Domestic Violence Project: 2014 Reflections

Esteemed board member Avi Stadler always says “AVLF saves lives.” Sometimes we really do. Other times, we aren’t enough. With the Domestic Violence Project and the GAL program, however, we – volunteers, staff, donors – have the distinct privilege of playing a pivotal role at turning point in the life of the vulnerable. As I look back over 2014, I would like to acknowledge the loss of a client to the violence we battle daily. I also look back and see hundreds of lives that are now safer and more secure because they knew us. I look forward to 2015 and envision a sea of women, men and children whose stories, still to be written, will be richer for having us as minor characters.

That future is possible because of so many amazing people. We welcomed so many new attorneys to our legion of incredible volunteers representing victims of violence and children in conflict. Special thanks to firms who have newly joined us in our work keeping families safe, particularly Parker Hudson, Nelson Mullins and Jones Day, whose fledgling domestic violence volunteers were among some of the brightest and most passionate this year. We are so lucky to be able to thank, year after year, Alston & Bird, King & Spalding, Sutherland, DLA Piper and Kilpatrick for their standing commitments to represent survivors of family violence with our Project. Thank you to Emory, Georgia State and John Marshall for the privilege of working with law student externs whose passion, hard work and ability inspire us. Of course, even greater thanks to the externs themselves who truly make my life, and the program, better.

So much is owed to the family law bar, this year more than ever. Their patronage and generosity is now almost exclusively responsible for making the Guardian ad Litem program as possible. The Family Law Committee of the YLD’s Supreme Cork event blew us away for the third year, sustaining the DV and GAL programs and making it look easy (which it isn’t). As if Warner, Bates, McGough, McGinnis & Portnoy’s annual August GAL fundraiser, one of the highlights of my year, wasn’t enough to prove what a small group of amazing and generous individuals can make, they went further in their commitment to keeping families safe and healthy by committing to represent victims of violence in divorce and custody matters. Thank you for giving both parents and children a meaningful chance to make permanent, positive change. Thank you to the amazing attorneys (and friends) who have dinner with me each month and to share their experience and advice (and crazy stories) so that I can, in turn, pass that wisdom off as my own. You make AVLF’s trainings the best in the state and my stewardship of the GAL program possible.

Thank you to the Fulton County Superior Court bench, administration and of course the Family Division for caring enough about families and pro se litigants to allow for creative, collaborative programs. Thank you to the process servers who volunteer their time to track down the people who truly don’t want to be found. Thanks to the Fulton County Sheriffs who handle unbelievable numbers of cases and make family violence a real priority. Thank you to every donor and foundation that value Atlanta families enough to give them a voice in the legal system.

I look forward to seeing what 2015 has in store for Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and our friends – thank you for making that future a reality.