her several years to get her daughter, and it was through that process—watching her separated from her daughter, even though she was here on a work visa—that inspired me to go to law school and become an immigration attorney.

I became a lawyer in 2008, moved to Charlotte after going to law school in Texas. I was already a mother of two with a life behind me and ready to start a new journey.”

How did you start volunteering with LSSP?
“I had done battered immigrant cases with Legal Aid of North Carolina. I started working with LSSP through the Immigrant Justice Project. It was really exciting to be part of that starting. It was a collaboration of all the lawyers that were actively doing immigration. I was just one little piece in that. It was fun. It was wonderful, and to see what that’s become now, it’s pretty cool.”

Why do pro bono work?
“My first pro bono cases started before I had this practice, as soon as I had my license. I went into immigration law to help people and I recognize that it’s a business, but that’s why I went into it. There’s a seemingly unlimited need for people that need low-cost or free legal services compared to people that can afford them.”

“I feel like (doing pro bono is) our ethical responsibility as human beings and as lawyers. I think no matter what you do for a living, you should find a way to donate your talents to the world. This is what I know how to do and it brings me great joy.”

What has changed for immigration law in Charlotte during your time practicing here?
“I know a lot of local attorneys have dipped their toes into immigration due to pro bono, which I think is great, but the need still isn’t met. Most people don’t have a lawyer.

The transition is seeing the new (immigration) court open up and how the private bar and the non-profits like LSSP team together to address that need. That to me is absolutely the most amazing thing that’s happened.”

Is there a particular case you’ve had that speaks to why you went into immigration law?
“I’m very humbled by the work I do, and I recognize that it can change the course of the world. When someone lives in an area, they impact a community and they can change that community … Something that was really impactful to me was being able to help a client that started out being someone I represented when I was a law student in a clinical program and I still to this day have a relationship with that person.

That’s been really impactful – to see cases evolve. A client could start out with a deportation order and you’re able to get them their residency. Those cases, to me, are extremely rewarding. They’re very challenging. They’re very complicated legally. And the people who are in those situations are in a very desperate situation, and being able to provide them with the opportunity to get their residency or to eventually become a citizen, it’s unbelievable. All of my clients are special. It’s really hard to pick just one.”

What would you say to local attorneys considering a pro bono immigration case?
“I think that we need to recruit more people who want to do immigration law to begin with. When I first started, I didn’t speak another language. I was working really hard to support my kids and go to school. Now I do speak Spanish. It’s very possible to work effectively through interpreters.

I think probably the scariest thing is that it’s immigration, and it’s an extremely complicated area of the law, but I think that the cases that are selected to pair up with these volunteer attorneys are mostly specific benefits. LSSP has training. There are a lot of resources. Immigration attorneys are incredible mentors and incredible resources. Don’t be scared! You have good resources and it’ll make you feel good.”

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LSSP Heads Back to School with Single Stop at CPCC

Natalia Single StopOf the 12 million students who enroll in community college each year, half drop out because of financial barriers. Legal Services of Southern Piedmont wants to be the change that provides more positive outcomes for community college students.

LSSP is heading back to school this fall with students at Central Piedmont Community College to be a partner in CPCC’s Single Stop program, which promotes academic achievement by helping students deal with traditional barriers to degrees — financial instability, lack of adequate housing and child care along with access to health insurance.

Natalia Botella, medical-legal partnership attorney for LSSP, is available on campus Monday afternoons throughout the school year to meet with students and offer information on resources and benefits they may be eligible to receive in order to keep students on track to achieve their academic goals.

 

 

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Navigating the Medicaid Gap: Penelope

When Penelope Wingard was laid off from her job at a nonprofit after-school center in 2012, it was a major setback. Although her employer did not provide health benefits, her earnings had allowed her to sustain herself financially. As she began the daunting task of searching for a new job, she had no idea that a sudden diagnosis would derail her way of life.

In March 2013, Penelope went to the emergency room because of a pain in her side.  Despite having had a normal test result from a mammogram exam four months earlier, a CT body scan detected a mass in her breast. The next step was a biopsy.

Because she had no health coverage, personnel at the Levine Cancer Institute contacted the Mecklenburg County Health Department to help Penelope obtain Breast and Cervical Cancer Medicaid (BCCM) coverage.  To qualify for Breast and Cervical Cancer Medicaid, a patient must be referred to the health department or a state healthcare provider before cancer is ever diagnosed.

