Step right up, justice is now being served. That was the message at a recent luncheon convened by Jacksonville lawyer Joseph P. Milton, as he urged his friends and colleagues to become Fellows of The Florida Bar Foundation.
The Florida Bar Foundation (flabarfndn.org), established in 1956, provides leadership and funding for justice in Florida. “Becoming a Fellow is easy,” Milton said. “It requires a nominal donation of just $1,000, payable over five years, to join those across the state who support the Foundation’s mission of providing greater access to justice.”
The principle mission of The Florida Bar Foundation is to help assure that the civil legal needs of low-income persons are served. Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) funds have provided a significant step in sustaining legal aid for low-income families and persons in Florida since 1981, but the need exceeds IOTA’s reach.
Fellows are life members of The Florida Bar Foundation; people who believe in the value of justice and the importance of the Foundation’s leadership and charitable programs. Fellows are the Foundation’s core supporters and most loyal friends.
Contributions to the Fellows Program go to the Foundation’s Endowment Trust. Established in 1991, The Florida Bar Foundation Endowment Trust, a 501(c)(3) charitable entity, is a fund in which all principal, including gift additions, is maintained as a permanent investment with income supporting Foundation grants and programs. Through the Foundation’s grant programs, Fellows gifts will benefit Floridians for generations.
“I’ve been a Fellow for a long time,” Milton said, as he talked about why he supports The Florida Bar Foundation. Milton, a former president of the Jacksonville Bar Association, said he was inspired to bolster support for legal aid back in the ‘80s when federal funding cuts drastically reduced the amount of help available for Jacksonville residents living in poverty. As a response, Milton reported that the number of attorneys offering pro bono services in Jacksonville “quadrupled.”
Milton told his colleagues at the luncheon that he was impressed by the scope of the Foundation’s work, and cited its innovative programs such as its Equal Justice Works Fellows. One EJW Fellow, Ariel Patterson, will begin working at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) in the fall on that city’s predatory lending crisis. Sharon Caserta, another EJW Fellow working at JALA, has made great strides in her project to provide legal advocacy and outreach to the traditionally underserved deaf/hard of hearing and disabled in northeast Florida.
“If it wasn’t for the Foundation, the low-income residents of the Fourth Judicial Circuit and Jacksonville would be suffering a lot more than they are,” Milton said. In the past ten years, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has received substantial financial support from the Foundation, including more than $925,000 in 2006.
Milton hosted the luncheon after talking with his friend John Patterson, a Sarasota attorney who is serving on the Foundation’s Board of Directors. A few years ago, Patterson held a similar luncheon—with great success—for past presidents of the Sarasota County Bar Association. Milton said he was excited by the opportunity to present the Fellows Program to the members of the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
“Joe really picked up the ball and ran with it,” Patterson said, as he talked afterward about the luncheon.
The Foundation is wrapping up its Fellows Campaign in Jacksonville, and those who become a Fellow will be included in the Foundation’s annual report. A complete listing of all Fellows is now available on the Foundation’s Website.
Earlier in May, Florida Bar President and Foundation Fellow Hank Coxe sent a letter to the 3,200 Bar members in the Fourth Judicial Circuit and invited them to join the Foundation’s Fellows Program. If you would like to join the Fellows, please call the Foundation at (800) 541-2195, or visit the Foundation’s Website.