From 2013-2014 Bar President Jacqueline Grant:
As we celebrate the holiday season and reflect on our many blessings, we should remember those who are less fortunate than us. The holiday season is a perfect time to give back to the community by assisting those who are in need. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the average poverty rate in North Carolina for 2012-2013 was 17.9%. Earlier this year, the Carolina Public Press took an in-depth look at poverty across the 18 westernmost counties of North Carolina and noted that the average rate of poverty in the rural counties of Western North Carolina was 20.3 percent. According to the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, 24.3% of North Carolina children are impoverished. In terms of income, the poverty threshold in 2013 ranged between $11,173 for one individual 65 years or older and $23,834 for a family of four. Needless to say, most families living in poverty can barely afford to put food on the table or buy Christmas gifts.
The Twenty-eight Judicial District Bar has an exemplary history of providing support and services to the underprivileged citizens of Western North Carolina. This month I encourage each member of our Bar to continue the tradition of giving back to the community by supporting local organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of the families and children who live in our community. For those who are looking for an opportunity to give back to the community, I would ask you to join your fellow Bar members on December 5, 2014, in supporting Santa Pal and Manna Food Bank. During the Bar’s Annual Holiday Party and Toy Drive, we will be collecting new toys to donate to Santa Pal. With each donation we can provide hope and make it a memorable Christmas for underprivileged children in our community. We will also be collecting non-perishable food for Manna Food Bank. Your donation of food will help Manna in its mission to end hunger in Western North Carolina. According to Manna Food Bank, every dollar donated helps provide enough food for three meals.
Another way we can give back to the community this month is by providing a couple of hours of pro bono legal services. Although we have a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay and Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct provides that we should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and forget about those in need. Over the years, I have participated in Pisgah Legal Services’ MAVL program and, more recently, the NCBA’s Lawyer on the Line program. Assisting people in need and making a difference in someone’s life for the better is truly a rewarding experience. When I hear stories from clients and individuals, some of whom lack the resources for food and basic needs, it serves as a reminder to me of how fortunate and blessed I am.
Finally, as we approach the holiday season and spend time with family and friends, please remember the reason for the season and try to spread a little cheer to someone in need.