It’s the third week of the Cleveland Foundation’s Summer Internship Program, and I’m writing from here at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. There’s been a lot to do in these first few weeks, and they’ve certainly kept me busy.
I work in the Development and Communications department of Legal Aid, and mainly I’ve been promoting Jam for Justice, Legal Aid’s largest annual fundraiser. Jam for Justice is a benefit concert with a lineup consisting entirely of judge and lawyer-fronted bands. The bands even have terrible (or great, depending on your perspective) names with puns such as “Out of Order.” Jam for Justice is one of our most important events of the year. Without donations and ticket sales, Legal Aid wouldn’t be able to help the large volume of people that we do. As it is, our organization has to turn down nearly half of all clients who come to us for help, simply because we don’t have the means.
Most of my work on Jam for Justice so far has involved phone calls, emails, face-to-face visits with businesses, and covering the streets of downtown Cleveland with posters advertising the event. One of my biggest projects has been visiting nearly 50 restaurants in the downtown area to request donations for Jam for Justice’s silent auction. This was somewhat of a challenge for me in the beginning, as I’ve never been very good at talking to strangers or projecting the kind of confidence that says, “Hey, give me a fifty dollar gift card to your restaurant for nothing but publicity.” However, as the week went on, I started feeling more comfortable. A good piece of advice my coworker offered me about the development world is this: “Imagine that they already want to give you the donation.” It was something that really stuck with me and helped me feel more confident as I made each phone call or walked into each business.
The most rewarding part of my first few weeks here has been the interactions I’ve had with Legal Aid’s clients. I recently interviewed a client for our newsletter to highlight one of Legal Aid’s success stories. Ralph Arnold* is a Marine veteran who went into hiding for more than 31 years, unable to work legally or access any of his veterans benefits due to an outstanding warrant on a drug arrest and trespassing charges. Arnold has been sober for 15 years now, and with the help of Legal Aid, he was able to get his record concealed and forgiven. The inspiring stories and grateful people like Mr. Arnold make me realize why fundraising for Legal Aid is so important. I hope that through my work here this summer, I can contribute to the forces that make it possible for Legal Aid to continue to help people.
*name has been changed to protect the client’s identity
Olivia Milne, a junior at Wheaton College majoring in Political Science and minoring in Legal Studies, is a Porter Cleveland Fellow placed at the Legal Aid Society. Olivia assists with the coordination and organization of Legal Aid’s social media accounts. She will conduct outreach to support and create processes through which to engage the donor database.