A “Little Safe Place on Elizabeth Avenue”

Melody in her chef uniform

Even before the pandemic, Melody and her family were facing a difficult year. Because of her husband’s heart condition and sister’s disability, Melody was the only member of her family bringing in any income, the majority of which went to paying medical bills and old property taxes her parents had left unpaid after they passed away. Melody was chipping away at the balance but could not keep up: she soon received a letter that the county would foreclose on their home. 

“I was devastated,” Melody shared, “I thought I had tried so hard to get nowhere. I was the only one working and I was putting my family in danger of losing their home.”  

Holding back tears, she still went into work the next day. Combining her love of southern food and her own Native Lumbee cuisines, Melody has been whipping up the daily special at Showmars in the Charlotte Government Center for years. A regular customer noticed she was upset and asked what was wrong. Melody explained her situation and he told her about an organization that could help: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  

Melody, her husband, Jerry, and grandson

Melody quickly connected with The Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection Unit. We assured Melody “not to worry” and worked with Melody and the county to negotiate a payment plan and that included forgiveness of substantial old tax due from the mid-2000’s. Melody and her family were no longer at risk of foreclosure; they could keep their home. In her own words, it “felt like somebody was on my side other than God himself.” 

Melody calls Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte “my little safe place on Elizabeth avenue,” and it’s no surprise why: 

“It brightens my day every time I drive by that building!”

As the pandemic progressed, it became clear Melody and her family had other unaddressed legal needs. Melody was worried about being able to make her payments on time after she was furloughed. She connected with Legal Aid, and soon received expanded unemployment benefits under the CARES act.  “I wouldn’t have been able to make those payments, I would’ve lost it all.” 

Melody is the proud grandmother of nine grandchildren: “Them arms around you and everything is most important, my family.”

As part of our work we learned that Melody’s sister, Wendy’s social security benefits had been terminated despite her disability. The Advocacy Center stepped back in to ensure she was receiving the benefits she was entitled to. The Advocacy Center’s Family Support and Healthcare Unit, also assisted Wendy in applying for food stamps to help their family through this crisis.  Melody would soon turn 65, so we also ensured everything was in order for her to receive Medicare in a few short months.  

After working with Melody she says, “They see you as a person and a human being. Almost like Winnie the pooh would say: ‘they’re the best.’ You can tell I watch too many cartoons with the grandkids!” 

2021 Access to Justice Champions

We are grateful for those who are leading the way to fund our COVID-19 effort to ensure safety, stability, and security for all during these uncertain times. Your support enables us to continue this important work and adapt to meet our community’s needs. Despite the challenges that this year has placed upon us, we know we can count on you.

These donors have contributed at the leadership level of $1,000 or more to the 2021 Access to Justice Campaign benefiting Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina and bringing over our $500,000 goal.

Mecklenburg Access to Justice Champions sticker

John Mitchell and Linda MacDonald Aberman

John A. Fagg

T. Hal Clarke

Christopher and Anne Lam

Lisa Howell

Heather and Chris Culp

Paul R. Kinny

Mary Mandeville and Kirk Keever

Heloise C. Merrill

Bank of America Corporation

David Sobul

Jason and Jennifer Schubert

Alston & Bird

Brian Hayles

David and Lyn Batty

Julian and Amy Wright

Robert and Christy Hancock

Brett and Julie A. Durham

Christine and Trevor Hoke

Stephen Luke Largess

John and Meredith Jeffries

Emily Kern and Mark Metz

Robert L. Mendenhall

D. Blaine and Ann Morgan Sanders

Sean and Jacqueline Jones 

Angela H. Zimmern

Robert and Caroline Sink

Alice Richey and David Pitser

Paul and Julia Steffens

James R. Cass

Jonathan Ferry

Patricia F. Hosmer

Peter and Anne Covington

Catherine and Jeffrey Barnes

Redding Jones, PLLC

David B. Whelpley

Stewart and Anna McQueen

Porter Durham

Allen and Jennie Robertson

Jared and Courtney Mobley

George & Deb Hanna

Lisbeth B. Schorr

The McIntosh Law Firm

Jared and Courtney Mobley

Shawn McGrath

Troutman Pepper

Robert and Alicia Hahn

Matthew Robertson

Garland and Katherine Cassada

John Allison

Mark and Kimberly Calloway

Michael and Amanda Finlon

Robert and Laurie Fisher

Sara Higgins and Ray Owens

Jane and Milburn Ratteree

James and Mary Lou Babb

John Grupp

Edward T. Hinson Jr.

