United Way of Payne County Awards Non-profit Law Firm 

Left to right: Ruth Cavins, Mozella Irwin-Smith, Zachary Yarbrough and Kelsey Lee (source United Way of Payne County - Jan. 24, 2023)

Story provided by United Way of Payne County

United Way of Payne County presented Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma the Bennett Basore Award at its annual meeting on January 24. 

Kelsey Lee, outgoing president for United Way, highlighted each partner agency’s mission and accomplishments before announcing the award recipient. Mozella Irwin-Smith and Zachary Yarbrough, attorneys with the nonprofit law firm,  attended and accepted the award. 

In 2022, the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma staff faced their busiest year since they opened. They assisted more  than 300 families facing eviction, many because of COVID-19.  

Stacy Boyd, paralegal and office manager for the firm, saw a variety of low-income and vulnerable clients needing help due to reduced work hours, layoffs and more caused by the pandemic. 

“There were people who are in positions that have never been without a job,” Boyd said, who has been with the  firm for 16 years. “And they get to go on and tell people how we helped them and then send them to us.” 

Even without the increase in eviction calls, the employees work on difficult civil legal cases all year long involving such issues as child custody, wages and domestic violence. 

The agency’s efforts to protect citizens’ ability to obtain, maintain and defend their housing, health, safety, family stability, economic security and individual rights/freedom played a factor in it receiving the recognition. 

A committee within the United Way of Payne County conducts a thorough review of all 22 of their partner agencies annually. Each year, one agency is chosen to be recognized as the Bennett Basore Award Recipient. 

The award was named after a former board member. It was established in 2002, honoring his memory and the values identified by the accreditation process. 

United Way of Payne County is an agency that seeks to bring people together to build strong, equitable  communities. It focuses on promoting education, improving health and safety, and reducing poverty. Working with other  agencies is one way it does this. 

Donating to United Way of Payne County supports the work of 22 nonprofits, which collectively impact more  than 73,000 Payne County individuals and families each year. To learn more or donate, visit  www.unitedwaypaynecounty.org or call 405-377-2161.

Legal Aid Services Staff of Oklahoma pose outside their office (source: Ruth Cavins, Jan 20, 2023)