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Annual grants provide transportation, legal assistance during pandemic

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In 2020, the Medina County Community Fund awarded $45,700 to 15 nonprofit organizations that improve the quality of life for Medina County residents now and forever. These grants support the fund’s four pillars of grantmaking – education, health, community service and arts and culture. Throughout the past year, the needs of local nonprofits and our role in the community has never been more important.

Our 2020 funding included a $5,000 grant to Community Legal Aid to support critical, legal assistance to underserved Medina County residents.

Since the early 1950s, Community Legal Aid Services has been committed to serving needy Medina County residents through legal advocacy. Throughout the current health crisis, the organization has helped those in need through litigation surrounding eviction, employment, debt relief, victim protection, and more. Since March 2020, Community Legal Aid has helped more than 300 citizens navigate difficult legal situations as a result of COVID-19.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for legal services in Medina County and its entire service area, Community Legal Aid’s board adopted “strategic priorities for advocacy” in June. These strategic priorities direct staff to use the organization’s resources to provide assistance on the most pressing legal needs arising from the pandemic – prioritizing resources for eviction prevention, barriers to employment, building assets, debt relief, and protecting victims of violence. Throughout the pandemic, the following traditional and non-traditional activities were executed as part of a new project to:

  • Virtual clinics. These sessions are tailored to legal needs specific to the pandemic, such as housing stability and common poverty law issues impacting housing, health, and other arenas. The model includes weekly eviction clinics; bi-weekly foreclosure/ homeowner clinics; and weekly “Ask a Lawyer” Facebook Live events on various civil legal matters. These new virtual models have reached more than 70,000 individuals this year.
  • Traditional legal services. Community Legal Aid maintains one outreach center in Medina County. Since the onset of the pandemic, the office has been closed to in-person visits, but prospective clients can still access legal services through the organization’s help line or via online application. Since July 1, Community Legal Aid’s advocates have worked on 112 cases virtually.
  • Distribution of print items: Since the beginning of this project, Community Legal Aid has distributed approximately 30 printed flyers highlighting its services in response to the pandemic at local community partner agencies. Community Legal Aid also produced 3,500 direct mail pieces regarding stimulus instructions early on in the pandemic to help ensure residents in its coverage area who are most vulnerable and in need of financial assistance could capitalize on these funds.

When the pandemic subsides, leaders of Community Legal Aid plan to continue its virtual presence and again offer onsite office hours.

An additional 2020 grant of $4,000 was awarded to Matthew 25 Coalition, to support its transportation assistance program, providing auto fuel vouchers, vehicle repairs, assistance with insurance fees and more services for underserved Medina County residents. 

Through this funding, Matthew 25 Coalition provided 14 families with gasoline vouchers, used for transportation to work and medical appointments. The organization says the gas vouchers have been a blessing when unexpected monthly expenses crop up on clients with fixed incomes. Matthew 25 Coalition also used their grant to provide needed car repairs to underserved clients.

Medina County Community Fund congratulates Community Legal Aid and Matthew 25 Coalition on their continued service to the community’s most needy, especially during the pandemic. To view a full list of our 2020 grantees, visit: www.akroncf.org/mccfgrants

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