Partnerships at Work: Ford and LAD

Now that you’ve read about the successful pro bono partnership developed by our friends at ExxonMobil and Hunton & Williams LLP*, The PBEye would like to share the story of another important collaboration between Ford Motor Company** and the Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc. (LAD).

Ford first partnered with LAD in March 2010 to pilot a food stamp clinic.  The clinic seeks to assist the growing number of people living in poverty in Detroit, which recently exceeded 30 percent of the population, resulting in an overwhelming number of food stamp benefit cases being referred to government caseworkers.

During the clinic, Ford attorneys help participants assess their eligibility using an online program to calculate the amount of food stamps the clients should be receiving. The volunteers also assist clinic participants who are eligible for, but not receiving, food stamps, with completing an application.  If a person receives benefits, but the initial screening suggests he or she might qualify for increased benefits, the clinic participant is advised on how to follow-up with Department of Human Services (DHS).  In light of the project’s success, DHS has become a formal partner by having a caseworker on site for some of the clinics.

During the first eighteen months of the program, Ford and LAD hosted six clinics.  Twenty percent of the attorneys in Ford’s Office of the General Counsel have participated in the program, and LAD estimates that the food stamp benefits awarded to clinic participants amount to nearly $61,000.  Each clinic typically assists between 20 and 40 people, and attendance has increased with each event.

On Sept. 14, Ford and LAD expanded the reach of its collaboration by hosting its seventh clinic in a primarily Spanish speaking community in Detroit, using bilingual volunteers from the Ford Hispanic Network and Wayne State Law School to assist with translation.  

These food stamps clinics are highly successful not only because of the need for food stamps, but because they are designed with the needs of the participants in mind.  Among its innovations is the outreach model.  Ford attorneys go to a local school in the community, rather than having clinic participants travel 20 or 30 minutes to Ford’s offices.  The clinics utilize the technology available in the schools to access online applications.  Additionally, the Ford Motor Company Fund has provided a generous grant to LAD that provides money for gas, grocery gift cards, and breakfast to clinic participants.

As a result of Ford’s leadership and good work, LAD intends to expand the program to partner with others.  Keep up the good work, Ford and Legal Aid Defender Association! And to our readers, stay tuned for our next partnership success story.

*denotes Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
**denotes Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM