Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?
SBLC is devoted to helping people help themselves in the most important way: by giving them the opportunity to develop the education and degree that they need to better their lives. I found the organization through Ricky Adams (another associate at the firm), who was friends with the director of marketing and outreach at SBLC and set up a lunch and we hit it off. Immediately, the idea of coordinating expungement clinics was born.
I was originally approached because of my background in criminal law about offering expungement services to SBLC Learners on an as-needed basis, but then I serendipitously found out about MVLS and their services, which had a lot of efficiencies in them; I brought MVLS, SBLC and a group of RMG attorneys together to start an expungement clinic at SBLC using the MVLS systems. The first one had about 15 attendees, the second was over 40, and now are run one every quarter. We have started partnering with Back On My Feet, a nonprofit which uses running to help homeless individuals who are suffering with addiction issues, to broaden the scope of our outreach for the expungement services. Shannon Byrne, another associate at the firm, connected BOMF to SBLC and has been helping with those clinics.
Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?
It helps people who were underserved or not served by the public education system in Baltimore, by letting them develop the literacy that they probably should have had by the time they were a teenager.
What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?
The first hug I got at an expungement clinic—best legal fee ever. I was able to expunge 4 or 5 things off of a woman’s record in a matter of minutes. She was so thrilled she got up and gave me a big hug.
If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?
Because of grant funding cuts at the Federal level, SBLC’s budget took a major hit, so any way to remedy that would help them maintain and expand their programs. They have a proven model and great services and facilities; the only thing limiting their ability to make a positive impact is how much funding they have. There is no tuition for the students, no loans, no pay-as-you-go. They have to find about $1,600 per year per student, and it’s $2,600 on average to get a student all the way through the program to a GED. I can’t think of a bigger impact a non-profit could have in a person’s life for that kind of money than to give them the most fundamental life skill of all – reading.