For many people in our state, the past year has been one of loss, pain and uncertainty. Issues brought about by the pandemic have impacted livelihoods, education and housing. There is very little that hasn’t been changed or impacted in some way by the pandemic and the events of 2020 and 2021. Hearing the call to service and feeling the need to help, members of our legal profession are responding to the needs of the people of our state with resolve, conviction and empathy through the many programs provided by the North Carolina Bar Foundation.
Over the course of the 2020-2021 bar year, our Foundation adopted new methods of service delivery for the pandemic environment, including virtual COVID-19 hotlines, developing a digital Wills for Heroes platform to enable remote consultation and document preparation, and hosting our first fully virtual 4ALL Statewide Service Day. The knowledge drawn from years of program delivery combined with the commitment of our volunteers to serve those in need has made it possible for us to quickly develop and deploy these adapted programs. Our new delivery methods will serve us and the people of our state well through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.
During the pandemic, nearly 4,000 North Carolinians have received free legal information through six COVID-19 Virtual Legal Hotlines. Over 1,677 individuals in 97 N.C. counties received pandemic-related pro bono legal advice through NC Free Legal Answers. The NC Lawyers for Entrepreneurs Assistance Program (NC LEAP) program offered a series of five webinars to advise and counsel low-wealth entrepreneurs. The Wills for Heroes program began hosting clinics on the virtual platform, allowing attorneys to provide end-of-life documents for first responders remotely. The Lawyers in Schools programs were responsive by providing civic educational opportunities to K-12 students remotely. These and other critical NCBF pro bono and public service programs were made possible by the generosity of donors and volunteers.
The Foundation’s work is furthered through grants awarded from the Endowment. The Endowment, created in 1987, has a value that currently exceeds $17.3 million. The Endowment grant process is competitive, making awards to legal service organizations with programs aligned to the Foundation’s mission. The NCBF has made more than $6 million in grants to statewide organizations, including meaningful support to the operations of Legal Aid of North Carolina (the value of the Foundation’s LANC Fund currently exceeds $2.8 million).
The need for legal assistance in North Carolina is as great as it has ever been. The Foundation is continuing to develop programs to meet new and expanding areas of need. The work of our Foundation, programs and volunteers is as important and necessary as ever. Throughout this report, I invite you to learn more about the Foundation’s service to the people of our state. While you will see there is much to celebrate, there is much more to be done.
The work of the NCBF is made possible thanks to volunteer time and private philanthropic support. We are grateful to you for your engagement, commitment and service to the people of our state. The capacity of our profession and our organizations to engage and serve during this time of need is vital for the people of our state. Together, we will continue our important work to unite the talent and generosity of our profession to be a power of greater good for the people of North Carolina.
Thank you for being a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and for your support of the North Carolina Bar Foundation.
Jason M. Hensley
North Carolina Bar Foundation