March Provider Spotlights
Monroe County Bar Association – Lawyer Referral Service
Since 1892, the Monroe County Bar Association (MCBA), formerly known as the Rochester Bar Association, has set a precedence of excellence for both quality and accessibility to legal representation. As the MCBA’s Lawyer Referral Service and Grievance Coordinator, Mark Swail connects clients to lawyers who will provide thorough and effective counsel that will ensure justice is served.
Started more than 20 years ago, the Lawyer Referral Service has a dual role in shaping the legal profession within the community. First, it serves the public by providing direct access for clients to legal services. Second, it allows member attorneys greater exposure to the general public, so that they can dispense legal guidance to more people. Mark refers approximately 1400 individuals to attorneys each year. He is clearly passionate about his work, as he describes, “There is NEVER a dull moment in my job, and each day I hear something new! My motivation is the good feeling I get knowing I have made someone’s life just a little bit easier.”
In April 2016, MCBA established a Veterans Committee, with the goal being to coordinate legal representation specifically aimed at the veteran and military community. The committee is comprised of nearly 40 legal professionals, with Mark serving as the committee liaison. To date, he is finding this project a fitting extension of his everyday work. “I have always waived our referral fee, normally $40, for veterans.” Mark looks forward to seeing how the Committee can further assist local veterans who are in need of legal representation.
After learning about NYServes Upstate from the Honorable Patricia Marks, Mark was intrigued by the idea of serving our community’s veteran and military members on a grander scale. Since onboarding into the network as an official provider, Mark has proven to be a top referral source for veterans who have legal needs that cannot be serviced by most non-profit legal agencies. Since the beginning, he has been a true supporter of the network and is enthusiastic about the continued partnership. “I think this is a great way to help more veterans in their struggles of readjusting to civilian life.”
WNYHeroes, Inc. was founded in 2007 by U.S. Army veteran Chris Kreiger and community activist Dionne Kane. After returning in 2004 from the Richmond VA Poly-Trauma Brain Center, Chris felt alone and was quickly losing hope. He knew that something had to be done to better connect with returning veterans so they did not find themselves in the same pitfalls. In 2007, his dream became a reality with the startup of WNYHeroes, Inc. “WNYHeroes came to discussion over cup of coffee and has bloomed from there.”
Today, Chris serves as President and Co-Founder along with support from Lynn Magistrale, Program Coordinator (Air Force and Navy veteran), serving the needs of Western New York’s veterans and their families. They strive to serve veterans who are awaiting earned benefits and additional supportive services. Such delays can cause unnecessary financial, physical, and emotional hardship. WNYHeroes, a 501(c)(3) organization, offers six comprehensive programs: Adopt a Veteran Family, Back to School Backpack, Bridging Hearts, Pawsitive for Heroes, William E. Kramp Jr. Scholarship, and WNY Kids Are Heroes Too.
WNYHeroes realizes that despite their best efforts, the work never ends. They continuously receive calls from veterans who need assistance for services the organization does not offer. Therefore, partnering with NYServes Upstate seemed like a natural next step. Being part of the initiative has afforded them the opportunity to cut their time in half when advocating for veterans. The team no longer spends hours hitting dead ends when trying to connect veterans to services. There is reassurance that they can refer the veteran to the Care Coordination Center and know that they are in good hands.
Chris and Lynn have been pioneers as the initiative’s first WNY providers, and continue on as leaders having the most referrals for the month of March. The passion and drive behind their work has made WNYHeroes, Inc. a fitting addition to the network. Chris explains, “We stand true to our promise in the community. We understand the struggle behind asking for help and the humiliation that sometimes goes with it. Here at WNYHeroes there is a ‘We’ve Got Your Back’ philosophy driving the work being done because we haven’t forgotten where we have been.”
“I began working for WNYHeroes in July 2015, after retiring from 22 years of military service in January. Being a part of WNYHeroes has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, having initiated programs that bring veterans and their families together to foster teamwork, friendship, and a sense of community. Serving my country was a privilege and an honor. Continuing to serve my brothers and sisters through WNYHeroes helps me carry on the camaraderie forged with my service.” – Lynn Magistrale
“In the Army, I was a frontline Combat Medic taking care of our wounded. Here on the home front, I can still carry on that mission to ‘take care of’, but this time we get to take care of the WHOLE family. The success of WNYHeroes comes from the backbone of our Board of Directors, the dedication of our volunteers, and the support from the WNY community.” –Chris Kreiger