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Bread for the City grieves the loss of Jeannine Sanford

Since July, Bread for the City has been grieving the loss of our long-time chief operating officer, Jeannine Sanford. To those who knew her, Jeanine was a caring mentor. Throughout her 30-year tenure, she always offered her time, provided advice, and advocated for those in need as a well-known pillar in the legal services and pro bono community. 

We unite with Jeannine’s family, her friends, the legal access community, and her Bread for the City loved ones in honoring her legacy as we say goodbye.

A Compassionate Changemaker

Throughout Jeannine’s three-decade service to the community, she transformed a legal referral system within the Zacchaeus Free Clinic into Bread for the City’s Legal Clinic – a full-scale program providing legal representation and advice. Initially working to place volunteer attorneys together with Zacchaeus medical patients who had disability claims, Jeannine was our first staff attorney. She quickly expanded the disability practice from the converted broom closet she called her office. Over the coming decades, the legal clinic would add additional public benefits lawyers to join with housing, family, and immigration attorneys to connect thousands of DC residents with much-needed legal services.

Jeannine served as the legal director for six years, supervising and mentoring attorneys, legal assistants, students, fellows, and volunteers and building a highly competitive legal fellowship program. Her vision was not only about Bread for the City’s direct legal service role but how collective action could impact access to justice in DC. Her goal would lead city-wide advocacy efforts to reform the practices of the DC Superior Court and other institutions and services that hold power over our community. During this time, Jeannine also maintained her caseload, representing clients and winning disability income and health coverage for many of her DC neighbors.

Over the years, Jeannine defined many significant moments that shaped Bread for the City. She played a critical role in the 1995 merger of Bread for the City and the Zaccheaus Free Clinic, leading us to the organization we represent today. She championed the innovative wrap-around services model we still use and took on the expansion of our Northwest Center and our growth east of the river in Wards 7 and 8. Jeannine helped launch the DC Bar Pro Bono Center’s monthly Free Advice & Referral Clinic at Bread for the City, providing free and accessible legal aid to community members from all walks of life. As deputy director and eventually COO of Bread for the City, Jeannine’s impact touched every aspect of our work. She led each direct service – Food, Clothing, Medical Care, Social and Legal Services – with rare care, attention, and a deep commitment to serving the community with dignity and respect. She oversaw the day-to-day management of Bread for the City’s administrative needs and mentored and developed the Advocacy and Community Organizing program.

A Community Leader

Outside of our walls, Jeannine’s impact is present across DC. Her efforts laid the groundwork for the DC Employment Justice Center (EJC) and their eventual transition to become part of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. She was an active member of the DC Consortium of Legal Service Providers and elected by the DC Bar to serve on the DC Bar Board of Governors. Most recently, Jeannine worked to ensure a fair and just legal system as a member of the Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, which oversees judges in the local DC courts. Jeannine used these service and leadership opportunities – every board tenure, executive committee appointment, and coalition membership – to bring the needs of the DC community to the forefront and provide a much-needed voice on behalf of the legal services community.

A Legacy of Good

Jeannine had a host of exceptional strengths that she gave willingly to this work, like her unfailing sense of compassion and her strong desire for justice. She saw the worth of every individual in front of her, be they her colleague, a client in need of services, or a newly minted attorney lacking mentorship. She never put herself above another person. A dedicated mother and wife, Jeannine was a gift from her family to the staff at Bread for the City. She was our chief mentor and personally trained and supervised many of the finest public servants in DC. Her versatility and dedication to doing better, being better, and providing better spread across the organization and made Bread for the City what it is today.

We hope we will continue to make her proud as each Bread for the City family member carries a part of her legacy, impact, and commitment to benefit those we serve.