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Message from the President – Fall 2021

Connie Bookman

It takes a pandemic.

Connie Bookman

Connie Bookman

It’s hard for me to watch the pain of so many folks facing so much uncertainty. To see loved ones getting sick, some dying.

The fear as health care resources, usually easily accessible, are now not always available. Elective surgeries, even some emergencies, delayed in order to tend to those suffering the effects of the pandemic. Shortages of food and necessities. Runaway prices in housing. No used cars available for purchase. People losing jobs and their tempers.

The prospect of evictions and foreclosures looming because of furloughs and job cuts. The contraction of the small business sector (the backbone and heart of America). Landlords unable to pay their bills because rent payments dried up when tenants lost their jobs or got furloughed. A vicious cycle of sorts.

The new normal, at least for the short term, is anything but normal. For most of us, it has been trying and frightful. And terribly inconvenient. Thankfully, most of us have the fortitude and resources to suffer the inconvenience. Most of us look forward with hope to getting back to “normal.”

Sadly, for millions of our fellow Floridians, the norm has always been trying and frightful. And terribly inconvenient. Well before the onslaught of COVID-19, one of every six of our neighbors and friends faced uncertainty and insecurity. Making ends meet and keeping households and families intact has always been a challenge for millions of working poor Floridians. Homelessness is two to four missed paychecks away for far too many working families.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch told his daughter Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Though I’ve worked with marginalized citizens my entire career, it took a pandemic for me to fully realize the plight of the less fortunate.

For the first time, I can say that I’ve walked a mile in their shoes. I am powerless on many levels. I am also armed with the knowledge that, at some point, my walk over the unpaved, rocky road will eventually smooth out back to normal.

For too many, the road will remain treacherous and, for some, unpassable.

The Foundation is committed to playing its part in increasing access to our justice system, protecting the Rule of Law, and bolstering Florida’s economy. It remains committed to its mission especially in these extraordinary times affecting not only the disadvantaged, but all of us.

I am proud and humbled to be able to serve and so very thankful for our grantees and supporters like you who help us make Florida a better and more just place for everyone. Thank you.

Florida Bar Foundation President Connie Bookman began her term July 1, 2021. She is just the second non-lawyer to hold the position. A licensed clinical social worker, Bookman is the founder and CEO of Pensacola nonprofit Pathways for Change, which provides counseling, education, vocational training and residential addiction treatment. She is overseeing its current pivot from daily program operations to a broader vision of assisting local agencies in eliminating homelessness. She earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Leo University and her master’s degree in social work from Florida State University. She received the Chief Judge Award of Service for the First Judicial Circuit in 2015 and was named the FSU School of Social Work Field Educator of the Year in 2012. Bookman is also a Florida Bar Foundation Fellow and a member of the Bronze Society for lifetime giving.