December 2011 - OCBA Community Outreach Raises the Bar in 2011
by Sara L. Parker & Sherri L. Honer
December is the month during which we all think about giving. In fact, giving is the theme this month for the OCBA Community Outreach Committee and, hopefully, members of the OCBA who, as in the past, will step up and donate gifts, money, and time during the Committee’s busiest month. This year, December presents four opportunities to reach out and give: the Project HOPE School, the Senior Santa Project, the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, and the Toys for Tots Program.
The Project HOPE School, the subject of the HBO documentary entitled “Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County,” is a school for homeless children in Orange County. Kids who, due to economic circumstances beyond their control, are living in motels or parks or cars, are picked up by the school bus and taken to the school in Orange. It matters not whether they wear the same shirt five days in a row or their jeans are torn; the other students and the teachers at this school do not notice. The kids are provided breakfast, lunch, and an education (which they otherwise may miss because of the lack of a permanent residence). For the holidays, our Committee led by co-chairs, Sherri Honer and Sara Parker, adopts some of these families, and the OCBA community furnishes holiday presents, gift certificates for a holiday dinner, holiday decorations and ornaments, and even provides volunteers to participate at the holiday party given at the school. The holiday party is memorable, if not unforgettable, for the participating lawyers and the students’ families.
The Senior Santa project is chaired this year by Committee Member Patricia Lee-Gulley in partnership with the Orange County Social Services Agency. With the participation of many OCBA members, close to 200 gifts are collected for seniors who would not otherwise receive a much-needed holiday present, such as a pair of slippers, a toaster oven, or a bus ticket. Our members have the opportunity to provide a gift for one of the most needy segments of our population, who may be forgotten during the holiday season.
The Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa is another opportunity for OCBA members to step in and help during the holidays. Attorneys Peter Lucier and Nichole Wong lead a group of volunteers about four times a year to serve brunch for approximately three hours to hungry residents of Orange County. On a daily basis, this kitchen serves about 300 hungry persons, including families. This December will be no exception.
The Toys for Tots program, chaired by Committee member Richard Pinette, provides a perfect volunteer opportunity for time-starved lawyers who want to make a difference during the holiday season. Our members simply drop off a new, unwrapped, toy to the OCBA offices for a child who may not have any gifts this holiday season.
Although December is one of our busiest months, the Committee organizes many other volunteer opportunities throughout the year. One of our most popular, new events is the Beach Clean Up. This past August, Adam Johnson and Jessica Hawari led our efforts in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation at Bolsa Chica State Beach. OCBA members brought their children and spouses to participate in a morning of bagels, coffee, fun, and exercise. There is a contest for both kids and adults to see who collects the most trash (this year the winner collected 40 pounds of trash from the beach in one hour) or the strangest piece of trash collected. It was a day at the beach with the family for about 60 OCBA members and their families as well as the Honorable Ronald L. Bauer.
Another family-friendly event is the Harvesting Event for the Second Harvest Food Bank, Orange County. Teresa Farrell and Amid Bahadori accompany our members to the fields to pick the seasonal fruit or vegetables. In October, our members took just one hour to pick about 3,000 pounds of zucchini, squash, and bell peppers. These vegetables were then taken to soup kitchens and food banks throughout the County. Our labor fed approximately 12,000 people. So for one hour of our time, we actually helped feed thousands of citizens in our community. That was one hour well spent for our time-poor lawyers.
For our pet-loving OCBA members, Amy Song and Elizabeth Otely coordinated our efforts at the Irvine Super Pet Adoption Day. This is the largest pet adoption event in the County of Orange with more than 800 pets available to adopt.
We also have continued the OCBA involvement in the Orangewood Children and Family Center, where Ly Ly, Adam Johnson, Rick Pinette, and Shiry Tannenbaum have led our efforts to provide several play days each year for children residing in temporary shelters. For children who cannot afford to buy a new backpack for each school year, Tammy Pang has lead our Backpack Drive.
To make sure our OCBA members stay healthy, the Hispanic Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Division have joined forces in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (to eradicate breast cancer). Hillary Willett has led the runners with Steve Hittelman a close second along with a pack of members by their side. Many members walked the one mile proudly displaying our OCBA signs, with the Honorable John Flynn III cheering us on this year. The most time-poor members are there in spirit only, since they register to “sleep in” on the day of the race. Over the past three years, the OCBA Team has had between 56 to 80 team members and has raised donations to fund no-cost mammograms for those who cannot afford one.
One of our proposed projects for 2012 involves the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County. Amy Song and Elizabeth Otely are taking the lead to find morning or day-long events with this charitable organization for our OCBA members.
The mission of this Committee is to facilitate the provision of community services by our membership and to elevate the public perception of lawyers in the county. This year, our dedicated Community Outreach members organized and led from one to four projects a month. Those projects provided: 3,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for 12,000 hungry citizens, backpacks for children who could not afford them, mammograms for those without medical coverage, hot meals for the hungry, homes for abandoned pets, and holiday presents and dinners for needy children and their families. Our members have been generous with their time and money to help needy segments of the Orange County population. Many thanks to our dedicated 2011 Community Outreach Members for organizing these events and all of the OCBA members who have donated their valuable time and money to support us.
Sara L. Parker, co-chair of the Community Outreach Committee 2010–2012, has been practicing for 28 years, initially as a research attorney at the Orange County Superior Court then as an attorney advising and representing public entities, and currently is in private practice in Irvine focusing on estate planning and administration; Sherri L. Honer is the committee co-chair 2011–2013 and has been practicing since 1996, for a number of years as a senior research attorney with the Orange County Superior Court and currently in private practice with Frank P. Barbaro & Associates in Santa Ana practicing personal injury, premise liability, and elder abuse.