Dan Morris, supervising attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, was honored this month with Safe Avenues' Hope for Tomorrow award.
Safe Avenues, a Willmar organization that provides advocacy, parent-child visitation services, and emergency shelter for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, maintains a strong, symbiotic partnership with Legal Aid's Willmar office. "With most non-profits, resources can be thin," Morris said. "We have to make the most of what we can with what we have. Our partnership serves a similar population in the same community, and we have a lot of the same goals."
Part of the intake process at Safe Avenues is an assessment of potential legal questions or difficulties. Advocates then pass the information to Legal Aid, help gather documentation, and explain Legal Aid's role. The attorneys meet with clients at the shelter at designated appointment times.
The Hope for Tomorrow Award recognizes volunteers and professionals who work tirelessly to bring hope, healing, safety, and justice to the community by providing advocacy and justice to survivors, helping build communities intolerant of domestic and sexual violence, and working to change people’s lives for the better. It recognizes the courage and strength of these individuals, and the enormous influence they have in developing resources, promoting non-violent, cooperative, and healthy relationships, and facilitating the social change necessary to end violence against men, women, and children.
As supervising attorney, Morris has arranged for training of all staff on issues such as safety planning, and the realities of life for survivors. For Safe Avenues, he has provided training on matters related to family law and immigration issues faced by survivors. In addition to working to improve the systemic response to domestic violence through participation in community programs, he also serves as a role model to other staff in his treatment of victims. His service to each client is not only professional, but informed, because of his understanding and compassion for the unique struggles of each person. Legal Aid's deputy director Ann Cofell remarked, “through his work, and dedication to building strong and cooperative relationships, Dan multiplies the impact of all.”
Reflecting on the award, Morris said, "While it might be my name on the award, it truly is an honor I share with the office. I’m not the only one that does outreach, or works with the shelter staff to coordinate services; it's an office-wide effort, and so I see this award as not just a recognition of my work, but rather the office as a whole."