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Indiana Lawyer Focus

Time is money. Money makes the world go ’round. So what is so powerful that it can motivate busy lawyers to give up both? Perhaps it is the realization that with a small donation of each, they have the power to help alleviate hunger among children and families in central Indiana.

The Indiana Trial Lawyers Association has partnered with Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana to help provide weekend food to school-age children and get basic necessities to families in need.

gleaners Indianapolis lawyer Dan McAfee works with the Young Lawyers group to package food at Gleaners Food Bank. (File photo)

The ITLA College of Fellows became involved in Gleaners’ BackSacks weekend food program in 2010 because members recognized the immediate impact the program makes on the lives of Indiana kids. BackSacks sends 3,500 low-income children in 21 central Indiana counties home with a backpack containing food for six weekend meals.

“Everything ITLA members do in the courtroom has to do with making sure people are safe and protected and no one needlessly endangers the life of another. It is what we do for a living,” said last year’s College of Fellows president and Valparaiso attorney Steve Langer. Becoming “backpack buddies” with Gleaners seemed a perfect extension of that mission, he explained.

College of Fellows members are often involved with volunteer agencies and philanthropic organizations – community leadership is among the criteria for the distinguished designation. A project initiated by the college in 2008 motivated members to collectively do more and provided a segue for the lawyers to become involved at Gleaners.

“So many of us are involved in outside work and feel so fortunate; we thought about what we could do to repay the citizens of Indiana,” Langer said.

The fellows decided to help American military serving overseas by putting together holiday care packages. In the project’s first year, more than 50 packages filled with toiletries, food, DVDs, books, and other items were sent to Afghanistan. That number increased to approximately 350 in 2010.

ITLA’s fellows collected more than $50,000 to fund the military care package and backpack efforts, Langer said. From fundraising to assembling the care packages, it has been a true group effort involving ITLA membership and staff. The College of Fellows has made a commitment to make projects for the people of Indiana “part of the fabric” of the organization, he added.

Taking its lead from the College of Fellows, in early May members of the ITLA Young Lawyers Section rolled up their sleeves at Gleaners, helping to package frozen food headed for food pantries and service agencies in the area.

It was just one night, but one night can make a great deal of difference, explained Cindy Hubert, Gleaners president and CEO.

“What people don’t realize is that we distributed 25.3 million pounds of food last year. That equates to 19 million meals,” Hubert said. “We are a staff of 47 and couldn’t do what we do without the almost 80,000 hours of volunteer time given last year.”

Indianapolis lawyer Tara Worthley coordinated efforts for the Young Lawyers project with Gleaners, and she said another date is already being planned.

“We packaged thousands of pounds of food in a couple of hours, but there was still so much more that needed to be done,” Worthley said. “Everyone worked hard and it was constant, but it was nice to get out there and do physical labor and know we are actually feeding people who need it.”

Hubert was glad to hear that the ITLA plans to continue its partnerships with Gleaners. Building a sustainable volunteer base, she said, is crucial to the service agency’s mission.•

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  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

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