It’s a fact that’s often overlooked — more people living in the Menlo Park area than one might expect need some kind of legal assistance or advocacy help. “People don’t realize the extend of the situation or the issues that need addressing,” said Stacey Keare, who was recently elected President of the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County.
Legal Aid’s mission is to help disadvantaged and vulnerable persons improve their lives through equal access to justice. Since its founding in 1959, it has served over 175,000 clients throughout the community. Last year Legal Aid provided legal assistance to 84 families in Menlo Park, many of whom had more than one legal issue. The organization is the only provider of free legal services in the County to people who need help in the areas of access to health care, public benefits, elder abuse, special education and other issues.
Stacey, who’s been on the Board since 2009 and who describes herself as “a non-profit kind of person,” has a number of goals set for her tenure.
“The first is to work through the strategic plan we put together last year,” she said. “The organization has been around over five decades, but this is the first time there’s been a strategic plan. Our Executive Director Stacey Hawver is doing a good job of incorporating it.”
Her other goal is to broaden the support that attorneys provide the organization. “Law firms are steady donors, but I’d like to see increased giving from individual attorneys,” she said.
Stacey has served as a pro bono attorney at the Pro Bono Project, General Assistance Advocacy Project and San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation. She has also been a board member of Summit Prep Charter High School and Summit Public Schools. She is on the Silicon Valley Leadership Board of the Global Fund for Children and the Kennedy School’s Women’s Leadership Board
Not all the people who approach the local Legal Aid Society are defined strictly as needing legal services, according to Stacey. “By helping people get their proper health benefits and to escape from abusive problems, we’re ultimately helping people with their lives, not just their legal issues.”
Photo by Scott R. Kline