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Falmouth Center Creates Links With Other Cape Organizations

the three directors second photo smaller size
{Left to Right} Brenda Swain of Falmouth Service Center, Andi Genser of WE CAN, and Barbara Milligan of the Cape and Islands United Way at the Changing Lives: A Celebration of Collaboration Event on October 6, 2015

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Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 1:15 am

By ANDREA F. CARTER 

 

On Tuesday of last week, the Falmouth Service Center joined with the Cape and Islands United Way and WE CAN, Women’s Empowerment through Cape Area Networking, to celebrate their recent collaboration, bringing free legal counseling to the service center.

“We are a food pantry but we are so much more,” said Brenda B. Swain, service center executive director. “Often people are not coming in for just food. Being able to partner with WE CAN and the United Way allows us to provide more services for people who walk through our door.”

The legal consulting program runs on the third Tuesday of each month from 10 AM to 1 PM. Clients can schedule a 30-minute session with an attorney.

“We help women get legal advice so that they can learn how to go through the process,  be it divorce, child support or custody,” said Camala A. Richardson, a family law attorney based in Falmouth who volunteers for WE CAN.

WE CAN started its program in Harwich, where it is still based, close to 14 years ago. Until recently Falmouth residents either did not know about these services or would drive an hour-and-a-half for them. Overall about 70 percent of the advice the program gives pertains to family law and the legal program provides services to close to 500 people each year, said Andrea Genser, executive director of WE CAN.

The collaboration with the Falmouth Service Center allows WE CAN to reach further into the Upper Cape.

“What is important is having a well-respected partner in the community. Some place people trust,” Ms. Genser said. “We deal with sensitive issues.”

Barbara Milligan, president and chief executive officer of the Cape and Islands United way, spoke about how a rise in poverty, an aging population, and substance abuse are affecting Cape Communities and are all interconnected. Collaboration among organizations is needed to address these issues.

“It’s a match made in heaven,” Ms. Milligan said about the collaboration.

At the event, April Le Conti of Sandwich spoke about access to legal services from WE CAN in both Harwich years ago and more recently in Falmouth at the service center.

Eleven years ago she first visited WE CAN when she was contemplating leaving her husband. She had two young sons and suffered from a psychiatric disability.

“It was a road trip. I thought about packing a lunch and change of clothes,” she said of the drive. “I learned my rights in court, and how to start the process and what to expect.”

At that time Ms. Le Conti realized she was not ready to leave her husband. Ten years later she found herself talking to a WE CAN attorney in Falmouth to discuss divorce.

“I recognized those same compassionate voices,” she said. “They treated me with kindness and respect.”

At the service center Ms. Le Conti also learned how to do her taxes, a task her husband did when they were married, and she took a bag of food from the pantry, which was helpful with two teenage boys.

“I never felt judged by these organizations,” Ms. Le Conti said. “They made a world of difference to me and my family.”

WE CAN is soon to start a Financial Empowerment Session program at the service center as well, where clients can come in to discuss debt, budgeting, and other financial questions.

Ms. Swain noted that WE CAN services are generally for women but the organization will serve men as well at the service center.

“That is what a true collaboration means,” Ms. Swain said.

To schedule a legal consulting session, call 508-430-8111. The service is available to Cape residents with a low to moderate income.