Executive Director Susan Choe reflects on 2021 and what the Ohio Legal Help team, partners and Ohio families have been able to accomplish over the last year.
As I reflect on the last year, I feel grateful for what the Ohio Legal Help team, our partners and Ohio families have been able to accomplish. Though 2021 was a challenging year much like 2020, there is a growing sense of hope and stability for the people we serve. In 2021, Ohio Legal Help served over 600,000 users and worked to fulfill our mission to remove barriers so that all Ohioans can understand their legal options and make informed decisions. We continued to review the comments we receive through our User Feedback Survey, and one stood out to the team.
Thomas*, from Franklin County, Ohio, told us, “Reading through the website gave me confidence that I was going down the right path.” Each day that we work to add new content, forms and features to the website, we are thinking of users like Thomas. Providing free, accurate legal information and resources helps Ohioans take action to resolve their legal issues.
In 2021, Ohio Legal Help launched two new website features that went hand-in-hand. Through a grant from the Legal Services Corporation and a partnership with Community Legal Aid, the My OLH user hub was created so that users can find, save and complete court forms on their own schedule.
In October, Ohio Legal Help also launched a new online tool that enables domestic violence victims and survivors to more safely and easily access and complete the legal forms they need to obtain a civil protection order through the My OLH hub. Thanks to the partnership with the Ohio Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Domestic Violence, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) and The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, an estimated 50,000 users will access the new tool and critical information next year. We are hopeful that 24/7 tools such as these will help even more Ohioans find the help and safety they need.
Though these were our big projects during the last year, we also were working behind the scenes with pro bono volunteers, like experts from Lexis Nexis. They helped us ensure we used best practices to protect our users’ privacy and information.
Our team worked to monitor updates to COVID-19 protections so that our users would have the most up-to-date information. We are grateful for each Board and Advisory Committee member who helped connect us to new partners and reach an even wider audience. I am confident that we will continue to fulfill our mission in 2022 and serve more Ohioans – including through a Spanish version of the website thanks to a generous grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation.
We hope that new content like our Immigration module and the Spanish Ohio Legal Help website will help us serve new Americans and reach an underserved and vulnerable population.
At this time just last year, I wrote a letter about the Ohioans struggling to make it through the COVID-19 related health and financial hardships. I also wrote about what keeps Ohioans up at night. Like a mother thinking of her daughter, “Learning the hard way from my momma’s death. I want to make it much easier on our daughter to handle everything when her dad and I die. Your information was very easy to understand.” I’m glad we were able to help her and provide her some peace of mind.
While we still see that Ohioans continue to struggle, we are building tools and content to help Ohioans recover and rebuild.
This past fall, we launched our criminal sealing content and eligibility screen. We know that criminal records create barriers to moving forward with things like renting a home or finding a job. This information and action plan, along with employment content that will be released in 2022, will help more Ohioans overcome obstacles and get back on their feet.
This holiday season and beyond, we are calling upon you to help us continue to help families recover from the pandemic. Share our posts on social media; forward our email updates to your colleagues; donate to us to help us create more content, add new website features and continue outreach to the most vulnerable populations in Ohio. Help us help people like Thomas find the right path.
*Name has been changed to protect user privacy.