Next Tuesday, June 26, The Waterfront Project, Inc. (WFP) will host its Fifth Annual Fundraiser, Justice For All. The evening at Maritime Parc in Jersey City will also pay tribute to Dixon Projects & Dixon Leasing, the President of CarePoint Foundation, and Jersey City Together.
WFP is a non-profit organization, beginning in Hoboken five years ago and now serving all of Hudson County, that assists the underserved of the community. WFP’s mission is clear, and through various programs, they are “dedicated to assisting Hudson County’s economically disadvantaged people — the working poor, seniors, veterans, and those living with disabilities — by providing information, advice, and pro bono legal representation to address their civil legal issues and concerns.”
As a non-profit, WFP relies on funding from government grants, individual contributions, and corporate donations, and Dixon began donating resources to the organization very early on. “Dixon has been instrumental,” said Rebecca Symes, Vice President of the WFP Board of Trustees. “Dixon recognizes their role in the growth of Jersey City and that it’s a mixed blessing for our most vulnerable residents and wanted to direct some of its charitable giving and employee volunteer hours to helping those most in need.” WFP works to advise, defend, educate, and prepare a portion of the Hudson County community that would otherwise be left behind due to the development spurred by this growth.
Behind the WFP programs are the staff and volunteer attorneys who offer their time and legal services for free, including one of the Justice For All fundraiser honorees, Katrina Cavanough. Katrina began her career in her native Australia at a commercial law firm in Melbourne, and after moving to New York City in 2015, she landed with the in-house legal team of Dixon Advisory USA, which is affiliated with Dixon Leasing and Dixon Projects.
Besides passing the bar exam, admission into the New York State Bar Association requires 50 hours of pro-bono legal work be completed. Katrina had completed only 15 hours in Australia, but after an introduction to Dinah Hendon, Executive Director of WFP, she was invited to participate and worked closely with residents of the Battery View Senior Citizen Housing in Downtown Jersey City, assisting them with end of life documents: wills, medical directives, and power of attorney documentation. Working with residents of Battery View had its challenges as a large part of the community is Russian, and English is not their first language.
Through multiple visits to educate, prepare, and execute the necessary documents, Battery View residents received an essential service that so often eludes this segment of the community. And it’s Katrina’s commitment to the residents that will be honored at the fundraiser next Tuesday evening. “Katrina did more than just show up. She was passionate and having her here on the ground was really helpful,” said Rebecca Symes.
Katrina is quick to mention the assistance of one Battery View resident in particular, Irina, who acted as an interpreter for the Russian-speaking residents during many of the visits, and they have become fast friends. “It’s a nice experience to have that connection in the local community,” Katrina told Jersey Digs.
Irina, and her husband Leon, emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1994, and after living in Elizabeth, New Jersey, for four years, they settled in Jersey City to be closer to New York City. “We like to be close to museums, concert halls, cultural institutions,” Irina told Jersey Digs. After being invited over for dinner one evening in February, Katrina learned more about their lives in Soviet Russia before they retired — Irina has a doctorate and was a university researcher in the field of artificial intelligence; Leon was a professor of shipbuilding and naval technology and has written over 12 books on the subject as well as an autobiography called “My First Twenty Years.”
“The Waterfront Project was very effective, helpful, and useful for the Russian-speaking people,” Irina said. “Each one had the opportunity to speak with the team who came to the building several times.” And on June 18, Katrina was officially sworn in as an attorney in New York State. “Thanks to the opportunity to volunteer with The Waterfront Project, not only was I able to complete the voluntary hours needed… but I gained an unexpected new friendship with some wonderful and very accomplished members of the Jersey City community,” Katrina added.
In addition to free legal services regarding civil matters, WFP also offers housing counseling as a participating agency of HUD’s program as well as financial counseling and coaching. The Fifth Annual Justice For All Fundraiser will also honor Paula Nevoso, President of CarePoint Foundation, and Jersey City Together. Sponsorships are still available and tickets can be purchased here.