Walk for Justice: Annual fundraiser slated for May 11 at Detroit Zoo

By Linda Laderman
Legal News

As the seventh annual William Booth (WBLC) Legal Clinic’s Walk for Justice draws closer, Amy Roemer, the clinic’s director, remembers the first walk at the Detroit Zoo.

“Our first walk was in early April. The temperature was in the mid 30s, it was freezing, and people left as soon it was over because it was so cold,” Roemer said. “Now we hold it in May, and it’s not just a walk anymore. It’s a family friendly event that is more like a big party. There’s a magician, prizes and a silent auction.”

This year’s walk begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 11 at the Detroit Zoo.

Donations and pledges from the walk’s participants make it possible for WBLC to fund the free legal services provided to those who are at, or below, the poverty line, Roemer said.

“Since the first walk the number of participants has doubled and our net profits have almost quadrupled. That’s important because the walk is the primary source of funding for the legal clinic. At the same time, it’s also a great avenue for the legal community and the community at-large to learn more about what we do,” Roemer said.

While the lighthearted aspects of the walk will be emphasized on May 11, Roemer expects the event to also increase community awareness of the many challenges that exist for people who need, but are unable to pay for, legal services.

“Most of us recognize how overwhelming and confusing the judicial system can be for people who can afford to hire an attorney, let alone for someone who has no idea how to access legal services. That’s where we come in,” Roemer said.

The issues WBLC handles are not unlike problems that a large part of the population faces. The difference is in the clinic’s ability to handle a wide range of civil disputes, rather than specializing in just one area, Roemer said.

“We try not to limit ourselves to specific legal issues or to a particular group of people. Other than criminal law, we deal with basic civil litigation like landlord-tenant, credit and custodial issues,” Roemer said.

“Imagine if you are a struggling single parent and you get an eviction notice when you believe you’ve been paying your rent, or you let your child go to a birthday party with the other parent’s family, but they don’t return your child. These are stressful overwhelming situations. When you can’t afford a lawyer it can feel like there’s nowhere to turn.”

Besides the walk, WBLC also has a robust outreach program that aims to inform the legal community about its services and to refer area residents who are eligible for its services.

“We don’t do walk-ins with clients but we are in Wayne County Circuit Court Thursdays every month where we help anyone with any family law problems. We do a child support program at the Detroit Law Library twice a year, and any time someone needs a legal aid table at an event we’re there,” Roemer said.

Roemer credits her staff, who despite carrying a full schedule, have made the walk happen for the last 7 years.

“I am really proud of my team. We are three attorneys who have figured out how to put on this fund-raiser. We’ve learned out how to do it, while not missing a beat with our clients,” Roemer said. “It’s exciting to accomplish this and watch it grow.”

As the only clinic of its kind in the Salvation Army’s network, WBLC is a unique and integral part of the organization’s mission to help underserved communities.

“Our primary purpose is to reach the people who need us, the ones who face legal troubles every day. We want their experience with our clinic to be life changing. Support for the walk helps us continue to do that,” Roemer said.

More information at www.WALKFORJUSTICE.org .

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