By Kevin Morrisey, Lewis & Kappes PC
A core aspect of the IndyBar Bar Leader Series is the development and execution of a community service team projects by series participants. This facet of the program gives participants a unique opportunity to take community engagement a step further by putting the knowledge and skills that they’ve learned in the series to practical use for the benefit of the community.
The 25 members of the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Bar Leader Series Class XI have split into five teams to perform these community service projects throughout the Indianapolis community. The teams kicked off the projects with a creative exercise to explore their common interests and to identify the topics or organizations for their service projects during the class retreat in September. This year, the groups chose Elder Law, Education, Kids, Animals, and Mental Health as the categories for their projects. The teams then performed research to identify specific issues and challenges within each of these broad categories to narrow the scope of their efforts. The groups have since developed specific proposals and are well on their way to executing them prior to graduation from BLS XI in May.
The Elder Law Team seeks to facilitate access to nutritional food for low-income seniors. Specifically, this team is working to create a user-friendly electronic “calculator” to ensure that seniors who can qualify for food stamp benefits (SNAP) are enrolled in the program and are maximizing their benefits. The need for screening tools was identified by this team during their research and discussions with Elders at the Table Coalition and CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions. The electronic calculator will be distributed throughout agencies that serve seniors in the community. A paper version of the calculator will also be distributed as the team learned many of those affected do not have access to the Internet. The Team will work with these agencies to train their staff to assist the elderly with the using the calculator. Finally, the Elder Law Team will hold a volunteer event for BLS XI to support a local food pantry or agency that serves seniors.
The Education Team is focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education. Through their research, the Team discovered that a growing number of jobs are being developed in this area, but schools have difficulty training and preparing students for these fields. This Team has developed a Speaker Series along with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) College Preparatory School in Indianapolis to host a several speakers from STEM fields. Thirty to 40 KIPP Students will complete an application, including a resume, to enroll in the program. Each session will focus on different STEM fields and will be designed to encourage students to think about ideas and actions they can take to overcome some of the obstacles or limitations they face in embarking on careers in STEM areas. Scholarships will be given to two students from the program based on a resume and personal essay, implementing skills they have learned through the program.
The Kids Team will raise awareness of the Indiana Lifeline Law that was adopted in July 2012 by holding a poster contest at Butler University. The law provides immunity for crimes related to underage drinking and public intoxication for individuals who reveal themselves to law enforcement while seeking medical assistance for a person suffering from an alcohol-related health emergency, which should hopefully encourage young Hoosiers to take action that could save the life of someone in need. The Kids Team will sponsor the poster contest at Butler University and promote the same via various on-campus promotions and speaking opportunities. Ultimately, the Kids Team envisions duplication of this project at other colleges and universities throughout Indiana.
The Animal Team has identified education on responsible pet ownership, including pet adoption, spay/neutering, and pet care, as their focus. This Team will hold an educational community event in conjunction with a pet adoption drive with the Hamilton County Humane Society (HCHS) on Sunday, March 2, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Great Frame Up, located at 21 1st St. SW in Carmel. The community event will include educational booths for young children with age-appropriate activities, a supply drive to benefit HCHS, booths featuring local dog trainers and therapy dogs, and a themed pet adoption drive (“the Pet Academy Awards”).
The Mental Health Team will partner with Midtown Community Mental Health to expand their Glad Tidings Card Shop project. The Card Shop is an art-therapy based treatment program for Midtown’s clients where the clients create hand-made greeting cards. The program is located in one of Midtown’s largest community mental health centers and serves clients with severe chronic mental illnesses. The cards help Midtown clients develop vocational skills, fine motor and cognitive skills, and general art therapy. The Mental Health Team seeks to host First Friday booths to display and market the Glad Tidings Cards at various locations including the Winter Farmers Market. The Team is also exploring options to display the cards at art fairs like the Talbot Street Art Fair in June. Finally, the Mental Health Team is working to develop materials to assist lawyers when working with clients and individuals who have mental illness and to help them in identifying and addressing mental health issues when necessary.
Now in its 11th iteration, the Bar Leader Series has facilitated a number of service projects touching a wide variety of issues and challenges facing our community. Not only are these projects a valuable component of the curriculum for the Bar Leader Series, but they are also a great way for the Indianapolis Bar Association to give back to the community in a non-legal way. Please keep an eye out for the events described in each project as there may be opportunities for all members of the Indianapolis Bar Association to contribute or participate at each. We thank the 25 individuals in the current Bar Leader Series for their efforts and wish them the best of luck in completing their goals for each project.•