'Champions' event to honor volunteers
By MATT CHANDLER
[email protected] | 716-541-1654
All year long, attorneys and volunteers at Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of WNY Inc. and the Volunteer Lawyers Project toil behind the scenes on civil legal cases.
It seems only fitting, then, that the organizations stop and take a day to celebrate the staff and volunteers who make it all happen.
That day will be Nov. 30, as providers of civil legal services come together for the fifth annual Champions for Justice Bash.
"As always, we promise no long speeches interrupting the bash," VLP President Robert Elardo said with a laugh. "This is truly a night to have a good time, to mingle and to celebrate the great work being done by these two groups."
Given funding cutbacks in recent years for civil legal service programs, coupled with the increase in demand for services, he said the event serves as a much-needed fundraiser for local programs.
"So many of the grants we operate on are so specific as to what we can spend the money on," Elardo said. "So we really need the kind of unrestricted money that comes from this bash to help us fill in the gaps."
Karen Nicolson agreed. She heads Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of WNY and said fundraisers such as the Champions Bash are vital to its long-term success.
"We use the vast majority of our fundraising dollars to support elder abuse and guardianship work," Nicolson said.
She and Elardo said their organizations are forced to turn away potential clients because the need is greater than the available manpower and resources.
"Overall, our numbers (of clients served) have increased by about 23 percent over last year," Nicolson said.
Much of that spike was in the area of elder abuse, which she said has grown significantly. In fact, her office has a full-time employee who exclusive handles such cases.
"We see both the physical abuse and the financial abuse," she said. "We have seen a real increase in the financial scams that have been shut down in other parts of the country moving into Western New York."
Champions for Justice will feature silent and basket auctions, food stations, an open bar and live music.
For information, see www.ecbavlp.com