VOICES: Evie White // Legal aid during COVID


Photo by Jared Kay/Amplified Media

As our community works to collectively adjust to this new normal, we want to share the perspectives of people in the Asheville community who are working to adapt their lifestyles, family dynamics, business models, workflow, + more.

Today, we’re hearing from Evie White, Communications Director for Pisgah Legal Services. This is a contributor-submitted Voices piece. Want to join the conversation? We invite you to write for us. Learn how to share your voice here.

Tomorrow, May 21, from 12-1 p.m., Pisgah Legal Services is hosting the Virtual Justice Matters Tour, which includes a discussion of the org’s response to COVID-19 + how civil legal aid can be an effective anti-poverty tool. If you need help, apply online at www.pisgahlegal.org or by phone: 828-253-0406 or 800-489-6144.

I had plans for 2020. Didn’t we all?

Nothing particularly exciting or extraordinary. Just “real life” kinds of plans.

Of course, “real life” as we knew it has evaporated. These days, those plans, are distant memories.

These days, when I speak to friends, they almost all fall into one category or the other: they are either working harder than ever and trying to hold it together while balancing jobs and children, or they are in complete limboCOVID-19 purgatory – waiting impatiently for a time when they can be employed again.


Pisgah Legal Services’ Asheville office I Photo courtesy of Pisgah Legal Services

As Communications Director at the nonprofit Pisgah Legal Services, I fall into the first category. Now more than ever, I am working furiously with our attorneys, volunteers, staff and local media to make people aware that help is available, and support is needed now.

I’m part of a team of devoted people who are providing free, civil legal aid and resources to people in Asheville and across our mountains, answering questions and even creating call-in hotlines for our frightened and frustrated neighbors who need help now to avoid eviction, or access their unemployment benefits, or escape a dangerous abuser in the middle of a pandemic.


PLS Attorney Jenna Walley I Photo courtesy of Pisgah Legal Services

I’m documenting Pisgah Legal’s ongoing work and the attorneys who are putting on masks and bravely showing up in court to represent clients who need emergency protection from domestic violence or who are fighting for custody of their child — so that our clients aren’t forced to navigate a complex legal system alone.

I’m creating videos to make our case to good people like you, explaining why legal aid is critically important now more than ever and imploring you to be generous if you can.

I’m answering reporters’ questions and appealing for air time, because I KNOW that if we can just get the message out to those who need us most, we can guide them through what may be the most difficult time of their lives.

The right decisions made now may help our neighbors save their homes or avoid a scam artist preying on their desperation or secure health insurance so that when they get sick the subsequent medical bills won’t plunge them into bankruptcy.

I’m sharing stories of real people whose lives were changed, and real results – like serving more than 18,000 people each year – with foundations and funders, in the hopes they recognize how powerful attorneys are in the fight against poverty, and that they will also support this urgent work.

By the time the weekend comes, I crash. The thought of picking up a new skill or tackling a home improvement project seems utterly ridiculous. I’m much more likely to snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie with the people I love most in the world.

Occasionally, I remember the plans I once made. But most days, I just feel lucky.

I have a roof over my head, and my loved ones with me. My family and friends have thus far escaped the virus (knock on wood). I have a job – and with it – the ability to help others. I can’t ask for more.

That ugly wallpaper is going to have to wait. I’ve got more important plans right now.

More from AVL Today