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Out-of-state members help replenish storm ravaged libraries

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Out-of-state members help replenish storm ravaged libraries

The Bar’s Out-of-State Practitioners Division recently wrapped up its hurricane relief book drive.

In joint efforts with other bar and educational groups nationwide, the division collected books for victims of Hurricane Charley in Florida. In all, approximately 9,000 books were collected and delivered to the state.

The city of Punta Gorda was particularly hard hit, so the division’s relief efforts focused on providing children’s books to the Charlotte County School District, said OOSPD President Scott Atwood of Atlanta. Almost half of Charlotte County’s schools were either destroyed or severely damaged, and their libraries were devastated. Nearly 50,000 books were lost, and that number only includes the official libraries, not the libraries that individual teachers kept in their classrooms.

Atwood, who coordinated the effort, said the division was motivated to organize the drive after receiving various e-mails from Florida officials detailing the destruction.

“The Bar’s out-of-state members, despite not residing in state, have always had a strong connection with Florida,” Atwood said. “Out-of-staters make up the Bar’s second largest circuit, and as we talked to our members, it became clear that something should be done. A book drive seemed to be the perfect project, in light of the practical difficulties of providing on-site assistance.”

Charlotte County Schools Special Projects Director Janet Williams, who oversees the district’s library system, said that the book donations were a breath of fresh air.

“Our people have suffered so much,” Williams said. “Being able to bring books back into their lives has restored some sense of normalcy to the community. We’ve used the books in makeshift libraries in the schools, and have also given a number of them to children whose homes were destroyed so that they will have something to call their own.”

Atwood said after numerous phones calls to bar leaders nationwide, the division enlisted the state bars of Maine and South Carolina, and the bar associations of Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas (Clarke County), Baltimore County, and Prince Georges (MD) County as joint sponsors of the book drive. The division also ran its own drive in New York City, Chicago, and Boston thanks to the assistance of Holland & Knight’s offices in those cities.

Atwood said the drive would not have been nearly as successful had it not been for the support of many firms throughout the country who lent their staff and facilities as book drop locations. Firms serving as book drops at various locations included: Florida-based Holland & Knight and Carlton Fields; Blank Rome; Paul Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; Powell Goldstein; Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan; Foley & Lardner; Pierce Atwood, and Eaton Peabody (Maine); Insurance Coverage Law Group (Baltimore); Bingham McCutchen (Boston); and Atwood Kent, PA, Weathersby, Howard & Kuck, and Goodman & Goodman (Atlanta). Additionally, East Valley Elementary School (Atlanta) and Pennbrook Middle School (Pennsylvania) ran their own book drives.

“Without the assistance of division members like Ian Comisky, Brian Burgoon, Bard Brockman, Chuck Tobin, Mike Haun, Rob Norway, David Hunt (who coordinated Maine’s book drive), Skip Sullivan, and Scott Patterson, we wouldn’t have been able to get this even remotely off the ground,” Atwood said. “The success of this project is directly attributable to their efforts.”

Even shipping the books presented its own challenge. The Bar’s YLD granted the OOSPD $1,000 to defray the costs, and some of the firms who acted as book drops picked up the shipping costs. The division paid the remainder of the shipping, which included Atwood driving a van loaded with books from Atlanta to Punta Gorda to deliver the final shipment.

“The division is gratified that our members and others embraced this project so fully,” Atwood said. “And it’s a real testament to the kindness of lawyers that we got such an overwhelming response from Bar’s out-of-state members and from the legal community nationwide. This was a completely voluntary, ad hoc project, and bar associations as well as law firms both big and small really got on board with it.”

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