Local News

Legal Aid to close Smithfield, Henderson offices

Posted August 9, 2011 10:20 a.m. EDT

— Legal Aid of North Carolina, which provides legal services to low-income people statewide, will close its offices in Smithfield and Henderson because of budget cuts, officials said.

The nonprofit organization lost more than $2 million in state and federal funding this year, forcing it to close an office in Boone as well and reduce operations at offices in Rocky Mount, Winston-Salem and Sylva, officials said.

"We've been holding the line on hiring and salaries already for two years while trying to keep up with the increasing need during the economic downturn," Celeste Harris, a Winston-Salem attorney and chairwoman of Legal Aid's board of directors, said in a statement.

The Smithfield and Henderson offices cover Johnston, Harnett, Sampson and Vance counties, officials said, noting that Legal Aid attorneys help thousands of families each year in these counties.

The offices have stopped taking new cases and will close by the end of September, officials said.

"We know private lawyers in these communities will step up and volunteer," Tom Berkau, a Smithfield attorney and a Legal Aid board member, said in a statement. "Legal Aid lawyers, however, expertly handle hundreds of these cases and provide services that our volunteers will not be able to replace."