Springfield Metropolitan Bar Foundation (MO)
The 1217 Project is a community redevelopment initiative.
Funded by a grant from the Missouri Lawyers Trust Account Foundation and the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Foundation, the 1217 Project is a four-year legal and financial literacy initiative. It is designed to promote individual self sufficiency and disrupt the trend toward intergenerational poverty in Springfield’s Zone One.
The 1217 Project is a direct outgrowth of addressing an identified community need and has established the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Foundation as a crucial partner which is not only in the room where problems are discussed, but at the table digging in and making solutions happen.
Project initiatives have helped at least 800 individuals living in Springfield’s Zone One during its four-year implementation.
The project has four programming spokes:
- ShowMe Prosperity - Legal Literacy Workshops: Quarterly workshops for residents of Zone One (up to 50 per workshop) with one hour of basic instruction followed by a meal and individual consultations with volunteer attorneys. Topics cover legal issues that impact economic independence and family stability, the negative consequences of which contribute to the cycle of poverty, diminish financial independence and prevent family stability (housing law and home ownership, consumer issues, employment, criminal forgiveness)
- Legal Beagle Book Club: Conducted quarterly during adult workshops in lieu of unstructured childcare and include a read aloud, discussion, games and activities. Every child will be given a copy of the book and be encouraged to share what they learned with their parents or guardians.
- The Lawyer is In - Legal Wellness for Nonprofits: Bi-annual workshops to support nonprofits working on improving the lives of Zone One residents
- Law Review for Reverends: Resources and Referrals for Your Flock: Bi-annual workshops for faith leaders providing a broad overview of potential legal issues encountered by parishioners in distressed neighborhoods.
The 1217 Project demonstrates that a small bar foundation can make a huge impact...
The 1217 Project convenes the organized bar and long-time partner Legal Services, together with new allies from the most effective and influential stakeholders in the Springfield community. The collective goal is to reduce the number of families living in poverty. The bar’s contribution is substantial because volunteers are deployed to their highest and greatest use- practicing law. A high percentage of people living in poverty have unfinished business with our courts. This fact alone impedes opportunity and perpetually drains family resources. Lawyers with the 1217 Project are the keys to unlocking barriers to the justice system, giving families hope and a hand to a stable, sustainable future.
In 2018 the 1217 Project served 254 people, mobilized dozens of volunteers and provided an in kind contribution of more than $51,482 to these efforts. This year, 22 lawyers have been trained to take expungement cases through Legal Services of Southern Missouri with a goal to help 100 individuals get a clean slate so that they can focus on a more stable future for their families.
The best evidence of impact is the following testimonials from clients served...
"Without the help of the legal assistance through SMBA, I would have garnished wages and not be able to manage my budget due to medical bills I was unable to pay. I work full time, but I do not have medical coverage. I was smothering under the debt. I was unable to breathe or think about or plan for my future. Thanks to SMBA, I was able to make an educated choice about moving forward with bankruptcy. I am now planning for my future and making better choices for the next phase of my life. I have opportunities that help me get ahead and the tools to stay ahead. 1.5 years ago my employer started offering a match retirement, but I was financially unable to invest. I needed a new vehicle, but I could not get a traditional loan and I didn't want to get into an auto loan trap. This month I started the investment match at work, and I was able to get a low-interest loan for reliable transportation."
"We took in our niece in 2014 and wanted to adopt her, but financially, that wasn’t an option. We couldn’t provide all the care she needed without legally being her parents. In 2017, the SMBA hosted a “legal night” and we met with a lawyer who ultimately took our case. Our adoption should be final this year and it had very minimal cost to us! What a blessing this has been for our family."