JMU Grads Guide Charity Expansion

Firm Provides Pro Bono Legal Aid To Vets

Posted: September 6, 2013


HARRISONBURG — A trio of James Madison University alumnae are overseeing the expansion of a legal firm’s pro bono attorney work for veterans to the state of Virginia.


Dianna Schwartz, who graduated in 2003, her sister-in-law, Carla Schwartz, who graduated in 2005, and 2013 JMU grad Maggie Ford are running the Military Assistance Project, a Pennsylvania charitable organization that connects veterans struggling with debt issues with lawyers.


The project, based in Philadelphia, was started under the auspices of the law firm of Ciardi, Ciardi and Astin. The firm created the organization to provide Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing services free to active duty military members, reservists and veterans.


The intention of the organization when it started in 2011 was to create a network of bankruptcy attorneys across the U.S.


Schwartz said lawyer Albert Ciardi was troubled by veterans’ debt and how they were targeted by predatory lenders or credit card companies.


“I thought back to my days on JMU’s campus and how the credit card companies would set up tables where you fill out a form for a credit card and you get a T-shirt,” she said. “I had no idea that also happened every day on military bases. They are targeting these 18-year-old military personnel for the same reason they target college students.”


The purpose of the project is to aid military personnel with medical bills and credit or payday lending debt. Spouses and widows are also eligible for the project’s services.


The project is now nearing its two-year anniversary and has served about 100 clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

The program also is expanding to California.


The group is bringing its services to Virginia and California because of the two states’ heavy military presence, Schwartz said, particularly around the cities of Norfolk and San Diego.


To learn more about the Military Assistance Project or to seek its services, visit  or call (215) 557-3550.


Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or

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