Passing The Torch at VLP
After 37 years of leading the VLP staff, Bob Elardo has announced that he will be retiring this May. Elardo oversaw the growth of VLP from a 3 person staff with a budget of under $100,000 to a $4 million dollar program with a staff of 45. He served as the two-time President of the National Association of Pro Bono Professionals, Chair of the NY Pro Bono Coordinators Network, and on the Board of the NY Legal Services Coalition. He was recognized several times with local, state-wide, and national awards. During his tenure, VLP represented over 85,000 clients and provided information and referral service to more than 100,000 additional people. Under his leadership, approximately 3,000 local pro bono attorneys have handled more than 41,500 of VLP’s cases.
After Bob’s internal announcement of his decision to retire, the VLP Board of Directors began a three month process to find his successor. VLP is pleased to announce that this process has concluded with a decision that VLP’s current Deputy Director, Gretchen Gonzalez, will take over as Executive Director/CEO when Elardo retires.
Ms. Gonzalez has dedicated her career to civil legal services, and brings experience from a wide variety of substantive legal areas. Ms. Gonzalez started with VLP in 2012 and previously worked as a Senior Staff Attorney in VLP’s Positive Families and Individuals project providing representation to clients impacted by HIV and as VLP’s staff attorney for Community and Economic Development working with not for profits and small businesses in WNY. She was promoted to Deputy Director of VLP in 2018. She has worked in New York City as a trial attorney in the housing unit of both the Legal Aid Society’s Harlem Community Law Office and Queens Legal Services. Ms. Gonzalez has also worked as a Staff Attorney with the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project where she represented clients with severe and persistent mental illness in cases related to public benefits. She clerked with the ACLU National LGBT Rights Project and Children’s Legal Services. Ms. Gonzalez holds a Bachelors of Arts and Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Boston University, as well as an MA in Psychology, cum laude, from City University of New York Hunter College. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Club of Buffalo’s Non-Profit Management Program.