Without that referral, Penelope could not qualify for Medicaid and would not have been able to receive the treatment she needed.  She now realizes that the foresight of her physician at Penelope_Medicaid_Gap_070516_017Levine and that phone call saved her life.

Penelope began chemotherapy in June. While in the midst of cancer treatments, she suffered a brain aneurysm that required surgery and further complicated her health problems. She completed radiation and chemo treatments in February 2014 and shortly thereafter, Penelope lost her Medicaid coverage.

“As soon as I completed the radiation, my Medicaid was cut,” she said.

Though she was done with treatment, Penelope was not out of the woods. She continued to suffer complications from her breast surgery and resorted to emergency room services for pain relief.

With assistance from a supervisor, Penelope reapplied for Medicaid to continue treatment, but her application was denied.

The following January, Penelope needed a second brain surgery.  She was able to qualify for a grant that covered the cost of the surgery, but not the anesthesia. By November, Penelope had accrued $700 in medical bills that she was unable to pay. Her healthcare provider refused to continue treating her because of her balance, despite her serious health problems.

When she lost her vision in her left eye, Penelope called Physicians Reach Out, a program of volunteers from the medical community, where she was able to visit an eye doctor and then a specialist. In June, Penelope received a corneal transplant with financial assistance from the NC Center for the Blind.Penelope_Medicaid_Gap_070516_002

Her coverage for this care will end in August, but Penelope will need prescription eye drops for the rest of her life. Each refill costs $140. She has an appointment with a new oncologist to do post-treatment blood work. She is trying to get on with her life, but her medical bills continue to mount.

Penelope has tried to stay positive and put her life back together after overcoming the trauma of serious illness, but the struggle to piece together the health care she needs is overwhelming.

“The health care system in North Carolina is sad,” she said with tears welling in her eyes. “[Without LSSP] you don’t have anyone to stand up for you.”

However, Penelope has not given up. She is working with a health insurance navigator at LSSP to learn what her options are to receive coverage, including reapplying for Medicaid and seeking tax credit eligibility options in the Healthcare Insurance Marketplace.

Madison Hardee, senior attorney for healthcare access at LSSP, says that the healthcare system in North Carolina is incredibly complicated, and Penelope is like so many people across the state who don’t know that there are ways to qualify for healthcare coverage without an income.

“She was lost in the system and told that she wasn’t eligible for anything,” Hardee said. “With the help of a navigator, Penelope now clearly understands the eligibility rules for Medicaid in North Carolina and the Healthcare Insurance Marketplace.”

Penelope also urges other women to seek care even if they are afraid of the treatment and costs that may result from an exam.

“Tell women to do the treatments, and pray things get better,” she said.

Penelope_Medicaid_Gap_070516_023Penelope is one of 300,000 people in North Carolina who fall into the Medicaid coverage gap. She is ineligible for Medicaid because she has no children or qualifying disabilities, and she earns too little to qualify for tax credits that would help her afford insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

If North Carolina’s General Assembly expanded its Medicaid program in our state, Penelope could access the health care she needs. Without it, Penelope and so many citizens remain stuck in the gap, navigating a confusing healthcare system and waiting for change.

 

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Associates Reflect on Summer at LSSP

As our summer clerks and interns prepare to return to school, we asked them to share about their experiences with LSSP over the summer. We’re sad to see them go and are so grateful for the great work they did.

Daniel Betkoski Daniel Betkoski
Charlotte School of Law, Veterans Legal Services Clerk
Daniel enjoyed interacting with clients and learning about a new area of law. As someone who wishes to join the U.S. Army JAG Corps, he was happy to work on cases dealing with veteran issues. He is most proud of a case he has been working on for a while, for which he has done research, interviewed the client multiple times, and drafted an upgrade discharge request. LSSP has helped Daniel grow by helping him improve his research and writing skills, which he recognizes he will need to be a great attorney in the future.

“Everyone at LSSP has been extremely helpful and friendly, which has made me feel like an equal and not just an intern.”

Erin Daugherty
Notre Dame School of Law, Family Support & Health Care Clerk
Beyond relaErin Daughertytionship-building and learning about a new area of law, Erin says she has become more confident in her ability to communicate directly with clients while remaining cognizant of when seek for help. She appreciates the necessary balance between confidence and humility. Erin is most proud of her work on a case that provided Medicaid to a disabled man and on many cases that provided people the proper allotment of food stamps. In particular, Erin reflected on a case in which a woman’s food stamp allotment was increased by about $40 – a seemingly nominal amount, but for the woman, it was the difference between eating or being hungry for the week.

