Women Everywhere: Partners in Service Project, Inc. (WE) celebrated this year’s planning season with its annual Judicial Reception on March 28, 2011. WE is a collective of bar organizations aimed at soliciting and coordinating volunteer activities benefiting women and children in need, with a particular focus on education and community service. The ISBA Women in the Law Committee is proud to be one of WE’s long-standing bar partners and has supported WE from its early days. Every year, the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Hon. Timothy C. Evans, holds a judicial reception on behalf of WE. This year’s Judicial Reception was attended by members of the judiciary and the 2011 WE Planning Committee and Board of Directors. Speakers at the event, such as Judge Valarie Turner, encouraged attendees to participate in WE’s special events: Educational Projects Day (April 15, 2011) and Agency Projects Day (June 17, 2011).
Former Chief Judge of Cook County, Donald P. O’Connell (Ret.), was honored with the 2011 Outstanding Partner Award. As Chief Judge, O’Connell was integral to WE’s mission and its partnership with members of the bench and bar during its early days in 1999 and 2000 and encouraged judges to become involved in WE from the start of the project, facilitating WE’s first seminar on the impact of domestic violence on women, families and the community. Two of WE’s Board members, Sharon Eiseman, a founding member, and Judge Diane J. Larsen, a recipient of the 2008 Outstanding Partner Award, presented the Award and Chief Judge Evans graciously accepted it on behalf of his predecessor, Hon. Donald O’Connell. The audience learned that during WE’s first year, several attorneys from the ISBA Women in the Law Committee, the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and the CBA Alliance for Women collaborated in developing programs for the project and met with Judge O’Connell to discuss their ideas. O’Connell’s enthusiasm for WE inspired the founders and bar partners. More than a decade later, the Office of the Chief Judge continues to support WE in its endeavors to inspire change in our students and their communities, and to motivate young people through education.
The success of the Educational Projects Day each year depends on both the volunteers of the Planning Committee and local judges, who participate in helping junior and senior students from local high schools learn about the court system, career paths in law, and the importance of education and service. WE invites students to participate in mock trials, tour state and federal courts and listen to the extraordinary experiences of talented professional women. Several hundred students participate in the annual program by attending one of the many court tours offered. Students have the opportunity to learn about various careers in law including clerks, deputies, court reporters, as well as meeting attorneys and judges.
At the Educational Projects Day this year, students downtown attended a luncheon at the Hotel Allegro after the court tours and were honored with speakers, Tina Skahill, Chief of the Office of Compliance of the Chicago Police Department, and Fox 32 News anchor (formerly of NBC 5) Anita Padilla, and Barbara Lumpkin, Deputy CEO for External Affairs and Partnerships at Chicago Public Schools. At the Criminal Courthouse, the students were treated to a luncheon program featuring attorney and author, Brunell Donald, and Kara Stephenson, a DNA crime lab specialist in the States Attorney’s Office. At the Domestic Relations courthouse, students enjoyed a luncheon featuring Cook County States Attorney, Anita Alvarez, and Charmee Jones, a Director with Family Rescue. Last year, WE expanded its Educational Projects Day to the Markham courthouse. This year students toured the Markham courthouse, participated in exercises facilitated by the South Suburban shelter for domestic violence and were honored with speaker Robin Kelly. (See photos from Educational Projects Day included here.) Additionally, participating students in the program have the opportunity to apply for a WE college scholarship, and these scholarships were presented to three young ladies at various locations that afternoon.
It’s not over yet! WE’s next major initiative, Agency Projects Day, takes place on June 17, 2011. This event brings together several hundred volunteers, including attorneys, judges and friends of the legal community, to spend the day at dozens of agencies dedicated to the needs of women and children. Volunteers provide direct services such as painting or gardening, and might offer seminars on legal issues of interest to the clients served by the agencies. WE is still in need of volunteers for Agency Projects Day, so please consider volunteering on June 17, 2011. You can participate on your own, or as a group with others in your office! To complete a volunteer form, go to < , or send an e-mail to Martina Brendel at or Sarah Buck at . For more information about these events or partnering with WE, please visit our Web site or contact Women Everywhere Planning Committee Co-Chairs Arleen Anderson ( ) or Marcia Maras ( ).
WE is grateful for the generosity and support of not only its bar partners and the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County, but for the support and participation of numerous Chicago area law firms, including Brinks, Hofer, Gilson & Lione, DLA Piper, Goldberg Kohn, Jenner & Block, Matushek, Nilles & Sinars, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, Schiff Hardin, Quarles and Brady and Corboy & Demetrio. ■