Margaret and Harrison Marshall

Pender R. McElroy

Dechert LLP

John Wester

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

Greer Walker LLP

Scott and LouAnn Vaughn

Brian Barger

Naho Kobayashi

Karl Horn

Peter J. McGrath, Jr.

Mark and Michelle Nebrig

Douglas W. and Tere Ey

Steven N. Cohen

Corby and James William Anderson

Mark Gosnell

Katten Muchin Rosenman

Leslee Daugherty and Roger Gilmartin

Kevin and Elizabeth Murphy

Nelson Mullins

John N. Suhr

Lisa and Ken L. Miller

Cory and Katherine Hohnbaum


Timika Shafeek-Horton

Keith F. Oberkfell

L. Cameron Caudle

Lincoln Derr

Mark Busch

W. Scott and Sharon Dove

Jessica and Burgin Hardin

J. Michael Booe and Rebecca Henderson

Jonathan P. Goldberg

Luther T. Moore

Tin, Fulton, Walker & Owen, PLLC

W. Todd & Debbie Stillerman

Kate Wellman

Sean and Jacqueline Jones

S. Benjamin Pleune

Allie Lin & Joseph Thomas

Bryon Mulligan

William C. Sloane Mayberry

Cynthia Siemasko

Bruce M. Steen

Nancy Black Norelli

McGuire Woods

My Trung Ngo

Holland and Knight

Richard Worf

Martin Brackett

Mayer Brown

Duke Energy

Nicholas Harris

Charles Alex Castle

Mayer Brown LLP

James and Mary Lou Babb

John Mitchel Aberman

Russel and Sally Robinson

Mark and Lindsay Merritt

Jameson P Wells

Alexis Iffert

John G. McDonald

Richard W. Viola

David A. Franchina

Douglass Jarrell

Matthew DeRuyter

A. Todd Brown

J. William and Susan Porter

Raj and Carter Natarajan

Charles McBrayer Sasser

Jocelyn Graham McLaughlin

Robert and Ann Cramer

Edward T. Hinson, Jr.

James Ewing

Naho Kobayashi

Staci E Rosche

David B Whelpley

Rakesh Gopalan

Brentford Martin

Katherine S Holliday

Keith Smith

Russell F Sizemore

*Donors as of March 19th, 2021*

Want to become an Access to Justice Champion? Make a contribution to be recognized as a leader of our COVID-19 effort.

Find out how.

The 2020 Election

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy logo


The 2020 election has been certainly unprecedented. Although ballots have already been cast in North Carolina and across the nation, we understand that we likely will not know the outcome of the election for days to come. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy recognizes and is grateful to activists and organizations that have mobilized the American public to exercise their right to vote.

North Carolinians voted early and by mail in record numbers with over four and a half million people voting absentee this season. Whether you voted in person or by mail, thank you for voting and for your commitment during this election. 

While we wait to hear who the next President Elect and our state representatives will be, we hope that you and your family can take some time to rest, reflect, and regroup. Anxieties are particularly high during elections and have been worsened by the global COVID-19 pandemic. We have endured an exhausting election year. 

The fight for justice for all does not end at the ballot box. We must continue to hold our representatives accountable for the pressing needs of our communities during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue to take action: 

  • Regularly contact your state and federal representatives to encourage them to pass legislation that extends pandemic relief efforts and expands social safety nets for your neighbors.  
  • Get involved and volunteer with local organizations; you can learn about volunteer opportunities at The Advocacy Center here.  
  • Support and, if you are able, join those who are working for racial equity.  

Let this election become your call to action and the start, if not continuation, of your commitment to access to affordable housing, food and financial security, health insurance, and justice.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will be here to serve our community regardless of election results. We continue to advocate for the safety, security and stability of low-income families, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, veterans, and immigrants through civil legal aid. As the economic and legal repercussions of this pandemic unfold, The Advocacy Center will continue to adapt to meet urgent needs.

We are here, we are working, and we are listening.