“I moved to Charlotte specifically to work at LSSP without any family or friends in the area,” Erin says. “At the beginning it was difficult being so far from those closest to me but everyone at LSSP was so welcoming and caring that it made my transition a wonderful experience. Overall, this experience has given me perspective into the life of others as well as my own.”

Josh Martinkovic
UNC School of Law, McMillan Fellow and Consumer Protection Clerk
Josh MartinkovicJosh says that LSSP has helped him grow as a writer and researcher. Some of the cases he worked on were complex and required him to be resourceful in finding answers. He recognizes that without LSSP attorneys, many people don’t have viable legal options, and he hopes that his work has made someone’s life a little easier. Josh shared that he is most proud of the feedback he has received from co-workers and clients on his client interaction. They have complimented him for treating clients with respect and for showing them how he and LSSP care about their problems, which he thinks is especially important for working with low-income clients.

“My favorite part of the experience was learning the mechanics of being an attorney. Law school teaches you how to think like an attorney, but we do not have many opportunities for gaining practical experience in a subject area that interests us.”

Savannah Peters
UNC Chapel Hill, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Nonprofit Intern
Savannah PetersSavannah has loved interning with LSSP. She plans to attend law school and has a special interest in non-profit work, so it has been the perfect opportunity. Savannah particularly enjoyed gaining exposure to a large variety of projects and activities – from planning a tour of appreciation at various law firms, to attending a Medicaid Expansion Advocacy Day event in Raleigh. She is probably most proud of having written her first-ever grant report. Savannah says LSSP has helped her improve her communication and research skills and gain experience interacting with the legal community.

“Everyone, especially the development team, at LSSP has given me the most welcoming and enriching summer experience. I’m happy to have given even a small amount to such an amazing organization, and I’m leaving with an even better knowledge of what my future entails.”

Shila Richard
Charlotte School of Law, McMillan Fellow and Family Support & Health Care Clerk
Shila RichardShila’s favorite part of working with LSSP this summer was working closely with her supervising attorney, Gretchen Caldwell, and having her own clients. She says Gretchen and her clients made her feel like her work ethic was appreciated – like she finally belonged and contributed to helping those in need. Shila shared that it was a challenge to learn about all of the Medicaid and Social Security rules, but the staff made it a great experience. Her proudest accomplishment was being able to represent her client at his Medicaid for Aged and Disabled state hearing after much preparation. She fondly remembers finding an encouraging sticky note at her desk after telling a fellow clerk that she was nervous about the hearing.

“LSSP has played a huge role in shaping my perspective, personal development, and future goals,” Shila says. “Being here has taught me that you can be the change, you can be someone’s voice, and you can be who you are while doing so. I have always been very passionate about public interest work and issues, but having the chance to really learn more and work with the clients was a major benefit.”

Nick Torres
Furman University, Courthouse Volunteer
Nick says he had no clue what to expect before beginning, since working in the court house every day is a job that you cannot study for. He expressed that Kathryn Coiner-Collier, his supervisor, provided care and support that have been a huge help, making the summer an incredible opportunity and experience that he would recommend a thousand times. Nick says he recognized how fortunate he is before the summer, but LSSP has shown him what an honor it is to serve others.

“I am very proud of the fact that for the first time respondents don’t feel like they are stepping into a trap, due to the caring and friendly face that Kat and I provide – they know that this is a safe space. The fear that people feel when they arrive to court is a fear that I hope many will never have to experience in their lives.”


LSSP was honored to have two James B. McMillan Legal fellows work join us this summer. Shila Richard, of Charlotte School of Law, served as a Family Support & Healthcare clerk, and Josh Martinkovic, of UNC School of Law, served as a Consumer Protection clerk. Established by the Mecklenburg County Bar in 1995 to honor the memory of U.S. District Judge James B. McMillan, the fund awards fellowships to law students who demonstrate a commitment to public interest service and seek career opportunities with nonprofit or governmental agencies in Mecklenburg County. LSSP is one of 16 agencies participating in the program.

