It’s the twelfth (and last) day of my 12 Days of Charitable Giving for 2019. Readers have suggested deserving charities over the past few weeks, and I’ll be posting the results here. Today’s charity is Legal Aid of North Carolina.

Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) provides free legal help to low-income North Carolinians in civil cases involving basic human needs like safety, shelter, income and more. According to LANC, almost a quarter of North Carolina’s population struggles to make ends meet. In 2016, Legal Services Corporation (LSC) estimated that 71% of low-income families will experience at least one civil legal issue every year including problems with health care, housing conditions, disability access, veterans’ benefits, and domestic violence. The rate is even higher for households with survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault (97%,) with parents/guardians of kids under 18 (80%), and with disabled persons (80%.) To make matters worse, most Americans incorrectly believe that they have a right to an attorney in any court case (that’s not true in most civil cases).

Not having access to legal assistance can put folks at an even greater disadvantage. LANC helps clients protect their legal rights, from homeowners at risk of foreclosure to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. LANC also helps clients gain and retain safe employment and protect benefits they are legally to receive. The Senior Law Project at LANC helps with wills and powers of attorney, as well as abuse and neglect. Through the Veterans Law Project, LANC also helps military veterans with cases involving disability compensation, discharge upgrades, VA overpayments and pension benefits. The majority of LANC’s assistance (59%) goes to those with household incomes of less than $15,000.

I know a little something about the services that LANC provides. Regular readers know that I’m a North Carolina girl. In 2018, Hurricane Florence brought devastating rains and flooding to my home state, closing roads, businesses, and schools for weeks. Entire communities were evacuated and when folks were able to return home, many found that their homes and businesses were no longer safe. The need was so great that LANC was recruiting volunteer attorneys – even those not licensed to practice in North Carolina – and I signed up to help. When the program ended, I petitioned the NC State Bar to continue to provide assistance. I am now a regular volunteer attorney with LANC’s Lawyer on the Line program. I know how great the need is for quality legal representation for the most vulnerable populations.

So how can you help?

To make a one-time or monthly donation, click over to the website

For federal income tax purposes, if you plan to claim a deduction for a cash contribution, you’ll want to keep a record of the donation. Ideally, the organization will provide a written record with the name of the charity, date, and amount of the contribution.

You can also donate your services. There are available opportunities for lawyers, paralegals, law students and others who want to donate their time and talents. You can find out more here. Remember that you cannot deduct the value of your time for providing services to a charity – even if you can easily put a dollar value on your time. You can, however, deduct related expenses, like mileage.

Do your homework. 

As always, you want to make sure that your donation is going to a qualified charitable organization. A search using the IRS’ new Tax Exempt Organization Search (formerly Select Check) reveals that Legal Aid Of North Carolina is on the list

To find out more about the work of the organization, check out their website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

I often suggest checking out third-party sites like Charity Navigator for more information about charitable organizations, including evaluations and access to tax forms and other financials. Legal Aid Of North Carolina is not ranked on Charity Navigator (you can find out how to evaluate an unrated charity here).

Remember: Readers nominate their favorite charities to the 12 Days of Charitable Giving, and in most cases, I can’t personally vouch for the organizations. So be generous but be smart: Do your homework.

For more on making charitable donations, click here.

For other charities in the series: