Pisgah Legal Services is seeking donors for the Justice for Women Giving Challenge, a recently launched fundraising campaign focused on assisting impoverished women with legal issues.

About 75 percent of the clients who come to Pisgah Legal Services are women, many of whom are victims of domestic violence, says Jim Barrett, executive director of the nonprofit organization. Many more women are in poverty than men—and they also are living longer, he points out.

Women who are victimized in domestic situations need help getting restraining orders to protect themselves from abusers. More than that, these women need help staying away from the home where abuse has occurred, Barrett says.

“Lots of ancillary issues go with the economic wherewithal to live apart (from an abuser),” he says. “It is very serious when kids are witnessing this behavior,” Barrett adds.

In addition to helping women who are survivors of domestic violence, Pisgah Legal Services assists them in getting health care and with finding financial aid for child care so they can work. The organization also helps senior women manage limited incomes so that they can remain independent.

Pisgah Legal Services relies on donations from individuals and organizations, as well as financial support from the state to provide free legal advice and services to low-income people in a six-county area of Western North Carolina. 

The organization operates with a $4.2 million budget, which pays a staff that includes 23 attorneys. Pisgah Legal Services also relies on pro bono services of 300 area attorneys who donate their time to work with clients.

With a recent loss of $535,000 in state funding, the need for fundraising has become more critical, Barrett says.

“We’re trying to make that up,” he remarks.

The Justice for Women campaign has received an initial donation of $150,000 from three couples and an individual, which the organization is trying to match with additional contributions. Donations from people who give to Pisgah Legal now through Dec. 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar. 

A $500 donation provides an attorney to assist a domestic violence survivor through the legal process so that she can escape abuse, get custody of her children and begin rebuilding her life. And a $250 contribution can ensure that a single mother or family doesn’t lose a home to foreclosure, or through an unlawful eviction.

“Our second biggest issue is housing-related problems,” Barrett says.

With increasing costs of housing, many people are paying more than they can afford to live in their homes, and are at risk or becoming homeless, he explains.

“Sometimes people fall behind on rent, and we intervene and help them,” Barrett says.

Pisgah Legal Services also helps people who have difficulty getting subsidized housing, including those with disabilities who may be facing discrimination.

“Low income people have more legal problems because they are living so close to the edge,” Barrett says. “Children suffer when adults don’t make enough money—or are addicts,” he adds.

Barrett has been the executive director of Pisgah Legal Services since 1993 and has served on the staff for more than 30 years. 

“I’ve been fortunate to have a job so meaningful,” he says.

People who would like to donate to the Justice for Women Giving Challenge may make contributions online through the Pisgah Legal Services website at www.pisgahlegal.org or by calling Ally Wilson, director of development, at 828-210-3444 to learn about giving options.

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