Partnering on disaster relief

Session type
Live webcast
General credits
Total credits
Credit status
Pending Approval
Cost notes

The webinar is free to everyone, but you will be billed for the CLE hours by the NC Bar if appropriate.

While North Carolina is still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence last fall, our Midwestern neighbors are currently struggling with historic flooding and the resulting fallout.  This nationwide Disaster Relief training will discuss current disaster relief efforts across states, issue spotting common legal scenarios encountered by natural disaster survivors, and how volunteer attorneys are crucial in responding to disasters.  We will also cover identifying and referring survivors to available services, effective communication strategies for survivors  who have been affected by natural disasters, dealing with common homeownership and landlord tenant issues, disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and the disaster Unemployment Insurance benefits programs. This training will be useful for all attorneys responding to disasters or working in areas recovering from natural disasters. 





11:00 AM: Opening Remarks

  • Bob Carlson, President, American Bar Association

  • Kerry Abrams, Dean, Duke University School of Law

  • George Hausen, Executive Director, Legal Aid of North Carolina

11:15 AM: What Can Volunteers do Immediately Post Disaster

Identifying Available Services and Referring Survivors

  • Role of the American Red Cross Post Natural Disaster
    James Jarvis, Executive Director, American Red Cross-NC Region
    Sam Rodgers, Regional Disaster Officer, American Red Cross-NC Region

  • American Bar Association/Young Lawyer Division, Disaster Legal Services
    Andrew VanSingel, Special Advisor to the Disaster Legal Services Program, ABA Young Lawyers Division

  • Connecting with Legal Aid Programs/Disaster Relief Managers and How to Volunteer
    Shirley Peng, Managing Attorney, Disaster Relief Project, Nebraska Legal Aid
    Lisa Gavin, Disaster Relief Project, Iowa Legal Aid
    Lesley Albritton, Managing Attorney, Disaster Relief Project, Legal Aid of North Carolina

Communicating with Survivors of a Natural Disaster

Sara Hicks-West, Community Recovery Executive, Hurricane Florence, Red Cross
Matthew A. Lyttle, FEMA


  • Resources Available to Legal Aid Programs
    Martin Costello, Program Counsel – Disaster Grants Administration, Legal Services Corporation

  • Resources Available to Volunteer Attorneys
    Jeanne Ortiz, Disaster Relief Legal Fellow, Pro Bono Net

1:00 PM: FEMA

Overview of FEMA and the Assistance Available through FEMA
Matthew A. Lyttle, Deputy Director, Individual and Community Preparedness Division, FEMA

1:30 PM: Legal Issues Survivors Face or are Currently Facing Post Disaster and How Volunteers Can Assist
Common ownership and landlord-tenant issues and how volunteers can assist. Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). Disaster Unemployment Benefits (DUA). Flood Insurance.

Lesley Albritton, Managing Attorney, Disaster Relief Project, Legal Aid of North Carolina
Tracy Figueroa, Staff Attorney, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Lisa Gavin, Disaster Relief Project, Iowa Legal Aid

2:30 PM: Q&A

2:45 PM: Wrap Up



Bob Carlson is president of the American Bar Association, the world's largest voluntary professional organization with more than 400,000 members. Carlson has served in many national and state bar leadership positions, including as president of the State Bar of Montana from 1993 to 1994. He is also a former board member of the Butte Emergency Food Bank. Carlson's civil trial and mediation practice primarily involves insurance defense, products liability and insurance coverage. He earned his B.A. with honors from the University of Montana and his J.D. from the University Of Montana School Of Law. 

Andrew VanSingel. Prior to his time as Special Advisor, Mr. VanSingel served as the program’s coordinator. Mr. VanSingel received his undergraduate degree from Western Michigan University in 2006, and his J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center in 2010. Shortly after graduation, Mr. VanSingel started working for Prairie State Legal Services, a legal aid agency outside of Chicago, managing a Low-Income Tax Clinic. He worked with other legal aid lawyers as tax law touches many areas of civil legal service – family law, housing, etc. He had a chance encounter with David Nguyen at a Young Lawyers Division (YLD) meeting in Maryland. At the time, he was running the DLS program and thought Andrew would be a good successor, given his background in civil legal services. Two years later, Andrew was appointed to the position by then YLD chair Lacy Durham. He currently volunteers his time as a Special Advisor to the Disaster Legal Services (DLS) team. 

Martin Costello serves as Program Counsel at Legal Services Corporation. His work focuses on disaster preparedness and recovery. Martin comes from Rebuilding Together where he served as Senior Director of the Rebuilding Together National Service Program. He also served as a Senior Program Manager at Equal Justice Works where he managed the AmeriCorps program of almost 800 members. Other professional experience includes serving as a Staff Attorney/AmeriCorps Legal Fellow for Philadelphia VIP’s LawWorks Program.

