Dozens of former clients of Texas legal aid organizations gathered in Austin earlier this month for the annual Texas Legal Aid Client Conference, an event that allows the client community to remain involved and give back to those who helped them in their time of need.
The clients were especially busy as they made the early decision to devote this year’s conference to tackling the growing financial crisis hitting the state’s legal aid organizations. Proposed cuts in both federal and state funding to legal aid groups are coming at a time when demand for services is at its highest. State budget proposals look to cut funding by 51% while federal proposals would cut funding by 18%.
The clients spent several days listening to presentations from representatives of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and Texas Legal Services Center. On the second day of the conference, the group headed over to the Texas Capitol to meet with elected officials and advocate for proposed legislation that would ease the funding crisis and help legal aid organizations continue to provide services. For many of them, it was their first time inside the Texas Capitol.
Throughout the three day conference the former clients also took time to share the stories of tragedy and recovery that led them to establish a relationship with legal aid. Some of the clients were first introduced to our services more than thirty years ago. All of them have overcome serious setbacks and used their experiences to devote their lives to helping others.
At the conclusion of the conference, the statewide client council elected new officers for the coming year. Former TRLA client and current board member Ofelia Zapata was elected Vice-President.
The 2012 Texas Legal Aid Client Conference will be held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.