Bridging the Justice Gap
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Ellie’s Blog: December 1, 2014

“Happy Birthday to Us!”

Dear Donors, Friends of Justice, and Supporters:

Today is our third birthday!

Yes, three years ago today–on December 1, 2011–Call for Justice, LLC opened for business. True, we weren’t much back then; in fact, all we had was a completely empty conference room in the Greater Twin Cities United Way building in downtown Minneapolis. My office consisted of a folding chair from home; the”desk” was the box in which a brand new printer had arrived; the printer rested on an empty banker’s box. We had no logo, no website, no template, and no road map of any kind.

C4J’s First Headquarters (2011)

What I did have was a charge: Call for Justice, LLC (“C4J” to us insiders) was created to help low-income persons in legal need connect with lawyers and legal resources so as to preserve basic life necessities like shelter, personal safety, and key family relationships. The technical phrase for this is access to justice.

As a former private practice civil trial lawyer, that charge was all I needed to get started. And get started I–no, make that we–did.
In relatively short order, we had an employee–Jillian Chmiel who later was succeeded by Emily Lindholm. We began building a program to train United Way 211 on how to make targeted legal referrals. In May, 2012, we launched our Legal Liaison Program to help nonprofit legal providers and social services agencies communicate better. In July, 2012, we started videotaping the 211 trainings–and now have 15 training videos posted to the C4J website, something which has become a critical community resource. Indeed, we’re approaching 35,000 YouTube views of those videos!

Recording for United Way 211

Along the way, we’ve helped many people in legal need connect with lawyers. The Jeremiah Program (which helps elevate women and children out of intergenerational poverty) now has lawyers thanks to a C4J-inspired collaboration. The Catholic Opportunity Center found lawyers through C4J. And soon, people caught in the Justice Gap–those who make too much to be eligible for Legal Aid but not enough to pay market rate lawyers–will have the ability to connect with new lawyers in Saint Paul via a community law firm that C4J envisioned and then facilitated from idea to reality.

Jeremiah Program Collaboration Partners

From left: Cindy Anderson (Lindquist & Vennum LLP), Rebecca Putzer (Jeremiah Program), Ellie Krug (Call for Justice), Hawi Baisa-Chiri (Jeremiah Program), Martha Delaney (Volunteer Lawyers Network) and Autumn Nelson (previously Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.)

We have many other accomplishments as well, but for now, let me just say one last thing:

Thank you. Thank you so very, very much! 

We could not have made it these three years without your unwavering support. We’re particularly thankful for two visionaries–Tom Fraser and Mike Unger–who worked tirelessly to make C4J a reality long before I was hired as its executive director. We’re thankful for our past and present board members who have stood by us as we made our way.

And too, we are thankful for all of you! You have made C4J possible!

I am very grateful to have been given the chance to serve this wonderful nonprofit. I look forward to bringing you news of more successes and accomplishments as we mark more birthdays ahead.



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