Volunteer Profile Series: Hon. Mary Jo Heston, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Washington

Volunteer Profile Series: Hon. Mary Jo Heston, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Washington

This month we are pleased to share our latest volunteer profile on Hon. Mary Jo Heston who has recently been appointed to CARE’s Advisory Board. Judge Heston has spent over 30 years working on financial literacy and bankruptcy related pro bono initiatives with several organizations.

How did you learn about CARE?

I first learned about CARE and its great work at an ABI Meeting several years ago. I spent most of my career in Seattle where since the early 1990s, Seattle has operated a financial literacy focused pro bono organization, CENTS, which has a similar mission to CARE. Karen Overstreet was active in both CENTS and CARE.  I was active in CENTS until I became a judge in Tacoma, Washington in 2017. However, CENTS has had limited involvement in the Tacoma area to date, because most of its resources are in Seattle.   Additionally, Tacoma and its surrounding area has several military bases and a large veteran presence which was topic area CENTS had not to date focused on for its financial literacy programs.  In 2018 I started to investigate the availability of military pro bono and financial literacy services and education both locally and nationally. About the same time, I learned that ABI had recently formed the ABI Veteran and Active Service Members’ and Veterans’ Taskforce.  I was asked to join the Taskforce in 2018 and have worked with its Pro Bono Subcommittee on several projects to date.

Why did you decide to serve on CARE’s Advisory Board?

Most recently, I worked with CARE in connection with a 2020 public service project NCBJ planned in connection with the San Diego NCBJ Conference which involved a financial literacy presentation at San Diego’s Veterans’ Village (VV), a residential treatment facility for veterans with substance abuse and alcohol recovery issues.  The financial literacy presentation was ultimately presented via Zoom at VV and was followed by individual meetings between both in-patient and out-patient clients of VV and pro bono lawyers to further discuss their legal needs including those related to financial issues and bankruptcy.  This project was a collaborative effort of NCBJ, the ABI Active Military and Veterans’ Taskforce, CARE and San Diego Law School’s Military Clinic, San Diego LASSD and VLS.  Tammy Hettinger and ABI were of great assistance in putting the financial literacy video for this project.  It was clear that CARE’s expertise and involvement was critical to the development of further materials and presentations for military, veterans and their families and that the Taskforce’s knowledge of military issues and financial literacy needs would make a good partnership in expanding CARE’s work to this population.

Can you share more about CARE’s work with the ABI’s Active Military and Veteran’s Task Force?

Based on the VV program we formed a working group of the ABI Taskforce and CARE to develop military and veteran focused materials which will both expand the covered topics from the VV program and put them in a more usable format.  Both Karen Phillips and Tammy Hettinger from CARE are active and key participants in this working group along with Jessica Youngberg, Judges Chuck Walker and Margaret Mann.  We are in the process of expanding the working group to include other Taskforce members who can help with educational content development. Since the veteran population is broadly defined, we currently are focusing on the financial literacy needs of veterans who have recently separated from the military and those like VV residents who are reemerging into society following treatment for substance abuse or mental illness. We are very excited about this project.  We hope to have a series of financial literacy presentations that can then be used by CARE Volunteers and others at veteran facilities and military and veteran outreach organizations in the not too distant future.

To learn more about the ABI’s Active Military and Veteran’s Task Force, please click here