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Access to Justice Awards Gala

You're invited! Enjoy an evening of camaraderie,
music, delicacies, and esteemed honorees.

The annual Access to Justice Awards Gala is presented by Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Legal Aid of Western Ohio and the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project, organizations that provide free legal assistance to low-income individuals who are victims of domestic violence, elder abuse, disability and public benefits concerns and immigration issues. Proceeds from the Gala assist people who cannot afford to hire an attorney in civil legal cases.

Reservations are being accepted for the

2016 Access to Justice Awards Gala 
Thursday, November 3 | 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

at Sinclair Community College, Ponitz Center.

Deadline for reservations is Friday, October 28.
Business Attire

The Gala includes a reception and awards program that celebrates individuals and organizations that have provided extraordinary assistance to disadvantaged individuals and families ensuring justice for all.

The Access to Justice Awards Gala is generously underwritten by WilmerHale, LLP.

Tickets* are $100 for individual patron and $150 for grand patron and may be secured for the event with a credit card online at or by contacting Karla Garrett Harshaw at (937) 535-4432 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Please join us in recognition of the 2016 honorees:

Access to Justice Awards

Merle Wilberding

Zakiya Sankara-Jabar

Dean Lovelace 

Hon. Mary Wiseman

Lloyd O'Hara Public Interest Law Award

Merle Wilberding, an attorney with Coolidge Wall Co., L.P.A, is the recipient of the Lloyd O'Hara Public Interest Law Award for his extraordinary efforts to combat the underlying cause of many injustices in our community. By educating at-risk youths on how laws and the justice system work to create a peaceful and fair society, and by helping them know their legal rights, Wilberding has provided these youth with ways combat bullying in our schools and society. Wilberding, an accomplished attorney from austere beginnings, has developed activity books designed to uplift at-risk students. Free copies have been distributed to more than 40,000 students in the state.

Community Advocacy Award

Zakiya Sankara-Jabar is the recipient of a Community Advocacy Award for her efforts to address race equity in the schools. When her three-year-old child was "pushed out" of school, Sankara-Jabar went to work addressing suspensions and exclusionary discipline rates that are disproportionate among minorities and low-income students. Her work has prompted policy changes at local, state and national levels.

Community Impact Award

A staunch advocate for the needy and most vulnerable residents of our community, Dean Lovelace is the recipient of a Community Impact Award. Lovelace recently retired after 22 years as the longest serving Dayton City Commissioner. Commissioner Lovelace's has challenged banks against predatory lending, advocated for "living wages," and pressed for reinvestment in economically challenged communities.

Distinguished Service Award

The Honorable Mary Wiseman of the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court is being recognized with a Distinguished Service Award for her ardent support of legal aid programs and pro bono legal assistance in the Miami Valley. Judge Wiseman has served as president of the GDVLP and on the boards of trustees for ABLE and LAWO. A past attorney with Coolidge Wall Co., L.P.A. and former Dayton City Commissioner, her commitment to serving under-privileged area residents has been evident on the bench and in her community service.

Make checks payable to Access to Justice Awards Gala and mail by October 28 to: 

Access to Justice Awards Gala
c/o ABLE and LAWO
130 W. Second St. Suite 700
Dayton, OH 45402

*Please note – there are no physical tickets for this event. You and your guests are asked to check-in when you arrive at the Gala.