Paul Leek, Bay Area Legal Services
This past year, all of us experienced living in an unprecedented time. The landscape of our community has transformed in ways most of us could have ever imagined. Calendar year 2020 was difficult, but it was calming to see key individuals leading in a culture of change, to bring many parts of our community together in different ways to bounce back stronger, vibrant, and as one. Lisa Brody, Assistant Deputy Director at Bay Area Legal Services, has been instrumental in some of the successes towards recovery.
Lisa has served as an active participant in the development and implementation of the COVID Eviction Response efforts in Pinellas County. She has worked closely with community partners to advocate and preserve housing stability for vulnerable populations in Pinellas County. Her efforts managing our St. Petersburg office didn’t go unnoticed in 2020. Through the testament of Lisa’s work at Bay Area Legal matched with the overwhelming need to keep residents in their homes during the pandemic, Hancock Whitney contributed of $50,000. That generous contribution was designated to help St. Petersburg residents with housing assistance and legal aid toward evictions. There were 11,227 unlawful evictions filed in Hillsborough and Pinellas County from March 2020 – March 2021.
The devastating murder of George Floyd in 2020 was gut-wrenching and shattering. This public moment of disgust shifted the world into a wave of social justice movements. Lisa Brody was on the frontlines leading uncomfortable conversations and promoting the truth in public spaces as she implemented a Race Equity Committee at Bay Area Legal. The Board of Directors and staff of 150+ at Bay Area Legal participated in weekly race and equity discussions, moderated by Lisa. The purpose of this work was to LISTEN, LEARN, and ACT to ensure access to justice for our low-income client community and to equip our organization internally with the tools to do so. This intentional work addressed the racial unrest and distress within our country and communities because of the death of George Floyd. Through Lisa’s leadership, the Committee’s intentional, thoughtful and collaborative process developed recommendations that will guide our organization as we strive to interrupt racism and ensure access to justice for all of our clients within our very diverse five-county service area.
In addition, to the leading as the Chair of Bay Area Legal’s Race Equity Committee, Lisa served as volunteer leadership as the Chair of the St. Petersburg Bar Association’s Diversity Equity & Inclusion Committee and USF St. Petersburg Campus’ Advisory Board.
There’s no denying that Lisa influenced change during 2020 at Bay Area Legal and in the community. She helped address the important social disparities with legal assistance and intervention with the impact of COVID on communities of color. She inspired hope, sparked change, and ultimately ignited essential conversations that led to all of it.