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Donor Appreciation Spotlight: Oregon Law Foundation

Posted by | Vanessa Briseño, Chief Development & Communications Officer

We are fortunate to have extremely generous donors and volunteers who give their time, energy, support, and resources to Catholic Charities. As part of our donor and volunteer appreciation campaign, we are recognizing individuals and organizations who share God’s love and spread Christ’s light by partnering with Catholic Charities. Because of them, we can bring vital, lifesaving services to our neighbors in greatest need. Here’s the Oregon Law Foundation’s story:

Since 1981, The Oregon Law Foundation has supported access to justice in Oregon by obtaining and distributing funds to provide legal services to persons of lesser means, promote diversity in the legal profession, and educate the public about the law. The foundation has a unique funding source and distribution method designed for organizations that can then provide funding for civil legal services. “There’s always been a limited amount of money to fund lawyers who can help people who can’t afford a lawyer or access legal services,” shared Judith Baker, Oregon Law Foundation Executive Director.

In 2018, The Oregon Law Foundation found, through its Civil Legal Needs (CLNS) study, that those without access to legal services often need the most help. The study highlights the categories of greatest legal needs and how few resources many Oregonians are able to access, showing the average low-income household experienced 5.4 civil legal problems over the last year. Furthermore, many of the legal issues that low-income Oregonians face relate to essential life needs, the “most harmful” being immigration. “According to the CLNS, immigration problems were the most harmful of any legal problem to participant’s lives,” said Judith.

Catholic Charities of Oregon understands the need to provide access to immigration legal services all too well, which is why we’re honored to receive funding from the Oregon Law Foundation. Judith further explained that the Oregon Law Foundation has provided funding to Catholic Charities’ immigration legal services (ILS) work dating back to the early 2000s: “Our mission is to provide funding for organizations that provide civil legal services to at risk populations. Because ILS meets the Oregon Law Foundation’s charitable mission, we have provided funding for the work and have done so for well over a decade.”

The Oregon Law Foundation has worked with Catholic Charities’ ILS team, led by John Herrera. “The Oregon Law Foundation has been a wonderful supporter of Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services program for many years now,” said John. “Their support has been crucial to keeping our families together, and they’ve played a vital role in our services to the immigrant and refugee communities of Oregon and Southern Washington. We are so grateful for the Oregon Law Foundation.”

In 2020, and with the participation of our ILS team, the foundation funded another study to measure the economic impact of providing services to help immigrants navigate our legal system. The study revealed a drastic economic benefit: one dollar of funding given to our ILS program resulted in five dollars of positive economic and community impact. “ILS allows people to stabilize their lives by giving them the opportunity to eventually get and maintain a job,” Judith elaborated.

We are so grateful to have the Oregon Law Foundation as a long-time funder of Catholic Charities of Oregon’s efforts across the state and helping our agency ensure that rural areas have access to resources. “We’ve been involved in several conversations with ILS asking how we should spend these dollars that will be in the best interest of [our] clients,” Judith shared. “Catholic Charities of Oregon has a unique model, in which they work with partner organizations in rural areas to make sure people with legal issues can get the service they need in the rural area in which they live.”

The foundation has also provided funding to Catholic Charities of Oregon in our deportation defense work. Catholic Charities established the Center for Removal Defense in 2017 to help ensure broader fairness and increased effectiveness in our local and state immigration system by providing legal protections for mixed-status families. The Center leverages Catholic Charities’ ILS team to improve our ability to tackle complex immigration court cases, specifically detention and removal defense, for vulnerable families.

We could not be more proud to work with The Oregon Law Foundation in our mission to give everyone access to justice and the chance to rebuild their lives.

Thank you to our friends at the Oregon Law Foundation. You #Inspire Us.