Attorneys to hold free legal clinics in Waterville this year

By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Eloise Barshes is the executive director of Volunteer Attorney Services. (Provided photo)

Volunteer Attorney Services (VAS) is a nonprofit organization that has been providing free civil legal services to low income residents of Douglas and Chelan counties since 2002. The motto of the organization is “Bridging the Justice Gap.”

Beginning Jan. 23, the group will be piloting walk-in legal clinics in Waterville to make services more available to people in need. Plans are for the clinics to held four times a year.

Eloise Barshes, the executive director of VAS, said that Waterville was chosen as a pilot for the walk-in clinic model because it is the Douglas County seat and the location of the Douglas County Courthouse. Also its location on the Waterville Plateau provides accessibility to the plateau population and the residents of the northern part of the county.

Barshes said that she is particularly excited about the location because her great-grandparents Oliver and Eloise Ruud homesteaded in the Waterville area.

Emily Gale is the legal case manager for Volunteer Attorney Services. (Provided photo)

“It feels nice to connect with the community that I care so much about and be able to provide critical legal services to the community members in Waterville that need it,” Barshes said.

Emily Gale, an attorney and the legal case manager for VAS, will travel to Waterville to provide advice at each clinic. If need warrants, the group will also seek volunteer attorneys to come and assist.

The clinics will be designed to provide a quick analysis of problems and to help people understand how VAS can help them resolve their issues. For those who need additional help, visits to the office in Wenatchee may be necessary.

VAS assists clients with family law and landlord/tenant issues, wills, powers of attorney, bankruptcies, guardianships, sealing of criminal records and reinstatement of drivers licenses. They can often help answer immigration questions and help those with immigration issues find the assistance they need.

In December, VAS received a grant of almost $1,000 from the Waterville Community Fund to provide the clinics in Waterville. The grant will help provide staffing and transportation in order to hold the clinics.

In order to qualify for free assistance, a person must either live in or have a case pending in Chelan or Douglas counties and must have a household income of 200 percent of the poverty line or below. For a household of four this amounts to $4,183.33 or below per month.

The first clinic will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 23 at the United Lutheran Church meeting room. No appointments are necessary. Those in need of services should bring with them any documents that relate to their case or issue. They will be asked to fill out several short forms before being given service.

For more information about VAS, visit their website at cdvas.org or call the office at 663-2778.