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Legal Studies Volunteers Help Those in Need
(l-r) Students Melissa Cunningham and Kevin Haggerty and faculty member Deborah Boyle, all of the Legal Studies Department, volunteered their services recently helping low-income residents who were in danger of having their utilities shut off.
They took part in a pro bono project called "Utility Day," providing counseling and legal advice to low-income individuals in danger of having their utilities shut off. The Student Paralegal Association worked closely with the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association and Statewide Legal Services to assist with this event.
Volunteers from the University met with clients one-on-one, counseled them on ways to pay off their utility arrearages, and advocated for them with utility company representatives to negotiate a reasonable payment plan. All involved said they enjoyed using their legal education to help others.
"This was a gratifying experience, an eye-opener, and a reality check combined," said Kathi Boratko, a Student Paralegal Association member and Utility Day volunteer. Boratko said she was told that the volunteers had helped nearly 60 people.
"My last client, a woman with three children, lost her job because she had to leave frequently to pick up her disruptive son from school. Eventually her son was expelled, and she cannot seek work because she cannot leave him home," Boratko said. "They had plastic covering their windows and were heating their house with their oven. She had pawned her television to get money to do laundry."
Boratko helped the client negotiate with the electric company. "They gave her a 60-day extension, suggested a payment plan, and offered to visit her home to suggest ways that she could economize further on electricity consumption," Boratko said. "The client hugged me at the end of the meeting. That was the most gratifying part of the day."
Kevin Haggerty, a Student Paralegal Association member and volunteer, also found the experience to be extremely rewarding. "Overall, I felt this was a very worthwhile event," he said. "Almost everyone seemed sincerely grateful for whatever assistance I could give them."
University volunteers included faculty member Deborah Boyle; alumni Josephine Mitchell, Karen Malenfant, Bonita McCoy, and Claire Bergin; and students Kathi Boratko, Robbin Messersmith, Kevin Haggerty, Renee Taylor, Tiana Notice, and Melissa Cunningham.