By Patty Mullahy Fugere

As the Legal Clinic’s thirtieth anniversary year nears an end, and in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, we look back in gratitude upon the three decades that we have had the privilege of doing this important work.

We are grateful for our volunteers. Since our very first intake session with our very first client, many hundreds of pro bono lawyers and legal assistants have played an integral role in our ability to be present to our clients where they need us, when they need us most. Whether through individual representation, class action litigation, regulatory and policy work, or board service, our partners from DC’s very generous legal community have allowed us to stay faithfully by our clients’ sides. Last week we celebrated the many volunteers who make this important work possible, in particular lifting up the outstanding advocacy of our 2017 volunteers and community partners of the year:

Rising Star Award

Keturah Brown, Josh Levin and Justin Heipp

Lois G. Williams Extraordinary Service Award

Susan Bender and Bill Hassler

Mary Ann Luby Community Partner Award

Obadiah Black and Reggie Black

Outstanding Firm Award

Jones Day

We are grateful to all of our community allies who have shared a vision of a more just and inclusive DC and who have given everything they’ve got to make that vision a reality. We have been especially honored to work side by side with the People for Fairness Coalition, People Power Action, Fair Budget Coalition, Good Faith Communities Coalition, ONE DC, Organization of United People, LEDC, Housing Counseling Services, and our awesome colleagues in the legal services community.

We are grateful to the countless donors who, for thirty years, have placed their confidence in us to be good stewards of their resources. We thank these foundations, law firms, corporations and individuals for believing in us and trusting in our efforts to make life more just for our clients.  Most especially, we are grateful to the Public Welfare Foundation, which has provided the Legal Clinic with a home for the past fourteen years.

We are grateful for those in government who have approached their work with a spirit of public service, who have listened to and learned from our neighbors experiencing homelessness and have done their best, often with limited resources and little political will to support them, to respond to our clients’ needs.

We are grateful, most of all, for our clients…for placing in us their trust and confidence; for sharing with us – and oftentimes the broader community – their deeply personal and sometimes painful stories; for courageously speaking their truth; for standing firm against the forces that seek to erase them from the District’s landscape; for inspiring us with their ability to approach even the most difficult days with a spirit of joy and generosity.

We would like to imagine, thirty years from now, that the Legal Clinic will no longer need to exist. That an unbreakable social safety net will catch all who need a hand to make it through whatever personal storm they may face. That the voices of low-income residents will be a vital ingredient in policy and budget deliberations. That economic development will prioritize the needs of people over profit. That each and every resident of the District of Columbia will have a place to call home. And for that, we will be immensely grateful.

We wish you a joyful holiday, filled with the love of family and friends…and an ample measure of justice.