With which of PBRC’s projects do you volunteer?
I volunteer with the Home Preservation Project, which helps clients to build intergenerational wealth by paying bills and preserving their home. In many cases, a client’s home is the one major asset they have to pass on. Most recently I have volunteered with the Utility Bill and Advance Planning clinics.
What do you find interesting about this work?
I enjoy working with the diversity of clients in a wide range of circumstances. The clients are generally very happy that someone is taking the time to help them. Being able to provide this support is rewarding.
What challenges do clients currently face?
Many are operating with very limited resources, which often translates to not having access to the internet. Other clients may be elderly and not familiar with using the internet as a resource for help. With Covid restrictions closing offices, libraries, and other public locations, clients are having trouble accessing helpful resources either in person or virtually. I think that as vaccines become more readily available and restrictions are loosened, with there will be an influx of clients that will have an increasingly urgent demand for pro bono representation. This may especially be the case as the eviction moratoria are lifted.
How did you find the process of training and volunteering?
I appreciate the PBRC training webinars and find them to be a good resource. It’s very nice to be able to take the trainings at your leisure. The project staff have also made the volunteering process simple. You can easily sign up for shifts and let them know your availability.
Can you tell me about a memorable client you met while working with PBRC?
I’ve met with clients who are very concerned about their circumstances but simply do not have the means to get their bills paid. One client I particularly remember was a veteran, living on a tightly limited income. He did not have internet or cable and was in danger of having his utilities shut off. After I spoke with the client and let him know about options that were available to help him, he was very relieved. The clients I’ve met have been appreciative of PBRC and other organizations that provide help they would not otherwise receive.
How did you get involved with PBRC?
I wanted to start doing pro bono work but I didn’t know where to get started. I reached out to PBRC and the staff set up a meeting to discuss my goals and all of the available volunteer opportunities. Everyone I have spoken with has been very kind and welcoming.
What do you think other people should know about PBRC?
PBRC has simplified the process allowing attorneys to volunteer and support underserved communities, while minimizing the time commitment. Although Covid has created challenges for how we professionally work today, it has pushed us to work remotely. The result has been positive in that attorneys can volunteer their time without having to be physically present at a clinic location or meet clients face to face. I think this makes it easier to volunteer.
What message would you give to attorneys thinking about volunteering?
I would like to encourage other attorneys to try volunteering for a shift at a clinic. Many of us are busy and work significant hours, and the thought of taking on pro bono work may sound daunting. I’ve found that pro bono work can be what you make of it -- volunteering at a clinic only takes a short time, and with the ability to access clients remotely you can often do this without having to travel.
For more information about volunteering in Maryland, contact:
Dave Pantzer, PBRC Director of Education, Outreach and Technology