by Nancy Kinnally
ORLANDO — The Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar has generated more than $85,000 worth of financial support for The Florida Bar Foundation’s Children’s Legal Services grants through a combination of refunds, in-kind contributions, and a campaign to solicit voluntary donations from Section members.
The Section’s Pro Bono Co-Chair, Adele I. Stone, also a past president of The Florida Bar Foundation, made a presentation to the Section’s Executive Council urging its support for Children’s Legal Services in light of a severe drop-off of IOTA funds, which have traditionally supported the program. The presentation was developed with assistance from Section Treasurer Drew O’Malley and past chairs of the Section Laird Lile and Sandy Diamond.
“We were extremely pleased with the support from the Section’s Executive Council, who recognized the importance of supporting legal aid at this critical time,” Stone said. “And Section membership has really gotten behind the effort.”
The Section’s Executive Council voted to refund to the Foundation the sponsorship fees it previously paid to the Section in the amount of $50,740. It also voted to waive sponsorship fees for three Section Executive Council meetings in the coming year. These sponsorship fees are valued at $15,500. Sponsorship entitles the Foundation to exhibit at those Section meetings. The Section also voted to explore seeking voluntary donations to the Foundation from Section members to be paid into a Donor Advised Fund at the Foundation.
In the meantime, Section Chair George J. Meyer has sent e-mail blasts to the Section’s Executive Council members that already have resulted in gifts of $20,210 from individual Section members.
“I am proud to see so many Section members coming forward with individual gifts to The Florida Bar Foundation,” said Meyer. “We will continue to make every effort to ensure that our membership is aware not only of the need, but also of the great work the Foundation does in supporting local legal aid programs throughout the state.”
For 20 years, the Foundation has provided special annual grants to Florida legal aid organizations to fund legal services for children. Approximately 25 children’s advocates currently working at legal aid organizations around Florida have been supported by these grants. Without additional resources, the jobs of 10 or more of those attorneys are at risk in the next three years due to the recent sharp decline in revenue from Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) program, the chief funding source for The Florida Bar Foundation. IOTA revenue has fallen 88 percent since 2008.
The financial support from the Section and its members together with two other $75,000 gifts — one from the Trial Lawyers Section and another from the Family Law Section — already have gone a long way to bolster the funding available for Children’s Legal Services, saving three children’s legal services attorney positions for the coming year. In addition, a $100,000 gift from the Young Lawyers Division of The Florida Bar is being used to help retain legal aid attorneys throughout the state. In all, the recent gifts from Florida Bar sections and divisions total $335,000.