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Community Outreach

In addition to helping attorneys and other community leaders understand one another and the ways in which their respective professions serve the community, the Community Outreach Committee (COC) determines the needs of the community and implements projects for meeting those needs.  The following is a sample of the many projects implemented by the MBA Community Outreach Committee:


COURTING ART – WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MONTGOMERY COUNTY
an art contest, juried art exhibition and unique courthouse improvement initiative "of the people, by the people, for the people"

 

Courting Art is a new community arts initiative aimed at relieving stress, promoting healing and bringing justice to the walls of our county courthouse without dependence on tax dollars.  In the shadow of cuts to organizations like Legal Aid and the Montgomery Child Advocacy Project, our legal community and community partners pulled together a firstCourting Art was the first initiative of its kind to place juried art “of the people, by the people and for the people” in a county courthouse with zero dependence on taxpayer dollars.     This year’s exhibition and event played out before rave reviews in its debut at MCCC’s Fine Arts Center and consequently, we’ve already been offered a full, month-long exhibition slot on next year’s Fine Arts Center calendar.  Our inaugural Awards Event included appearances by some of Montgomery County's top artists, our county commissioners,  nearly a dozen members of our bench, and dozens of bar leaders, community leaders, business leaders, dignitaries and legislature.  In total, 113 pieces of original artwork were on display in our inaugural exhibition.  $4,500 in prizes were awarded in total to amateur and professional artists throughout Montgomery County, ranging in age between 55 and 101 ½ -- and all winning work is being immortalized as part of a permanent exhibit on the walls of the Montgomery County Court House thanks to the generosity of our supporting sponsors. Be sure to visit our Media Center on CourtingArt.com to read front page news, videos and more! 

IMMIGRATION – REAL ISSUES BEHIND THE HEADLINES
a symposium of national and local leaders

 

In an effort to educate and inform the community, the Montgomery Bar Association’s Community Outreach Committee organized and presented a free symposium entitled Immigration: The Real Issues Behind the Headlines at Gwynedd-Mercy Academy High School.  The list of panelists for the event read like a who’s who on U.S. immigration policy.  Each addressed, in a nonpartisan voice, “how immigration and its potential reform will impact each of us personally as well as our schools, churches, businesses and neighborhoods.”  Hundreds attended the event, thanks to creative marketing and promotional support solicited from area business associations and chambers of commerce.  MBA arranged for the event to be filmed and aired on local television and Video On-Demand.



Law School for Non-Profit Leaders

In 2005 and 2010, the MBA’s Community Outreach Committee, in cooperation with the MBA’s Business and Banking Committee and Montgomery County Foundation, presented “Law School for Non-Profit Leaders”; a one-day crash course on the Law as it applies to Non-Profits.   The course provided vital insight into what’s new, what’s changing, and how the law applies to the business and activities of area non-profit organizations.  Both events drew over 70 attendees from area non-profits.  Strong attendance was attributed largely to collaborative promotional efforts with a locally based foundation that frequently provides grant funding to area non-profits.  The cost for non-profit leaders to attend was minimal (just $25), which covered the cost of coffee, lunch and course materials.   Presentations were given by leading experts on non-profit law (MBA members) and the Chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners was a featured luncheon speaker.  A follow-up on-line survey was emailed to all who attended and the feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly favorable.   There were many “positive effects” that came out of this event, but perhaps the most glaring highlight was the positive turnout resulting from collaboration with a cooperating

 

YOUNG LAWYERS - EXTREME HOME MAKEOVER

Members of the Montgomery Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section did what lawyers do best – lent a hand to a neighbor in need.  The Extreme Home Makeover was a community effort to repair and revitalize the distressed home and property of a local veteran, sparked by a request from a local District Justice.  The outside of the elderly man’s home had fallen on hard times and was in desperate need of repairs, and the yard was full of discarded items and overgrowth.  MBA President Bob Morris turned to the Young Lawyers Section with a request for much needed labor and support.  Within minutes of the request, members of the Section answered the call and volunteered their time on a Saturday morning.  Some lawyers even brought family members along to help with the daylong effort, which grew to draw attention from Fox 29, Action News and other news media.   With help from the neighboring Boys and Girls Club, necessary items such as a dumpster, paint, tools, mulch, and food and drinks for the volunteers were graciously donated by local businesses.  The outdoor tasks included properly disposing of waste and hazardous materials, installing a new fence, planting trees and shrubs, cleaning the yard, and painting the house.  Our lawyers did more that day than touch the lives of a family and a neighborhood; they made a lasting impression on the perception of our profession in our community.  