The staff at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy 

Standing in the Gap

Boris “Bluz” Rogers composed and performed this spoken word piece on our community’s justice gap for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina at the 2019 Justice for ALL breakfast.

Learn more about Charlotte’s Justice Gap

On the corner of 4th and McDowell stands a young woman or young man with papers that say “order to appear” in their hands.

And how they appear or show up in the system is sometimes determined by what their income is. Can you imagine this?

That the condition of your justice depends on just how much justice you can afford?

With one in three Mecklenburg County residents being low-income,

They find themselves coming into civil legal situations that they can’t afford to lose.

So imagine being in their shoes.

Standing in front of the courthouse trying to figure your life out.

And the frustration builds because you begin to feel that the phrase “Justice for all” doesn’t apply at all to you.

Those shoes feel a little uncomfortable,

Like they won’t be enough to run and jump across that gap that holds a lot of low-income residents back,

Holds them back from getting their legal service needs met.

So then, the question is asked:

Which of you will stand in that gap?

When the lack of education and representation is swallowing up residents, who?

Who will stand with the cause put forth over 50 years ago to be a beacon of hope to those with no place to go?

The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy,

Champions of victims of domestic violence and disabled veterans,

A voice for exploited immigrants and homeowners on the brink of foreclosure.

This is more than just having a lawyer in your corner.

It’s having ACCESS to equal justice.

It’s Legal Aid helping the underdog having a fair fight, an even scrap to keep their life on track.

When they started out in ’67, it was a war on poverty, a war we still fight in 2019.

But now we have more advocates and warriors of justice standing behind us, making us feel empowered.

Standing with those residents on the corner of 4th and McDowell,

Ready to enter the courthouse with a new sense of energy,

Ready to be more than just a statistic of the system,

Ready to fight for their rights for equal justice,

Understanding that the gap no longer exists because
all of you are choosing to stand in it.

Uplifting Charlotte’s residents.

Allowing no one else to fall.

Standing for equal access to justice,

And true justice for ALL.

ACCESS Matters: Lisa Howell

Lisa Stockton Howell is a community advocate and president of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Board of Directors. She supports ACCESS to Justice because she understands the critical role lawyers and the legal system play in the most difficult issues our community faces–poverty, economic mobility and equity.

Listen to Lisa explain her “why” in her own words in remarks she shared at the 2019 Justice for ALL breakfast:

Join Lisa in supporting the Access to Justice Campaign benefiting Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina, who have been fighting for fairness, stability and economic opportunity TOGETHER for more than 50 years.

The Access to Justice Campaign is a one-stop, tax-deductible option to financially support the Charlotte area’s civil legal aid organizations that stabilize families, promote opportunity and fight poverty by ensuring ACCESS to legal assistance for ALL people, not just those who can afford it.

Local and national policy changes have impacted the people Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid serve in critical and unexpected ways. The organizations are nimble and collaborative in addressing these changes that directly impact the lives of the most vulnerable in our community.

Support of the Access to Justice Campaign is the most stable and flexible funding source these organizations rely on both to react quickly to changing needs and to put resources in areas with the greatest need.

The support of people like Lisa makes the hard work of building a more just community possible!

Your gift ensures that ALL people have access to the legal assistance and critical resources they need to make ends meet and thrive.

Join the movement to build a more just community in which all know stability and are empowered to find opportunity.

donate button

2020 Access to Justice Champions

We are grateful for those who are leading the way to support ACCESS in our community. These donors have contributed at the leadership level of $1,000 or more to the 2020 Access to Justice Campaign benefiting Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina and bringing us even closer to our $500,000 goal.

