Geiger and Faye McCord will be part of the Georgia Legal Services Program to receive the 2014 Hodson Award for Public Service from the American Bar Association in Boston on Aug. 8. Geiger works primarily in Bartow County for the GLSP, while McCord, a Cartersville attorney, serves on the program’s board of directors.
“The legal system is a powerful tool to overcome institutional and cultural barriers that deny people the opportunities they deserve,” Geiger said. “My husband and I moved to Americus, Georgia, where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and I worked in the law firm of its founder, Millard Fuller. GLSP used our offices to meet with their clients, so I got to know the work they did very well. When we moved to Atlanta, I jumped at the chance to work with GLSP.”
GLSP’s Atlanta office serves 15 counties just outside Atlanta, including Bartow. Its lawyers and paralegals serve the civil legal needs of low-income Georgians by addressing basic needs such as shelter, education, food, health care and safety from family violence.
“We wish we could help every low-income applicant with their legal problems, but we simply don’t have the resources to do that. We try to focus on people’s most basic needs — food, shelter, health care, education and safety,” Geiger said. “We help people gain or maintain subsidized housing, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare and unemployment compensation. We represent clients who are victims of domestic violence. We advocate for students in disciplinary hearings to ensure that the punishment is appropriate and does not affect their educational progress. We also help people address their debt and garnishment problems. We have special funding to help low-income seniors with their legal issues.
“Because our office covers 19 counties, we have limited resources and can’t meet all the civil legal needs of the community. For instance, we are not able to assist with custody disputes or most divorces.”
“The work ethic, accomplishments and dedication of the staff of the Georgia Legal Services Program are truly an inspiration to other public lawyers across the country,” said Alexander W. Purdue, chair of the American Bar Association, in a press release.
According to the release, a committee of prominent Georgia lawyers in the nomination letter wrote:
“For over 40 years, GLSP attorneys and paralegals have reached out to clients in rural areas, small towns and even counties in Georgia where there are no other lawyers at all. The firm is innovative, strategic, and effective in addressing critical civil legal problems. In this nomination, you will read about the efforts of GLSP to address the recession-driven legal needs of their clients, even in the face of declining resources with which to do so. We believe the sustained, extraordinary services by GLSP make it highly deserving of the Hodson Award for 2014.”
Geiger said those involved were delighted to be recognized for the work they do.
“During the recession, we lost funding while our eligible client base increased, so we had to be intentional about where we focused,” she said. “It was important to address the most basic areas of need, and we were able to get good results for our clients and keep their living situations stable despite the economic pressures.”
For Geiger, helping those who look to better their situation brings gratification.
“Our clients are grateful for the help we offer, and that’s a good feeling,” she said. “It’s also great to work with the committed and energetic group of attorneys and staff we have at GLSP. I have also enjoyed collaborating with local attorneys who volunteer their time to represent our clients in cases we can’t handle due to lack of resources or expertise. Bartow County has a warm and professional bench and bar with many attorneys committed to meeting their obligation to provide pro bono work.”
For those interested in assistance from the GLSP, call 404-894-7707 Monday through Thursday. Interested persons will be asked about the type of legal problem they have and their income level to determine eligibility. Representation decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.