Monte Carlo-style fundraiser returns to Rochester Arts Center; legal aid agency sees jump in service needs

·2 min read

Sep. 23—ROCHESTER — It's been a long time coming, but in some ways the timing of the upcoming Legal Assistance of Olmsted County fundraiser couldn't be seen as more necessary.

"The demand for civil legal aid has never been, honest to God, higher," LAOC Executive Director Karen Fairbairn Nath said of the planned Oct. 4, 2022, event at the Rochester Art Center.

The "Night in Monte Carlo" fundraiser, which will feature jazz music and charitable gambling, was slated for early 2020 but was canceled as the first COVID cases hit the county.

A truncated, outdoor version was held last year, but Fairbairn Nath said numbers were less than expected, leaving the organization with a tight budget as needs increased.

"Applications for service were up 64% last year, and on top of that, they are up another 65% this year," she said, pointing to increased domestic violence cases.

Last year, Legal Assistance of Olmsted County provided legal aid through direct representation, its Volunteer Attorney Program and clinics to more than 1,100 people.

"We are beyond tapped out," Fairbairn Nath added. "It's horrible when you are going to tell a victim of domestic violence that even though they qualify you don't have an attorney available."

She estimated the agency is turning away approximately 65% of qualified applicants.

"The fundraiser is really, really important to potentially allow us to hire another attorney," she said.

In addition to offering help with domestic violence cases, Legal Assistance of Olmsted County provides legal representation for low-income residents in a variety of civil matters, including eviction cases and clinics designed to help with a variety of family law issues.

To bolster the ability to provide services, the organization has traditionally held an annual fundraiser. While a virtual 5K run was held in 2020, and the scaled-down version of the art center gathering drew nearly 100 people last year, Fairbairn Nath said she's hoping to entertain a crowd Oct. 4.

"This is really our first year back," she said of the event.

Activity will kick off with a 5 p.m. cocktail hour, featuring a chef's Italian charcuterie board, and a pasta bar will be open from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with drinks available at a cash bar.

Driftless Jazz Ensemble will provide the background music as participants visit with each other and bid on silent auction items, with a live auction starting at 7 p.m.

Following the live auction, music will continue, with dancing and charitable gambling to entertain participants.

Tickets, at $100 apiece, are available online through the organization's website at

laocmn.org/

, along with sponsorship and other donation opportunities.