Bar Association of Frederick County volunteer members work in the kitchen of the Salvation Army at their annual Thanksgiving Dinner on November 25.
Recognizing the increasing importance of community involvement in this precarious economic climate, many local bar associations throughout the state stepped forth to help brighten the holidays for those less fortunate.
To this end, the Bar Association of Frederick County (BAFC) punctuated an especially active season in December, when more than 50 of its members collected a large number of new toys as part of the Marine Corps’ annual “Toys for Tots” campaign. Twenty-one Frederick County lawyers also helped provide much-needed assistance to four particularly disadvantaged area families by donating sundry items that included Christmas trees, bicycles, toys, non-perishable food items, diapers, a television and a wide array of needed clothing.
The December toy drive followed the BAFC’s 13-year tradition of participating in the Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner. In addition to donating all of the necessary food, the 28 BAFC volunteers spent more than nine hours in the kitchen, working to prepare and serve dinner to more than 300 people.
“The lawyers in Frederick County believe it is of paramount importance to give back to the community, particularly in these most devastating economic times, some of the blessings that have been bestowed upon us,” says BAFC President Bethamy Beam.
Echoing those sentiments, the Bar Association of Baltimore City’s (BABC) Young Lawyers Division hosted its 18th annual Holiday Party for Children Residing in Shelters for the Homeless on December 16 at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. Roughly 50 BABC volunteers helped make the event – which included dinner, gifts, a magic show and a visit from Santa, among other treats – possible for more than 200 city children.
“The party is intended to provide a little something to those who, through no fault of their own, would otherwise be unable to enjoy the holiday season like the rest of us,” explains Greg Kirby, Chair of the BABC Young Lawyers Division. “The atmosphere during the party is truly amazing, as volunteers see how the kids’ faces light up when they see Santa or find out that they have presents. It’s then that you realize that these children are just like everyone else, but have been handed unfortunate circumstances in life.”
Kirby notes that the Young Lawyers Division’s Public Service/Education Committee is devoted to organizing similar community-minded programs throughout the year. “From participation in our Junior Judges Program (which mentors area elementary school children) to soup kitchens and handing out free legal information, the BABC has been and will continue to be very active in community service.”
Similarly, the Harford County Bar Association (HCBA) focused its year-end efforts on making the holidays a bit more engaging for disadvantaged area children, one page at a time. By way of attending the association’s Annual Holiday Party, approximately 60 HCBA members and guests collected about as many new children’s books to benefit the children served by the county’s Child Advocacy Center (CAC).
“This is the second year we have done this,” notes HCBA Executive Director Gail Williams. “The CAC deals with abuse cases and involves attorneys from the Office of the State’s Attorney, Harford County Sheriff’s deputies and counselors.”
Children’s literacy was also of prime interest to the Baltimore County Bar Association’s (BCBA) Young Lawyers Committee, which helped sponsor the county Circuit Court Library’s Annual Library Holiday Literacy Party on December 4. The collected books and record cash donations (used to purchase more books) went to benefit the Holiday Toy Stores of the Baltimore County Department of Social Services. Located in Woodlawn, Towson and Essex, the Holiday Toy Stores make the books available to parents receiving aid as holiday gifts for their children.
“The BCBA Young Lawyers look to organize events that will generate interest within the bar association and the citizens of the county,” says Michael Siri, Chair of the BCBA Young Lawyers Division. “Outreach such as the Holiday Party for Literacy builds relationships between members of the bar association and citizens of Maryland.” Moreover, such events also afford bar members with prime opportunities to “meet and network with their colleagues,” according to Siri.
Meighan Burton (left) and Rebecca Ripley volunteer their time at the Bar Association of Baltimore City Young Lawyers Division's annual Holiday Party for Children Residing in Shelters for the Homeless, held December 16 at the Maryland Science Center.
The Prince George’s County Bar Association (PGCBA) has long used its Annual Holiday Party as a platform for taking up collections for local charities. Proceeds from this year’s event, held December 9, benefited the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department’s Toy Drive, the Bowie Food Pantry and the Young Women’s Facility of Maryland at Waxter. Some of the charities have indeed varied over the years, but the Toy Drive, according to PGCBA Executive Director Georgia Perry, remains a regular fixture.
“Every year, as part of its Holiday Celebration, the Prince George’s County Bar Association solicits toy donations from its members for area children,” says Perry, noting that the Sheriff’s Department handles the subsequent distribution of the toys. “This has always been a very successful event, and members are very eager to share with those less fortunate.”
Though but a sampling of the many civic-minded activities of local bar associations all across the state, these programs, and the hardworking attorneys who make them possible, highlight their year-round importance, especially during these trying economic times.
“There are so many people in our community who are less fortunate than us who need and deserve our help,” says Beam. “It’s the very least we can do, and what we believe we are supposed to do, as good citizens and as members of this noble profession.”