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Cuyahoga Falls attorney uses past experience as escrow officer to help homeowners

CONTACT:  Kenneth A. Brown, OSBA, 800-282-6556 or 614-487-4426

Columbus, OHIO (Oct. 20, 2009) – Ohio State Bar Association member Gayle Montalto of Cuyahoga Falls spent 10 years as an escrow officer, witnessing the subprime mortgage crisis firsthand. Today, Montalto is an attorney in private practice who is one of the more than 1,300 attorneys who are providing legal services free of charge through “Save the Dream,” a statewide foreclosure assistance program that connects qualified homeowners with lawyers.

“When the call went out to attorneys to volunteer for ‘Save the Dream,’ I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it,” Montalto said. “With my knowledge of loans, mortgage companies and banks, I knew that I could be helpful to homeowners.”

More than 3,200 Ohio families have avoided foreclosure through the counseling and legal assistance they have received since the “Save the Dream” initiative began on April 1, 2008.

Montalto has worked with the Community Legal Aid Services in Summit County and the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland on five cases in Summit, Stark and Cuyahoga counties. One of those was Edith McWilliams of Cleveland’s east side. “When my husband got sick and was forced to retire, we got behind on our mortgage payments,” McWilliams said. “Even when she got laid off from her job, Gayle stuck with our case and worked with us step by step to get a new payment so that we could stay in our home.”

Montalto feels there’s plenty of incentive for attorneys to volunteer for this program, especially attorneys who have lost their jobs. “If you’re out of work, the best thing to do is volunteer to keep yourself involved in legal issues. If you’re a law school graduate with no job prospects, this kind of experience is great to put on your resume,” she advises.

OSBA President Barbara J. Howard praised Montalto, and other attorneys like her, who have stepped forward to assist homeowners. “The attorneys who take part in ‘Save the Dream’ are truly inspiring in their dedication to helping those in their communities who face foreclosure,” Howard said. “Their commitment should serve as a spark to other attorneys to join in the efforts.”

“Save the Dream” is supported by the OSBA, the Governor’s Office, the Ohio Department of Development, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio Treasurer’s Office, the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Commerce, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, various legal aid organizations, and housing counseling agencies.   

Ohioans seeking assistance are encouraged to call the Save the Dream hotline at 1-888-404-4674. Attorneys interested in becoming involved should go to the member pages of the OSBA Web site, www.ohiobar.org, and click on “Foreclosure,” or call OSBA member services at 1-800-232-7124.

Howard said, “We encourage more lawyers to get involved in pro bono activities across the state. Lawyers interested in pitching in are urged to contact the Ohio State Bar Association, their local bar association or their local legal aid society.”   

The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 25,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice.

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Editor’s note: Montalto’s Web site is http://www.attymontalto.com.

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