NLSLA volunteer Mark Brenner was awarded the William J. Lasarow Award for his extraordinary pro bono services at the San Fernando Valley Bankruptcy Self-Help Center.
“People like Mark epitomize what the Self-Help Center is all about: to make sure everyone— even people who can’t afford an attorney—have access to the bankruptcy court,” said NLSLA Executive Director Neal Dudovitz.
The Lasarow Awards—which recognize the outstanding contributions of bankruptcy pro bono volunteers, are generally presented an annual ceremony. But Brenner’s health prevented him from participating in the 2018 celebration, which took place October 25 at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles.
When Brenner’s health improved this Spring, NLSLA’s Barbara Sanchez, who coordinates the organization’s Bankruptcy Self-Help Center, organized a special ceremony for Brenner at the courthouse in April.
“I’ve been wanting to give Mark an award since practically the day I met him,” Sanchez said. “Mark has been very involved in ensuring people without English proficiency have the resources they need. He’s so patient and approachable and kind, and he makes these debtors feel so much better.”
Chief Judge Maureen A. Tighe presented the award to Brenner.
“I really wanted to be part of this ceremony,” Tighe said. “You were there at the very beginning. You get real information out there and you give so much of yourself. You are truly amazing and I’m so glad we get to honor you as the volunteer of the year.”
Brenner said he was grateful for the recognition, but added that the work itself incredibly rewarding. Brenner’s volunteer efforts have focused on expanding access to the court for Spanish speaking debtors. He said many come into the Center afraid they could go to jail for their debt.
“I do get something out of this,” he said. “When I see relief on a client’s face—to see the pain and the concern dissipate, it makes it all worth it.”