FLAC sets fundraiser, explores other revenue sources

By Mike Scott
Legal News

As the economic climate in the Detroit area remains challenging, the Free Legal Aid Clinic (FLAC) through Wayne State University is casting a wider net in its fund-raising efforts.
FLAC will host its annual summer fundraiser at Opus One restaurant in Detroit on Wednesday, Sept. 9, from 6-10 p.m. The event will include a silent auction, dinner, and live music, and serves as one of three major fund-raisers held by FLAC each year.
FLAC is the law school’s oldest and largest legal aid clinic. It originated as a student-run nonprofit organization and continues today in partnership with Lakeshore Legal Aid and the Elder Law & Advocacy Center.
FLAC provides legal assistance in state court on elder law and family law matters, such as custody, support, visitation, and divorce. It is available for three ungraded credits or work-study and includes a classroom component.
The fundraising events are run by students from Wayne State University Law School, who attempt to come up with unique ideas for the summer soiree each year.
Second-year law school students who work at the center are traditionally in charge of developing the theme of the event, which in past years has featured fashion shows and wine tasting opportunities.
“It’s fun because our summer fundraiser is organized by our new group of student attorneys and they really develop a sense of camaraderie,” said Brea Engel, a third-year Wayne State student who serves as the secretary of FLAC’s executive board.
She was involved with organizing last year’s summer fund-raisers at Leon & Lulu’s in Clawson and Elysium Lounge in Detroit. Those two have been combined into one event this year.
“It also helps us to develop business practices and understand what it takes to work on the nonprofit setting, not just a legal setting,” she added.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the summer event is offering a range of silent auction items, said Michelle Ciaverilla, a second-year law school student at Wayne State and one of the organizers of the Opus One affair.
“We have found that locally-owned businesses are pretty responsive in donating items because they feel more of a sense of community,” Ciaverilla said. “But it is a lot of work and it often takes time to find the right contact person.”
The goal for this year’s event is to attract at least 70 attendees and to raise upward of $15,000, according to Ciaverilla. Opus One is providing the entire restaurant for the event with deep food and drink discounts, she said.
FLAC also holds a spring fundraiser that has been held at the home of FLAC founders Ron and Mary Anne Helveston for 45 years, Engel said.
That is traditionally the largest fundraiser of the year. A winter fundraiser is also held.
Between the three, FLAC is able to raise tens of thousands of dollars. Most of the remaining budget for the office is derived from grants and other public funding.
“It’s naturally difficult to reach some lawyers because the FLAC helps people that many attorneys may not know personally, so they may not be aware of the positive effect it has on the lives of our clients,” Engel said. “So many lawyers have other charitable and personal interests that we’re just trying to get in on their radar, and then extend beyond the legal community.”
FLAC works closely with Lakeshore Legal Aid and the Elder Advocacy Center in Redford on many of its cases.
There are currently 140 open cases, Engel said, with a nearly 50/50 split between family and elder law. FLAC closes an average of 350 cases each year.
“That’s a number we are very proud of,” Engel said.
Tickets for the Sept. 9 event are available for $50 a person by calling FLAC at (313) 833-0058 or visiting www.detroitflac.com. A description of how to donate to FLAC can be found at www.detroitflac.com/donate.
“We’re enthusiastic this year about even increasing the amount of money we can raise,” Engel said. “It goes to a great cause. These days so many people need and appreciate our help.”