The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has become the largest single supporter of the State Bar's Access to Justice Fund. Last year, the Foundation made a $653,000 grant, designating it for the Education and Advocacy Program of the Battle Creek office of Legal Services of South Central Michigan (LSSCM).
The program will fund two staff lawyers, a paralegal, and an intake staff person for three years. The aim is to strengthen existing relationships between legal aid, the low-income community and other human service agencies in Battle Creek to provide education and advocacy in the areas of rental housing quality and public benefits for low-income persons.
State Bar President Scott S. Brinkmeyer said he was "pleased to see that one of Michigan's leading and most respected foundations has supported civil legal services with such a generous and thoughtful grant. I am also hopeful that other foundations and institutional donors will follow this model and use the Access to Justice Fund to increase support for these vital services in other communities."
Jennifer Schrand, the Managing Attorney of LSSCM's Calhoun office, is one of the Education and Advocacy program's planners. Schrand said the program grew out of a series of community meetings in Battle Creek where experience has shown that far too many low-income people are evicted from substandard housing and that by the time an eviction action is in play, it is it is often difficult to prove habitability and other defenses because of the short time frames permitted by the summary proceedings process.
"We have formally recognized safe and affordable housing and access to public benefits as important community needs that must be achieved, and I am very pleased that the Kellogg Foundation is supporting our proposal to tackle these problems head-on," Schrand said.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930, "to help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations." To achieve the greatest impact, the Foundation targets its grants toward specific areas. These include health, food systems and rural development, youth and education, and philanthropy and volunteerism.