Byline: Christina Abel
Though they've only been open a year, the two attorneys at the St. Johns County Legal Aid office have already helped about 1,000 residents with their legal paperwork and represented clients in the courtroom.
Although the managing attorney, Megan Wall, said that most of their calls don't come from Ponte Vedra Beach residents, they do help people, mostly elderly, in the county's northeast community frequently.
The 2004 U.S. Census and the Beaches Chamber of Commerce show that in Ponte Vedra Beach, 9,593 of 35,530 residents, or about 27 percent, are 65 or older.
The office also helps disabled and low-income residents.
About 11 percent are disabled and 12 percent are living below the poverty level.
Cathy Brown, the director of the county Council on Aging, said she thinks the Legal Aid office is an invaluable resource for the community, even in Ponte Vedra Beach.
"The recent rapid growth rate in Ponte Vedra could lead one to presume that everyone there is well off. The fact is that there are about 300 disabled elders in that zip code and their needs are of concern to us," Brown said.
From October to December, Wall helped seven Ponte Vedra residents with their cases, spending about 20 hours with two of those clients. The office dealt with about 420 cases in that time period.
Wall said they screen clients individually and that there are pockets of poverty in any community, including Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Valley.
Even though only two attorneys and one paralegal work at the office, Wall said many top attorneys in the community help out by representing the Legal Aid clients pro bono, or participate in monthly clinics where attorneys meet with clients and advise them on their cases.
Two of those attorneys practice in Ponte Vedra …