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Community Voices: The ‘Oscar of legal aid’

Jovita Kravitz

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Marvel Studios may be great at churning out endless film sequels and remakes about superheroes, but it has overlooked one of the greatest local heroes in our midst: Kimberly Rodgers, executive director of Community Law Program (CLP), a nonprofit legal services organization in St. Petersburg that provides a variety of legal services for those who cannot afford them.

For more than 15 years, Kim has worked with more passion and selfless dedication than any attorney I have ever met. While most lawyers devote significant time to their work, many of them do so for prestige, power and profit. Kim does it to help those who truly need it, receiving only a modest nonprofit salary, and she passes on any recognition she receives to her staff, board and the organization as a whole. That’s just the kind of person she is.

The Florida Bar’s Creed of Professionalism asks every Florida attorney to make the following promise: “I will further my profession’s devotion to public service and to the public good.” In addition to following every facet of the Creed, I can think of no other attorney, whether locally or anywhere else, who exemplifies this particular section of the oath more than Kimberly. She is truly selfless and one thousand percent dedicated to serving the most vulnerable residents of South Pinellas County, often working 20-hour days, sacrificing her weekends and time with her family.

Kim is passionate about helping CLP clients such as women in abusive relationships find justice; tenants behind on rent due to Covid-19, illness and other hardships avoid eviction; teenagers who are transitioning out of foster care obtain benefits and other resources to gain independence successfully; and many others who desperately need legal help but cannot afford it.

Thanks to her, Community Law Program, in collaboration with Bay Area Legal Services, is this year’s recipient of the Florida Bar Foundation’s 2022 Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award for Excellence recognizing CLP’s Pinellas County Eviction Diversion Program. This is the most coveted award in the legal services industry, and it recognizes projects that have a systemic impact on a vulnerable population and that involve collaboration. In short, it is the Oscar of legal aid, and it is being awarded to one of the smallest legal services nonprofits in the state. CLP operates on a shoestring budget of under $500,000 annually, compared to Bay Area Legal Services based in Tampa that has a multi-million dollar budget, or Legal Services of Greater Miami’s $8.3 million annual revenue. 

Earlier this year, Kimberly also secured a $50,000 Hero Nonprofit Award from the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation, in addition to the numerous grants she secures singlehandedly each year to pay her staff and continue providing invaluable services and programs.

Despite CLP’s small size, thanks almost entirely to Kimberly Rodgers’ efforts, ingenuity and brilliance, the organization has become a leader in helping tenants affected financially by the Covid pandemic avoid eviction, among its other programs and legal advice clinics.

The Goldstein-Van Nortwick Award for Excellence will be presented at a June 23 breakfast starting at 8 a.m. The breakfast will be held at the Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek in Orlando during the Florida Bar Annual Convention. Attorneys and non-attorneys are welcome to attend and may purchase tickets and sponsorships through the Florida Bar Foundation, https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/tickets/. To donate, volunteer or learn more about Community Law Program, please visit https://lawprogram.org

When I congratulated Kim on her extraordinary achievement in CLP receiving the award, Kim responded as follows in her usual humble fashion:

The breakfast is not in my honor, it’s for CLP! Everything I do and accomplish while at CLP is to enhance the organization and to provide impactful assistance to vulnerable people in the community, and I truly believe we’ve been doing that in a big way lately. So, the breakfast is a celebration of everyone involved at CLP.”

Jovita Wysocka Kravitz is a personal injury attorney in Brandon, Florida and St. Petersburg, Florida.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kat Kozlowski

    June 14, 2022at11:50 am

    Congrats to Community Law Program and executive director Kimberly Rodgers, for a job well done!

  2. Avatar

    Georgia Earp

    June 14, 2022at5:17 pm

    It’s wonderful to hear about another hero in our community.

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