Berkley White, 82, almost lost his house for nonpayment of property taxes — even though he had been sending money to a loan-servicing company for that purpose.
White, currently in a rehabilitation hospital after a series of health crises, thinks he was taken advantage of because of his age. “I believe so. I’m not exactly a young man,” he said.
With the help of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the company’s planned sale of his house was halted. White still fears losing his house — his homeowner’s insurance is now requiring a new roof he cannot afford — but is grateful he’s not homeless. He particularly praised Marissa Vetter, a Legal Aid eviction grant manager and housing counselor.
“If not for Marissa, I don’t know where we’d be,” he said.
White is the kind of Legal Aid client that Mike Freed had in mind when he envisioned Shelter for Elders, a new endowment that will fund the agency’s housing-related legal assistance for indigent seniors. Proceeds from the 2023 Freed to Run Friday and Saturday, the latest incarnation of the Jacksonville attorney’s annual fundraiser for Legal Aid founded in 2017, will benefit that initiative.
Until this year, Freed to Run benefitted the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership pairing lawyers, doctors and health care institutions to resolve legal problems affecting pediatric patients. The goal to set up a $2.25 million endowment for the partnership was met in 2022, with the help of Baptist Health matching funds.
Then Freed, an attorney for 30 years and longtime Legal Aid supporter, pondered what to do next. “It was a nice fundraising scheme. Seemed like such a waste to stop,” he said.
The new mission of Freed to Run became clear in August with the death of his father, who had lived his