Lawrence County’s defense attorney Larry Keith said he prepared Aaron Cangey to become the next public defender.
But the hopes Keith had for the aspiring attorney were dashed two years ago when Cangey took his own life at the age of 31 on October 9, 2018. It was a day of shock and disbelief for other lawyers, judges, and other staff in the Lawrence County court system.
Cangey, an assistant public defender, had managed to hide his depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol addiction from most people. To Keith: “It could light a room. Pretty much everyone he met loved him. He has been a tenacious advocate for his clients, especially young disadvantaged people and people with addiction and mental health problems. “
The spirit of his work with defendants in the Public Defender’s Office and the Lawrence County Treatment Court in helping bring nonviolent offenders out of drug addiction was carried on through the Aaron Michael Cangey Memorial Foundation. The foundation was established on his behalf by his seven-year-old girlfriend Ginny Jacob and members of his family in October 2018 after his funeral when many people asked where in his memory they could donate.
Jacob contacted Bradley G. Olson, Jr., attorney, one of Cangey’s close friends, to prepare the filing. Six months later, it officially became a tax-deductible charitable trust to help fund the living expenses of the defendants while they struggle for success, Jacob explained.
President Judge Dominick Motto takes the solicitor’s oath to Aaron Cangey after passing the Pennsylvania bar exam.
“The purpose of the foundation is to honor Aaron’s memory and continue the work that is so close to his heart,” said Jacob. “It is very close to my heart, to the heart of my family, and to Aaron’s heart, and it is a great benefit to the community. We wanted to take it to a treatment court because this sector is often overlooked. We wanted something that set him apart as a lawyer. “
Those who benefit from the Foundation’s funds must complete applications that will be monitored with referral letters from a general cause judge or a county probation officer. Applications are then reviewed and approved by Jacob and members of the von Cangey family who serve on the board. Jacob is the director of the foundation, Cangey’s mother, Jeanne Walker, of Cleveland, is its secretary, and his younger brother, Andrew Cangey of Columbus, Ohio, is the treasurer. Aaron’s father Frank Cangey and older brother Adam Cangey, as well as his stepbrother Anthony Scarnati, were also involved in the integration.
Examples of how the funds can be used include: helping with rental costs to maintain a safe environment, purchasing large equipment, paying fees for obtaining certification, or assisting with obtaining coursework.
“Our goal is to help participants and graduates become independent while staying on a positive path,” said Jacob. “The things we take for granted are the little things they need to move forward.”
At Christmas this year, members of the foundation gave the beneficiaries of the treatment court in the circumstances of COVID-19 the option to extend a $ 100 loan for a use of their choice, such as rent or utilities, Jacob explained. The foundation also provided them with 150 bus passes for transport authorities.
“We also spent over $ 2,000 on food support,” she added.
Since the foundation was founded, she has amassed around $ 30,000 through donations, she said. The foundation has given nearly $ 2,000 in grants on top of the grocery money. So far it has helped more than 20 applicants.
Donations can be made through the website at www.aaronmichaelcangeymemorialfoundation.org or www.AMCMF.org.
The foundation is also recognized by AmazonSmile, which allows people to donate to the foundation with every purchase from Amazon.
“People have given so much and they pass on,” said Jacob. “Some people donated every month just because they loved him and wanted the foundation to be successful.”
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The two-pronged program also offers free workwear for men and women through its Workwear Closet for those who need new career or career prospects. The closet, which features clean, donated clothing, opened in October and has already stocked two people, Jacob said. The clothing is also available for other agencies, including CareerLink.
The idea came about because “we had a lot of Aaron’s suits, many of which were given to him by other lawyers who worked with him,” she said. When Cangey was new and walked into the bar, “They knew how expensive it was to have a wardrobe running. We decided to pass this idea on. “
Whatever clothing is not used goes to the people through other local agencies.
Ginny Jacob rides in the snow with Aaron Cangey and their mutual dog Django, a Tamaskan, now 7, in this 2016 photo.
Cangey was born and raised in Mahoningtown. He graduated from New Castle High School after playing defensive tackle on the high school soccer team. He earned a degree in criminal justice from Slippery Rock University before graduating from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and returning to his hometown.
He grew up a close friend of Dominick Motto Jr., son of the Lawrence County Common Pleas President, Judge Dominick Motto.
“When I found out that he was going to study law, I was very happy for him,” said Richter Motto. Cangey worked as an intern and clerk for the presidential judge, and Motto took his oath as an attorney after he passed the state bar exam.
“He worked really hard to be a lawyer and he had great compassion for his clients,” said Motto. “He’s helped them solve very difficult problems and get the most out of some difficult situations.”
The judge said he was broken when he learned of Cangey’s death.
“I think the foundation pays real homage to him,” said Motto, who oversees the treatment and mental health program. “It reflects his personality and seems to be good for people who are in a difficult situation in life. Whenever we need someone in our program, they are always receptive. A foundation that bears his name is a real tribute to him and helps keep his memory alive. “
The Cangey Foundation and survivors have also received emotional support from people in the district court system, such as Linda Abraham, the central court administrator, and her assistant Alice Heaney, who in Cangey’s memory inaugurated a bank in the court.
“Which was more than beautiful,” said Jacob. “It was a wonderful gesture for her to do.”
Cangey had met the majority of his clients in the Central Court almost every day. Many of his clients have reached out to Jacob and told her how much he has helped them, she said. “He really took care of her.”
Keith said, “He was a versatile, intelligent person and a prolific legal writer and researcher,” he said. “I recognized his talent immediately and hired him in the hope that he would eventually take over this position. I wanted him to be the next defender sooner rather than later.
“I think about him every day,” he said. “He wasn’t just my colleague, he was my friend.”