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Jax Daily Record Monday, Apr. 28, 201412:00 PM EST

Bar Bulletin: YLS and JWLA team up to raise $15,000 for legal aid at date auction

by: Jennifer Shoaf Richardson

On April 17, The Young Lawyers Section (YLS) of The Jacksonville Bar Association and the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association (JWLA) treated Date Auction 2014 attendees to a night of entertainment for a good cause that caught the attention of Jacksonville’s finest.

Not your average lawyer event, this program included a live auction of date packages to interesting local and exotic destinations, complete with activities and meals in addition to a silent auction.

Guests entered a riverfront terrace room at the Hyatt to be greeted by professional photographer Becky Russo, who gave attendees a mini-red carpet experience complete with a step and repeat donated by Pictera Solutions.

One Spark musical artist Sean Forrest of Arts Alive Academy and Holland & Knight associate Jennifer Kifer provided live music as guests perused silent auction items, which included an NFL football helmet autographed by Tom Coughlin, a growler with a free fill from Bold City Brewery, and a couples massage from One Ocean, to name a few.

After a cocktail hour featuring the “JALA-tini,” emcees Jim and Donna Bailey introduced “Cupids” composed of local attorneys and activists in the legal community as well as the date packages they represented. (Bailey is publisher of the Daily Record.)

The evening culminated in a live auction of Drew O’Malley’s date package — a private charter flight for two with in-flight champagne to South Florida for lunch or dinner. After a heated bidding war, City Council member Jim Love won the date with the highest bid of the evening.

Colleagues of Kyle Kelley, a staff attorney with Wounded Warrior Project, decided to have a little fun and pay off the committee to have a date with him actually auctioned off as a surprise.

In total, live and silent auction proceeds along with direct donations and ticket sales resulted in a donation of more than $15,000 to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

Drawing in donations from more than 50 local businesses, the event made significant strides in raising awareness in the community at-large concerning the financial tightrope JALA has been asked to walk in recent years.

Attendees were encouraged to bring non-lawyer guests and the event was open to the public. JALA Executive Director Jim Kowalski took note of the number of fresh faces in the room and hoped they would all leave feeling more invested in the agency’s mission.

The event was the result of innovation by the YLS and JWLA, two separate voluntary Bar organizations, which decided to act together in support of this cause. JWLA, which had held the event once before, valued the opportunity to spread the workload, increase interest in the event, and further develop programming for the benefit of young lawyer members.

The YLS viewed this event as an opportunity to provide a significant community service and a valuable networking experience for its membership. Both organizations contributed seed money to get the ball rolling and keep the cost of tickets low.

Working together proved beneficial in making a joint application for grant funding from The Young Lawyers Division of The Florida Bar at a January Affiliate Outreach Conference in Tampa.

The groups successfully influenced the YLD to contribute to the date auction with the fact that dollars contributed to this project would reach more young lawyers because both memberships would be involved. The event was able to maximize dollars contributed to JALA as a result of the $1,750 grant.

Members of both organizations were represented on the committee of eight young lawyers who planned the event over the course of many months. The committee worked many nights and weekends to bring the event to fruition.

With a goal of reducing or eliminating any workload for already-stressed JALA staff, the committee handled ticketing, venue negotiations, donation recruitment, Cupid recruitment, marketing, graphic design and programming.

The committee drew on personal and professional contacts for in-kind donations for printing, lighting, audio/visual support, decor, volunteer staffing at the door and publicity.

The committee included Yaima Coto (Finnell, McGuiness, Nezami & Andux, P.A.), Francine Palmeri (MECLABS), Jessica Mathis (Anderson Glenn LLP), Cynthia Trimmer (Ansbacher Law), Samantha Guidici (Alexander DeGance Barnett), Jennifer Kifer (Holland & Knight LLP), Jennifer Richardson (Creed & Gowdy, P.A.) and Renée Maxey (Holland & Knight LLP).

Photos from the event are available at the Bec Photography website under the tab for clients and special events. Half of sales will be donated to JALA.

Look out for your invitation next year when the groups hope to raise $20,000. Those interested in joining the committee may contact Yaima Coto at [email protected]

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