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Legal Aid seeks younger, broader base

As the name suggests, Legal Aid of Western Missouri has a lot to do with lawyers. But the organization also wants non-lawyers to play a role.

Denise Henning, right, received the 2011 H. Michael Coburn Award on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. The award is given annually by Legal Aid of Western Missouri for community service. With her is Theresa Levings, a member of Legal Aid's Justice For All Campaign Leadership Committee. Photo by Scott Lauck

The Kansas City-based organization on Tuesday formally announced the creation of the Young Professionals Board. Blake Heath, the board’s interim chairman, said Legal Aid’s traditional base of support has been well-established attorneys. The YPB, he said, is trying to attract younger supporters, from both legal and non-legal professions, to support Legal Aid.

“Their services benefit everybody, not just lawyers,” he said.

The group started up about a month ago and has 30 members to date, Heath said. So far, membership is still heavily skewed toward attorneys, but Heath said his goal is to get 100 members by the end of the year.

Members are asked to pledge $200 apiece. Heath said he hopes to make the board financially independent of Legal Aid at some point, so that group events don’t drain funds from the organization’s services.

Heath spoke at Legal Aid’s “Party with a Purpose,” Tuesday evening at Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City. The donor support party illustrated that increasing private support — and making every dollar count — will be more important than ever in the coming years.

Executive Director Gregg Lombardi said Legal Aid expects to lose $300,000 in federal funding next year, with more cuts to come in the future.

Attorney Pat McLarney, a long-time fundraiser for the organization, said Tuesday that Legal Aid’s Justice For All Campaign has raised $1.3 million. The campaign seeks to raised another $700,000 by the end of 2013.

Also Tuesday, Legal Aid awarded its 2011 H. Michael Coburn Award to Kansas City attorney Denise Henning. The award, named for a former Jackson County circuit judge, has been awarded since 1995 to bar members who show outstanding community service.