Melissa M. Beck to be Honored with the New York City Bar's McDonald Award

New York, NY – Melissa M. Beck, Chief Executive Officer of Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), will receive the New York City Bar Association's 2011 Kathryn A. McDonald Award for Excellence in Service to Family Court on May 11, 2011.

Named in honor of the former Supervising Judge of the New York City Family Court, the Kathryn A. McDonald Award is given each year to individuals whose work in the Family Court system has set them apart for their dedication and accomplishments on behalf of the children and families that it serves.

The New York State Family Court system is severely under-resourced and acutely over-crowded. Without any new judges appointed to the Family Court bench in the last twenty years, the most recent blows to an already razor thin Court budget have significantly rocked the system, single-handedly ending Night Court in the City’s Family Courts and other important Court-based supports. Yet this does not deter thousands of families from seeking safety and stability from the Court. And even before budget cuts this was no easy task. Most people in Family Court are there without a lawyer. Either not entitled to one by statute or too poor to retain one, lawyers are a luxury few in the Family Court can afford.

That is where LIFT comes in. LIFT empowers low-income New Yorkers to be their own lawyers. For the past fifteen years, growing from a spark of an idea to a citywide powerhouse, LIFT now serves nearly 35,000 people annually. With an equal blend of creativity, unstoppable energy, and keen business acumen, Ms. Beck has created in LIFT a haven for countless families.

“I am honored to receive the McDonald Award,” said Ms. Beck. “Building New York City’s only organization that works to empower vulnerable families with legal information so that they may successfully self-advocate in Family Court has been extremely rewarding. I am motivated by the needs of so many of our neighbors who stand at the precipice of the system without an advocate, without an understanding, and without the know-how to represent themselves. Imagine yourself in that position with the well-being of your children at stake? I am propelled by that image daily, and deeply moved by the companion image I carry in my mind’s eye – that of the parent, who takes the bold and successful step on his or her own behalf, seizes upon the information and support LIFT provides, and triumphs.”

“I cannot think of a person more deserving of this recognition,” said Stephen McGrath, LIFT Board Chair. “Melissa keeps LIFT mission-driven with a vigilant focus on outcomes and resource allocation, and under her leadership, the organization thrives with a course set toward continued expansion and success.”

Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York, will present the award to Beck at an award ceremony on May 11, 2011 at the New York City Bar.