Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Excellence Awards

Important Update: 2021 PLAN Excellence Awards

PLAN Excellence AwardFirst, we want to share our sincere hope that you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe as we provide this update about the 2021 Excellence Awards.

As many of you know, we have had to make some difficult decisions about when it will be safe to meet again in person. While we had hoped to be able to honor our 2020 awardees in September, due to the enduring nature of the pandemic, we had to cancel the 2020 Excellence Awards altogether. As such, we decided not to select a new slate of award winners for 2021, but instead to use that occasion to honor our previous award recipients and celebrate our community’s collective response to COVID-19. Now, given that the pandemic does not appear to be waning and a vaccine will not likely be fully available by March, we are mindful that it is not realistic to try to gather in-person for this event. So rather than postpone again, we have decided to host the first ever PLAN Virtual Excellence Awards!

We are committed to maintaining the honor and integrity that has always embodied PLAN’s Excellence Awards. Our event will follow the same format as our in-person ceremony and be professionally produced and fitting for the occasion. We're pleased to share that Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice David Wecht has agreed to be our Speaker at our March 2021 event.

Our virtual event will be held on the same date as originally planned, March 23, 2021, and broadcast live on our website from 6:00 PM-7:30PM.

We look forward to honoring the following at the March 2021 Virtual Excellence Awards:

  • Wesley C. Allen, Esq. 
    Senior Attorney, Family Advocacy Unit • Community Legal Services • Philadelphia, PA
  • Mardi Busanus 
    Volunteer • Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania • Doylestown, PA
  • El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA) 
    El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (The Farmworkers Support Committee) • Kennett Square, PA
  • Robert Damewood, Esq. 
    Staff Attorney • Regional Housing Legal Services • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Erin Guay 
    Paralegal • Pennsylvania Health Law Project • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Samuel R. Grego, Esq. 
    Principal • Dickie McCamey, & Chilcote, P.C. • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Gabriele Miller-Wagner 
    Administrative Assistant, Pro Bono Department • Pennsylvania Bar Association • Harrisburg, PA
  • Matthew S. Rich, Esq. 
    Staff Attorney • MidPenn Legal Services • Harrisburg, PA
  • Joan M. Tutak, Esq.  
    Senior Attorney • Neighborhood Legal Services • Butler, PA

Of special honor is the Outstanding Leadership In Support of Legal Services Award, which will be presented to:

  • Samuel W. Milkes, Esq.
    Executive Director Emeritus, Pennsylvania Legal Services Network, Inc.

Since this event will be broadcast live, we're not requiring attendees to register in advance or purchase a ticket. In lieu of purchasing a ticket, we're asking those that wish to attend to consider making a donation in honor of an award recipient.

In addition, we'll be making our awards program available in print and electronically on our event page. If you would like to receive your program by mail in advance of the ceremony, please complete this form no later than March 5, 2021 at 5:00 PM.

Please contact Brianna Bosak ( or Natalie Bogerman ( if you require additional information or have any questions. I am also available to discuss any questions or concerns about the event.

As we continue to navigate uncharted waters, we are grateful for your flexibility and understanding. Thank you for all that you do each day to support PLAN's work on behalf of marginalized and vulnerable populations. We hope to see you in March. In the meantime, be well, and take care of yourselves and others.


PLAN Excellence AwardPennsylvania Legal Aid Network Honors 2019 Excellence Award Recipients

Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc. recognized the recipients of the 2019 Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Excellence Awards during the annual Awards Celebration on March 26, 2019. 
The featured speaker at the event was James J. Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation.

The mission of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network is to ensure equal access to justice so that Pennsylvanians can have legal representation when facing important civil legal concerns affecting their safety, health, shelter and survival. 

The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Excellence Awards are presented each year to individuals, groups, and/or organizations that have established excellence and diligence improving the availability and quality of civil legal services for low income people and victims of domestic violence in Pennsylvania. 

The list of award recipients includes a variety of civil legal aid professionals and friends of civil legal aid across Pennsylvania who were recognized for their efforts in support of the clients served by the civil legal programs of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network.

A video tribute was shown highlighting the accomplishments of each of the 2019 recipients of the award. Those video tributes may be viewed below:



The 2019 Excellence Award recipients are:

  • Rachel Garland, Esq., Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
  • Natalia Gomez and Benita Mejia, Community Justice Project
  • Betty Green, Philadelphia Legal Assistance
  • George Gvozdich, Esq., and E. Marie Queen,  Pennsylvania Bar Foundation Loan Repayment Assistance Program
  • G. Clayton Nestler, Esq., Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services
  • Nancy R. Paul and Nancy O. Walsh, Montgomery Bar Association
  • Stella Smetanka, Esq., Pro Bono counsel at Neighborhood Legal Services
  • Michelle Terry, Esq., Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania

In addition, PLAN presented the Outstanding Leadership in Legal Services Award to the group who championed the Clean Slate Legislative Initiative. The following individuals were recognized as part of this single group award: 

  • Gene Barr
  • Representative Sheryl M. Delozier
  • Sharon M. Dietrich
  • Jamie Gullen
  • Holly Harris
  • Representative Jordan A. Harris
  • Mark Holden
  • Michael Hollander
  • Malcolm Jenkins
  • Ronald Lewis
  • Chris Long
  • Seth P. Lyons
  • Beth Anne Mumford
  • Greg Rowe
  • Torrey Smith
  • Rebecca Vallas
  • Senator Scott Wagner
  • Senator Anthony H. Williams

The Clean Slate Legislation provides for automatic sealing of arrests ending without convictions immediately, summary offense convictions after 10 years, and some misdemeanor convictions after 10 years. It also expands Pennsylvania’s sealing law to include some first-degree misdemeanors.

It is an extremely important bill for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians with old and minor criminal convictions or who were arrested but not convicted.  Sealing a criminal case is a life-changing remedy for those who qualify, opening doors to employment, housing and education. 

We invite you to follow the link below to learn more about the 2019 Excellence Award winners.

The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network congratulates each of the award recipients and is proud to celebrate their examples of excellence in the pursuit of Access to Justice for all citizens.

About the 2019 Excellence Award Recipients

About the 2019 Outstanding Leadership in Legal Services Award Recipient

Photos from the Awards Presentation

2019 Excellence Award Program Book


YouTube logo   Award Tribute Videos

Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about the latest news and updates!

Sign Up