Bar Foundation supporter encouraging donations

Timothy Abeska, a retired South Bend attorney, is providing needed financial support to the Indiana Bar Foundation and, through a just-announced matching initiative, is incentivizing others to do the same.

In June, the longtime Barnes & Thornburg partner and IBF board member created the Timothy J. Abeska Endowed Civic Education and Civil Justice Fund at the Indiana Bar Foundation. The endowed fund is designed to support the organization’s civic education programing and civil justice initiatives.

To encourage others to support the IBF, Abeska has pledged to match each additional donation made to the endowed fund up to $5,000 beyond his initial contribution.

“The creation of this fund supports my two passions: civic education and legal services for the underserved,” Abeska said. “My hope is that people will be moved to contribute to the Indiana Bar Foundation so it can carry out this important work.”

The matching gift is coming at a critical time, according to Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation.

In particular, revenue streams into civil legal aid programming have been choked as COVID-19 has slowed the economy.

The Federal Reserve’s lowering of interest rates to zero has slashed funds flowing into the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts. The IOLTA funding is a major source of financial support to legal aid programs, including the pro bono district across the state and the online Indiana Free Legal Answers.

Revenue from IOLTA reached $168,000 in August 2019, but in August 2020, the flow had trickled down to $36,000.

Compounding the loss is the decrease in revenue from filing fees. A $1 fee tacked onto the cost of civil legal filings in Indiana state courts goes to support legal aid. The bar foundation is estimating the fiscal year 2020-2021 filing fee revenue will drop to $260,000 from the $360,000 realized in fiscal year 2019-2020.

Currently, the diminished revenue has not lowered the bar foundation’s appropriation for pro bono efforts. The IBF awarded $1 million to Pro Bono Indiana in 2020 and just approved another $1 million for 2021. Despite the coming gap in revenue, Dunlap said the bar foundation wants to maintain that level of support.

Along with bolstering legal aid, the Abeska Endowed Fund will provide welcomed support to the bar foundation’s educational programs, including the We the People and Indiana Mock Trial programs. Although the bar foundation expects more than 1,100 students and more 400 volunteers to participate in the both programs this year, the student numbers are down by almost a third because COVID-19 forced the competitions to online formats.

Dunlap, who noted Abeska has been a strong donor and supporter of the bar foundation, said the organization is grateful for his gift. The Abeska Endowed Fund is coming at a time of “great need” and will help the bar foundation maintain its mission.

For more information about the Indiana Bar Foundation and its programs, visit www.inbf.org.

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