Jeanne Ortiz is a bilingual attorney and Pro Bono Net’s Disaster Response Legal Fellow. Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to justice by developing web-based technological tools to facilitate the provision of civil legal aid. Jeanne helps spearhead national disaster relief projects to empower the public with legal information and self-help tools, equip public interest advocates with resources to support their work on disaster relief and recovery, mobilize legal volunteers, and build national capacity around disaster legal aid. Before joining Pro Bono Net, Jeanne worked as a legal fellow at the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center and provided free legal representation and employment discrimination litigation on behalf of low-income LGBT individuals in Puerto Rico. She drafted proposals for the Puerto Rico Police Department on police intervention with the LGBT community and founded the first Ms. JD chapter in her school to network over 200 law students and provide them with professional development resources. For three years, she led pro bono workshops around reproductive rights to low-income communities in Puerto Rico. 

Matthew Lyttle is the chief of the Partnership and Engagement Branch in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Individual and Community Preparedness Division. In this role, he works to engage local stakeholders, regional agencies, and national partners in various preparedness initiatives. Programs under his purview include the National Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, Youth Preparedness, You Are the Help Until Help Arrives, Ready Business, and Higher Education Preparedness. Lyttle specializes in bringing non-traditional emergency management partners into community resilience and preparedness efforts. Lyttle's current projects include leading the technical assistance team helping to establish national CERT programs in South America, as well as undertaking research to better prepare historically underserved populations in the United States. Before joining FEMA in 2013, Lyttle served as the director of programs at a local volunteer center, focusing on disaster volunteerism and youth service. He was elected president of the Northern Virginia Regional VOAD from 2010 until 2013 and has filled various positions on the board of his local Citizen Corps Council.  It is in these roles that Lyttle responded to disasters along the east coast of the United States, organizing volunteer and donations efforts during response and recovery.

Lesley Albritton is the managing attorney of the Disaster Relief Project for Legal Aid of North Carolina and the practice group manager for community economic development. Lesley attended Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, before transferring to Kenyon College, where she earned a degree in Political Science with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies. She graduated with High Distinction from Ohio Northern School of Law in 2001. Before joining Legal Aid of North Carolina in 2006, she clerked for the Ohio Court of Appeals, Third Judicial District, and practiced insurance defense with a small firm in Farmville, North Carolina.  

Shirley Peng manages Legal Aid of Nebraska's statewide Disaster Relief Project. She has worked at Legal Aid of Nebraska since December 2009 and is passionate about the mission – to provide quality civil legal aid for those who have nowhere else to turn. Shirley graduated in 2006 from the University of California – Los Angeles, with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology. In 2009, she obtained her Juris Doctorate from the Chapman University School of Law. Her expertise is in representing clients in social security disability, bankruptcy, and other public benefits, consumer and tax cases. Shirley is licensed to practice in Nebraska and California, the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, the United States Tax Court, the Ponca Tribal Court, the Winnebago Tribal Court, the Santee Sioux Nation Tribal Court, and the Omaha Tribal Court.

Lisa Gavin has been a staff attorney with Iowa Legal Aid since 1995, working under a variety of different grants. In January 2015, she became the project manager of the Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project for Iowa Legal Aid. She graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law and Creighton University. 

James Jarvis is the Executive Director for the Cape Fear Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. His territory includes 13 counties in eastern N.C. that were heavily impacted by Hurricane Florence as all 13 counties were federally-disaster declared. He worked closely with representatives of Legal Aid of North Carolina as many of its volunteer attorneys worked in Red Cross shelters across the Carolinas to help displaced storm victims address their legal needs. His perspective will be from that of someone on the ground in the field working with volunteer attorneys coming into an impacted area. 

Sam Rodgers is the American Red Cross Regional Disaster Officer for the Eastern NC Region.  His territory is 53 counties (half the state of NC) and his perspective was from both the Disaster Relief Operation Headquarters as well as working with state emergency management officials to gain access to impacted areas with relief supplies, volunteers, and other resources. He also oversaw the transition phase of our operations from Response to Recovery so he was directly involved in discussions with our community partners such as Hope 4 NC, Back At Home, that led to our awarding financial assistance to agencies to fund first & last month's rent, etc. for storm victims. 

Sara Hicks-West is the American Red Cross Community Recovery Executive for Hurricane Florence overseeing our recovery operations including working with community partners to provide grants, the detailed casework that led to the issuance of more than $21 million in direct financial assistance to families impacted by the storm.