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access to justice

ATJ Campaign Raises $20,000 in West Michigan Corporate Gifts


Pledges and donations raised in Grand Rapids on February 16 at a State Bar of Michigan corporate reception to benefit the Access to Justice (ATJ) Fund bring recent west Michigan corporate donations to some $20,000. Over 50 leaders from west Michigan law firms and businesses attended the event at the downtown University Club.

ATJ Fund contributions support civil legal aid for the poor provided by ATJ Fund-eligible programs, including the west Michigan-based Legal Assistance Center, Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project Inc., and Legal Aid of Western Michigan.

Left to right: Jon Anderson, Varnum Riddering; Teresa Hendricks, executive director, Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project; Kristen Hanratty, interim director, Legal Assistance Center; Mike Chielens, executive director, Western Michigan Legal Services; Dr. Harry Knopke, president, Aquinas College and Jerome Reide, director, Justice Initiatives, State Bar of Michigan.

To date, total contributions, pledges and planned gifts for the ATJ Fund stand at more than six million dollars. These contributions help ensure that low-income individuals and families have access to the justice system to resolve their civil legal disputes. Last year, thousands of low-income people were helped with civil legal assistance by the 43 Michigan nonprofit programs eligible to receive ATJ Fund donations.

"Since the inception nearly ten years ago the State Bar Access to Justice Campaign has helped to raise funds to support assistance to countless individuals in our state who otherwise could not have afforded legal help," said Dr. Harold Knopke, of Aquinas College during his remarks as the event's Honorary Chair. "Regrettably, a variety of factors are causing the numbers of economically disadvantaged to increase, rather than lessen. While there is much more work for all of us to do in addressing this reality, I'm confident we can build on the program's admirable record established to date and help even more people."

In response to the call for corporate support donations, several West Michigan law firms joined the effort with first time pledges and gifts to the ATJ Fund totaling about $15,000. Included were the firms of: Benefiel, Farrer and Glista; Drew, Cooper and Anding; Silver and Van Essen and Parmenter O'Toole.

In addition, many area firms continued their support for the ATJ Fund including: Howard and Howard; Law, Weathers and Richardson; Mika, Meyers, Beckett and Jones; Miller, Johnson, Snell and Cummiskey; Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt and Howlett; Warner, Norcross and Judd and the Paul Goebel Group.

Donors to the ATJ Fund can designate gifts to a specific program or may choose to have their donation support civil legal aid needs throughout the state. All contributions to the ATJ Fund are received and managed by the Michigan State Bar Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) organization. For more information about the ATJ Fund, visit




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State Bar of Michigan
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Lansing, MI 48933-2012
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