An automobile manufacturer may not sound like the most relevant partner for a nonprofit civil legal aid society. But when Legal Aid of the Bluegrass reached out to their local Toyota plant, they found an opportunity that enabled the two to work together to improve the lives of older Kentuckians.

About Legal Aid of the Bluegrass

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, an NCOA-supported Benefits Enrollment Center (BEC), serves 33 counties in central, northern, and northeastern Kentucky, connecting low-income and vulnerable populations to legal assistance and community resources. In addition to their BEC work, Legal Aid of the Bluegrass is also a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provider, assisting people with Medicare and their families to make informed healthcare decisions.

Making the connection

It was at one community education event several years ago that Angela Zeek, Public Benefits & Ombudsman Unit Manager at Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, made the connection to Toyota.

Toyota has had a manufacturing plant in the central Kentucky area for 30 years now. As some of the original plant employees were starting to retire, the Toyota human resources department identified a need to help those individuals transition into Medicare.

Walking around the event exhibit hall, Zeek introduced herself and Legal Aid’s services to the Toyota representative, who saw the value in having the SHIP come out to conduct educational seminars on Medicare and benefits to their workforce.

Tips for forging cross-sector partnerships

While the partnership with Toyota was for only a limited time (one year), it did open the door to connecting more older Kentuckians to Legal Aid of the Bluegrass.

Zeek offered the following tips for other organizations seeking to partner with non-traditional groups:

  • Get out from behind the table. Zeek would never have made the connection to Toyota had she not gotten out from behind her kiosk and walked around to talk to the other exhibitors present. Recognize that when you are at a community event, it is just as important to get to know the other vendors as it is the attendees.
  • Build partnerships with clear mutual benefits. Take the time to identify how your partner’s goals and mission may align with your own. Toyota had a goal to help their employees successfully prepare for retirement and Medicare, which aligned with Legal Aid’s goal to help older adults make good health benefits decisions. Zeek emphasized that every goal should have actionable objectives that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed).
  • Understand that anyone can connect you to potential clients. While many of the Toyota employees may have had incomes too high to qualify for benefits, they often had aging family members or neighbors that qualified for these programs. By educating the workforce about their services, Legal Aid of the Bluegrass was able to bring in more clients through word-of-mouth.

For more information

Angela Zeek
Legal Aid of the Bluegrass