Legal Aid will host its annual meeting with keynote remarks from Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr

by Tonya Sams

     (Plain Press, December 2022) The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland will host its 117th Annual Meeting on Friday, December 2, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland. Legal Aid’s annual event will highlight hope, extend gratitude, and provide updates on high-impact community partnerships and initiatives. Additionally, Legal Aid leaders will unveil the organization’s new strategic plan.

     Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will share reflections on Legal Aid’s work to promote fairness, racial equity, and social justice. Dr. Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. As an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Dr. Gates has produced and hosted more than 20 documentary films, most recently The Black Church on PBS and Black Art: In the Absence of Light for HBO. His groundbreaking genealogy series, Finding Your Roots, has been on PBS for eight seasons.

     Dr. Gates joins a distinguished list of past Legal Aid keynote speakers, including U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, and most recently, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who have highlighted the importance of civil legal aid at past events.

     Legal Aid’s Annual Meeting is a chance for philanthropists, community members, nonprofit organizations, and business leaders to gather and reflect on Legal Aid’s accomplishments over the past year, as well as learn about bold new initiatives and plans for the year ahead.

     Awards will be presented to outstanding employees and volunteers who demonstrate profound support for Legal Aid’s mission. Honorees include:

  • The Campaign for Legal Aid Cabinet, receiving the Louis Stokes Paragon Award.
  • Staff members Corrylee Drozda, Esq., Katherine Hollingsworth, Esq., Haley Martinelli, Esq., and Deborah Petit-Frere, receiving the Claude E. Clarke Awards.
  • Staff member Jennifer Kinsley Smith, Esq., receiving the Leadership Award.
  • Staff member Alexandria Ruden, Esq., receiving the C. Lyonel Jones Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • The Honorable Mary Jane Trapp, receiving the Volunteer Lawyers Program Legacy of Justice Award.
  • Mark Dobbins, Esq., Michael Durnwald, Esq., Allison Kreiner, MD, and Irene Meyerhoefer, receiving the Volunteer Lawyers Program Access to Justice Awards.
  • Leslie Gentile, Esq., Lydia Gross, Esq., and Jennifer Himmelein, Esq., receiving the Volunteer Lawyers Program Community Impact Awards.

     Founded in 1905, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is the fifth oldest legal aid organization in the United States. Serving residents of Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Lorain counties, Legal Aid staff and volunteers secure justice and resolve fundamental problems for those who have low incomes and are vulnerable by providing high-quality legal services and working for systemic solutions.

     Visit for more details and to purchase Annual Meeting tickets.                   Do you need assistance with a legal civil matter? Legal Aid maybe able to help. Call 888-817-3777 or visit for more information.
Tonya Sams is the Development and Communications Assistant at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

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