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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May. 5, 200412:00 PM EST

People helping others

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Judge Cole expresses commitment to helping others
by: Richard Prior

by Richard Prior

Staff Writer

The guest speaker’s favorite quote about volunteering came from Margaret Mead.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” said Circuit Court Judge Karen Cole. “Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The reasons for volunteering are many, Cole told the Tuesday lunch meeting of the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association, held at the River City Brewing Co. They include compassion, an interest in the activity, gaining new perspectives “and the importance of the activity or work to people whom the volunteer respects.”

“Because there is an almost limitless variety of volunteer work to be done,” said Cole, “each person can select work which resonates within her heart and soul.

“With any luck, each person finds some volunteer service that speaks to her — that lights her up.”

Cole, now serving on the criminal law bench, received the Golden Star Award in 2002 from the Florida Association for Women Lawyers and the 2002 EVE Award in Employment.

She received the Judge of the Year Award last year from the Jacksonville Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

“I have had the pleasure of practicing in front of Judge Cole when she was on the family law bench, and I can say from experience that she is an excellent jurist and fine mentor for lawyers appearing in front of her,” said Paula Brice, the JWLA’s new president.

Cole was the principal organizer in April 2003 of a free parent-teacher conference, titled “Why Can’t My Student/Child Learn To Read? How Children Learn To Read, Why They Don’t and What To Do About It.”

She has been heavily involved over the past three years in alerting the community to the health and safety concerns of illiteracy. She has joined with many others who are “committed to ensuring that every child receives effective reading instruction and knows the joy and promise of reading.”

When people help others, Cole told the JWLA, “Something miraculous occurs. Small successes become large ones. The volunteer’s dedication attracts and inspires others.

“Soon, there is a cadre of committed men and women, often from all walks of life, who together achieve what no one of them alone could achieve. If you are lucky enough to experience that, you will know that you are in the right place, doing the right work.”

Many volunteers acquire their giving attitude at an early age, often working alongside their parents, she said.

“It is important that we show our children that we consider it our responsibility as community citizens to give back, and that we talk with them about that obligation,” she added.

Cole said she has always been proud of her profession, “and particularly of our local legal community,” for its commitment to helping others:

“To their volunteer work, our lawyers bring passion, intelligence, education, practicality, tenacity, diligence and an utter conviction that — with hard work — things can and will be better. Let us all recommit ourselves to using our talents and experience to shine light into a corner of the world.”

The JWLA members unanimously approved the nomination slate for the 2004-05 executive board. In addition to Brice, they are Deborah Greene (president-elect), Ann Bittinger (vice president of public relations), Tess Arington (vice president of membership and special events), Patricia Dodson (vice president of information technology), Susan Haag (vice president of professional development), Maria Keebler (treasurer) and Heather Collins (secretary).

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