Steve Forte (left) and Teresa Wynn Roseborough at the 2018 Atlanta Legal Aid Kickoff breakfast. Steve Forte (left) and Teresa Wynn Roseborough at the 2018 Atlanta Legal Aid kickoff breakfast. (Courtesy photo)

The Atlanta Legal Aid Society kicked off its annual campaign with a target of $1.7 million at a breakfast Wednesday for fundraising captains, led this year by Stephen Forte, the chairman of Smith Gambrell & Russell, and Teresa Wynn Roseborough, general counsel of The Home Depot.

Contributions from law firms and corporate legal departments are the group’s second-largest source of funding after the federal Legal Services Corp., making up about 15 percent of its $11.5 million budget.

Atlanta Legal Aid lawyers handled about 20,000 cases last year, offering free civil legal services to low-income people for housing, consumer, family law, health and benefits matters.

Smith Gambrell has a long history with the group. Name partner E. Smythe Gambrell founded the Atlanta Legal Aid Society in 1924, banding together a group of 16 other Atlanta lawyers and serving as president for the first two decades.

Supporting the organization has been a tradition for Smith Gambrell ever since, Forte said.  He recalled his own early experience volunteering on landlord-tenant cases through the Saturday Lawyer program. “I learned it’s fundamental that people should have a roof over their heads,” he said.

Roseborough said she was inculcated with the same value of lawyers serving the community in her early career at Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan (now Eversheds Sutherland), and Home Depot’s legal department is maintaining that commitment.

“And no sane person says no to Steve Gottlieb,” Roseborough said, referring to the organization’s resourceful executive director. The campaign is 70 percent of the way to its goal, she added, thanks to early donations from what the group calls pacesetter firms.

Pacesetters, which contribute $500 per Atlanta lawyer, are the backbone of the campaign. They range from large firms like Alston & Bird to solos, such as Michael Nations and Amy Weil.

The group is encouraging large individual contributions through The Gambrell Society for donors who make a three-year pledge to give from $2,500 to $15,000 per year. Forte and Roseborough have both taken the pledge, along with 33 other lawyers so far.

Consult Atlanta Legal Aid’s website or contact Angie Tacker at ajtacker@AtlantaLegalAid.org for details.