U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio joined nearly 300 people at the Campaign Kick-off breakfast for the Campaign for Legal Services on March 2. The fifth annual event raises private funds for the civil legal aid services New Hampshire Legal Assistance and the Legal Advice and Referral Center.

Together, the two groups help more than 12,700 New Hampshire residents each year navigate the legal system in cases of domestic violence, wrongful evictions, or denial of health care or benefits.

Those numbers are more than just statistics, Sen. Portman said: They are real people in real need, and the benefits secured by the legal aid advocates help those families continue living in their homes and contributing to their communities.

Noting New Hampshire’s perennial appeal to politicians seeking the White House, Sen. Portman joked that the Campaign had lowered its standards by allowing someone who isn’t running for President to speak at the event.

Several attendees said, however, they valued his appearance more because he came to speak from the heart for a cause that he valued.

Before he was a senator, and even before he held two Cabinet-level positions for the White House, Sen. Portman spent time volunteering for a program run by the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati.

“That work benefitted me more than anyone because it enriched my understanding” of the community and the justice system, he said.

Portman was introduced at Tuesday’s luncheon by his colleague and frequent co-author of high-profile legislation, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

The U.S. Supreme Court sits across the street from their offices in the Capitol, she said, and she reminded the audience of the promise inscribed above its front door, “Equal Justice Under Law.”

“Yet across this great country, over 50 percent of applicants for federally funded legal services who request legal aid and who qualify are turned away because programs lack adequate funding,” she said.

“In other words, our citizens in New Hampshire and across this country are being denied justice not because of the facts of their case, but solely because the resources are not available. We can do better.  Thanks to all of you, we’re working to do better in New Hampshire, and we need to do better at the federal level in terms of support for legal services for all.”

The Campaign also debuted a video featuring comments by former U.S. Senators Warren B. Rudman, R-New Hampshire and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.

Legal aid “exists for a very noble and in our society a necessary purpose, to ensure that the neediest families and individuals in this country have access to a basic level of legal services,” Sen. Rudman said.

“We want and we expect all Americans to solve their disputes through peaceful and legal means. But whether we are dealing with a landlord tenant dispute, a family conflict or the myriad of problems that individuals all too often must face in their daily lives, peaceful and legal resolution is impossible without legal help.”

Justice Sponsors Bernstein Shur and Nixon Peabody led the charge to a record-breaking fundraising level for the kick-off, with nearly $40,000 raised to support civil legal aid services in New Hampshire.

The 2015 Campaign for Legal Services has set a goal of $350,000 in private donations to support NHLA and LARC.  This month’s event has put the Campaign off to a very good start.  To keep the momentum going with a tax-deductible contribution, consider making a secure online donation today.