Stacy and Christopher Ackerman
John and Courtney Allison
Stephen and Carolyn Allred
Corby and James William Anderson
Blas P. Arroyo
Catherine and Jefferey Barnes
David and Lyn Batty
A. Todd Brown
Mark Busch
Mark and Kimberly Calloway
L. Cameron Caudle
Steven N. Cohen
G. Lee Cory
Peter Covington
Robert and Ann Cramer
Sarah A. Crowder
Heather and Chris Culp
Leslee Daugherty and Roger Gilmartin
W. Scott and Sharon Dove
James E. Earle
Frank E. Emory
Doug and Tere Ey
Richard Farley
Michael and Amanda Finlon
Robert and Laurie Fisher
Douglas R Ghidina
Peter and Anne Gilchrist
Julie Zydron Griggs
Robert and Alicia Hahn

Robert and Christy Hancock
George and Deborah Hanna
Jack Hankins
Burgin and Jessica Hardin
Edwin Harris
Nicholas Harris
Rebecca S. Henderson and J. Michael Booe
Sara Higgins and Ray Owens
Christine and Trevor Hoke
Patricia Hosmer
Lisa Howell
Pamela Hutsom
H. Bryan Ives
David Jones and E. Randall Morrow
Sean Jones
Naho Kobayashi
Christopher and Anne Dunton Lam
Stephen Luke Largess
Hal Levinson
Mary Mandeville
William C. and Sloane Mayberry
John G. and Amy McDonald
Kiran Mehta
Robert Mendenhall
Heloise Merrill
Lisa and Ken Miller
Hon. Rickye McKoy-Mitchell and Rick Mitchell
Jared and Courtney Mobley

Luther T. Moore
Russell Morrison
Robert Muckenfuss
Kevin and Elizabeth Murphy
Raj Natarajan and A. Carter Arey Natarajan
My Ngo
Nancy Norelli
Keith F. Oberkfell
Matthew Emile Orso
Larry Polsky
J. William and Susan Porter
Norfleet Pruden
Jane Ratteree
Allen and Jennie Robertson
Alice Richey
Jason and Jennifer Schubert
Jane Whitt Sellers
Timika Shafeek-Horton
Curtis Sidden Jr.
Robert and Caroline Sink
Michael D Smith
Bruce Steen
Paul Steffens
Jay Suhr
Anne M. Tompkins
Scott and LouAnn Vaughn
Richard Viola
Kate Wellman
John Wester
Lisa and Richard Worf
Julian and Amy Wright

* Donors as of February 5, 2020 *

Want to become an Access to Justice Champion?
Make a contribution to be recognized as a leader
taking a stand for ACCESS in our community.

Your support of civil legal aid changes lives.

Find out how.

Access to Justice Campaign Kicks Off for 2020

Nearly 500 local supporters, attorneys, community leaders and advocates gathered to celebrate ACCESS to legal assistance in our community at the 13th annual Justice for ALL breakfast Oct. 23.

The event officially kicked off the 2020 Access to Justice Campaign benefiting Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina, raising more than $90,000 toward our $500,000 goal.

Timika Shafeek-Horton, chair of the 2020 Access to Justice Campaign, reiterated how critical individual support is for the viability of these organizations and more importantly, our broader community:

“Simply put: the more financial resources each organization has, the more individuals and families in need they can serve in the ways that have the greatest impact. By supporting more families, our community will be stronger for everyone as we work together to address issues of equity, fairness, mobility and opportunity.”

Check out highlights from
Justice for ALL 2019!

Join the movement to build a more just community in which all know stability and are empowered to find opportunity.

donate button

The Access to Justice Campaign is currently underway and runs through the end of the year. Those who contribute a leadership gift of $1,000 or more by November 30 will be recognized as Access to Justice Champions during #GivingTuesdayCLT 2019 on December 3.

Why support the
Access to Justice Campaign

There is a justice gap in Mecklenburg County, and it plays a role in our community’s stability. One in three residents is low-income, and 71 percent of low-income residents are likely experiencing a civil legal issue that has significantly affected their lives.

However, with limited resources between the Advocacy Center and Legal Aid, there is one legal aid attorney for every 11,500 low-income residents. Families are in desperate need of legal assistance, but they can’t afford it. A friend can’t help; a church can’t help; a social worker can’t help—these families need a lawyer who understands what to do in front of a judge when stability is on the line.

Last year’s campaign raised more than $500,000 thanks to the generous support of the community and members of the Mecklenburg County Bar.

The Advocacy Center and Legal Aid use these funds to provide coordinated legal assistance that responds to rapidly changing community needs.

The Access to Justice Campaign is the most stable funding source these organizations depend on to serve the community because it it provides flexibility when traditional funding sources go away.

Together, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina fight on their behalf every day to ensure fairness under the law that preserves stability and allows them make ends meet.