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Hola Noticias Promotes LSSP Navigator Outreach Event

This week’s edition of Holas Noticias highlights LSSP’s efforts to let local non-citizens learn abou072016 Holas Noticias Latino Outreach Screenshot (2)t benefits they can receive. The article promotes an out event Aug. 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Midwood International & Cultural Center Auditorium, where attendees can learn about accessing healthcare, food and income assistance. LSSP’s healthcare navigator team is hosting the event in partnership with Enroll America, International House, the City of Charlotte and the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services.

Read the article here

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SHARE This Summer with LSSP

SummerSHARE lemonade logo size

 

Join LSSP July 11-22 in a Charlotte-wide initiative to help local nonprofits meet the needs of our community this summer

Legal Services of Southern Piedmont has partnered with Summer SHARE CLT with hopes of inspiring our neighbors to help address the needs of our community during a time of the year when demand for assistance increases for many nonprofits. While the needs of clients and programs may rise with temperatures in the summer, donations that supplement those needs are often down. Don’t take a vacation from giving!

The campaign lasts two weeks, running July 11-22.

You can participate by visiting www.summershareCLT.org  to purchase an item on LSSP’s  Amazon Wish List or by simply giving a monetary donation to support LSSP’s mission of ensuring a full measure of justice for those in need. Then pat yourself on the back and spread the word. Encourage friends, family, neighbors and coworkers to join you in supporting LSSP and Charlotte’s nonprofit community.

SummerSHARE 2016 Coloring Books Graphic 2

What does LSSP need this summer?

Don’t underestimate the power of a crayon. Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont is asking for a lot of great things to help us better serve our clients during the Summer SHARE CLT giving initiative, including coloring books! For many of our youngest clients, the trauma of leaving the poverty and violence of their home countries is often exacerbated by the confusing and stressful court proceedings they participate in once they arrive in Charlotte. Coloring gives these children an outlet for their apprehension and offers a therapeutic way to express their feelings as they spend hours in a court waiting room. Help LSSP encourage our youngest clients this summer by offering them a creative outlet during such a difficult time in their lives.

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LSSP Navigators on Estrella TV Charlotte

 

LSSP Health Insurance Navigators Julian Cernuda and Elizabeth Garcia are spreading the word about Special Enrollment Periods and coverage options in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Learn more in this Estrella TV Charlotte segment.

Read more on Special Enrollment Periods in this Hola Noticias article.

 

 

 

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Welcome, 2016 Summer Clerks and Interns!

IMG_7861 Edit (Web)

Meet our 2016 summer clerks and interns!

From left to right:

Daniel Betkoski of Charlotte School of Law – Veterans Legal Services Clerk

Erin Daugherty of Notre Dame Law School – Family Support &
Health Care Clerk

Josh Martinkovic of University of North Carolina School of Law – Mecklenburg County Bar McMillan Fellow & Consumer Protection Clerk

Savannah Peters of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Nonprofit Intern

Shila Richard of Charlotte School of Law – Mecklenburg County Bar McMillan Fellow & Family Support & Health Care Clerk

Christopher Contreras of Charlotte School of Law – Immigrant Justice Clerk (not pictured)

Nicholas Torres of Furman University – Immigrant Justice Intern (not pictured)

 

 

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LSSP to host NC Families Care Coalition meeting – RESCHEDULED

NC Families Care Coalition LogoLSSP New Square Logo (Blue)

 

 

 

 

LSSP and the NC Families Care Coalition invite you to attend a regional meeting being held in Charlotte on June 17 to discuss current coalition efforts around paid leave, paid sick days and living wages for North Carolina’s working people, and for non-member groups to learn more about joining the fight for family-friendly workplace policies.

What: Regional meeting of the NC Families Care Coalition

When: Rescheduled to Friday, June 17, from 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

Where: Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, 1431 Elizabeth Avenue, Charlotte, NC

Who: Existing coalition member organizations and groups interested in learning more about (and potentially joining in) the coalition’s work on paid medical leave, paid sick days and living wages.

RSVP here: http://goo.gl/forms/XzpYW5bHQwKUCNzx1

 

 

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Congratulations to our 2015 Pro Bono Honor Roll honorees!

 

Meck A to J Pro Bono LogoOur 2015 Pro Bono Honor Roll is up! Congratulations and thank you to all of our dedicated pro bono attorneys! Each of you has played a key role in helping Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte provide access to justice for those in need in our community.

View the 2015 Pro Bono Honor Roll.

 

 

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