THE JUDICIAL CANDIDATE MEDIA PROJECT

The Judicial Candidate Media Project was an original concept aimed at helping hundreds of thousands of voters in Montgomery County put a face and personality to all 14 candidates running for judge in Montgomery County.  President Kearney arranged for all 14 candidates to appear in studio and on camera for two- to three-minute interviews. Volunteer student/teacher production teams from our local community college filmed interviews, conducted by Kearney, in a consistent and impartial format.  On-screen captions and bios of each candidate, titles, and transitions were then added by students in post-production.  The MBA then obtained final footage in two main formats: First, a full-length video, compiling interviews of all 14 candidates in alphabetical order allowed the program to air on student and community access channels, 11 in total, throughout Montgomery County from mid-September through Election Day.  Next, the 14 individual video clips were hosted locally and appeared on mainstream media websites throughout the region.  The videos were linked to from various community and media websites throughout Montgomery County and the regional broadcast area (DMA).  Access to final edited videos was promoted and supported by a combined PR effort that included cable TV and radio talk show appearances by bar leaders, announcements sent to local news media, public service announcements on local and regional television/radio stations, and more.  In addition, over 600 posters and campaign signs were designed, printed and distributed throughout Montgomery County to promote this public service.

WHY VOTE?  YouTube video contest

The “Why Vote?” YouTube Video Contest, launched in April of 2008, was part of an initiative by the MBA Community Outreach Committee to encourage citizens to vote in the 2008 election.  The contest was a true team effort aimed to promote political activism and increase political involvement throughout the community.  The project involved four main phases: Set-up, Promotion, Judging and Recognition. The Set-up phase included soliciting sponsors for prizes, creating contest documentation, and setting-up a “Why Vote?” group on YouTube.  The Promotion phase included creation and circulation of press releases, posters, educator packets, and public service announcements to reach a variety of audiences.  With the help of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, Outreach members pitched the contest to curriculum directors, principals and professors, while staff created and negotiated the placement of banner ads, posters, articles and announcements on school websites, district websites, district TV stations and internal parent, teacher and student media.  Several film, video and alternative media-related groups, summer camps, colleges and universities were also identified and solicited for entries.  Over two dozen very impressive entries in total were received, many of which included extensive casts and class participation.  Judging was done by the Community Outreach Committee and contestants were awarded $2,500 in prize money at a November Board of Directors Meeting – an event well covered by members of the news media.

THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW!  YouTube video contest

Following the success of the award-winning, “Why Vote?”  YouTube Video Contest, the MBA’s Community Outreach Committee launched its 2009 “There Ought to Be a Law!” YouTube Video Contest, to promote awareness of the law, and to remind citizens of the importance of law in our society. Winners were recognized at an MBA board of Directors meeting at the Bar Building in Norristown. Two grand prize winners, two runners-up and a “People’s Choice” winner took home honors and winning videos played before an audience of over 60 attendees.  Two Grand Prize Winners were awarded $1,000 each.  One winner was Miss Grassi’s 3rd Grade Class from Roberts Elementary School in Wayne, PA who entered the contest as part of a classroom project.  Their video, conceived and acted out, was a montage of laws ranging from affordable healthcare to penalizing bullies, while two Norristown Area H.S students took honors for a video made to discourage texting while driving.   Runner-Up prizes were awarded as well.  A student at West Chester University, won the $1000 grand prize in the Age 18 and Over category and one Norristown resident was selected as the “People’s Choice” winner. 

LIBERTY & LAW:
civics education program for Norristown middle school students


In the summer of 2009, United States Supreme Court Justice David Souter spoke to the American Bar Association about “the risk to our constitutional government when a substantial portion of the American populous simply fails to gain the understanding of how the government works.”  Justice Souter added that, “about two-thirds of the people in the United States cannot even name all of the three branches of the national government.”  He then asked the audience to “consider the danger to judicial independence when people have no conception of how the judiciary fits with the constitutional scheme.”  Justice Souter concluded his remarks that day stating that, “Civic education in the United States is not good enough, and we have to do something about it.”  Montgomery County’s lawyers and judges have answered this call to action and in 2010, began doing just that. In 2010, Members of the Montgomery Bar Association joined the PBA and took to the classroom as fifteen (15) two-person teams, consisting of one judge and one lawyer each, presented a series of civics education workshops to sixth grade classes throughout the Norristown Area School District as part of a civics education initiative entitled, “Liberty and Law”.   Teacher training and three (3) one hour lessons were held in 2010 and three more lessons are scheduled to take place in the spring.  The civics education program has been very well received throughout area middle schools, and to date all 500+ 6th grade students in the Norristown School District have benefited from instruction.

The Process of a Sexual Predator

The Montgomery Bar Association Community Outreach Committee produced a 45-minute television program and professionally packaged DVD titled The Process of a Sexual Predator. The program provides parents and educators with many of the tools needed to protect children from the very real threat of online sexual predators in our community.  To date, over 300 copies of the free video have already been distributed to area schools, libraries, parent groups and individuals expressing interest throughout our community. The program has also been made available for viewing on Comcast’s Video-on-Demand service, select cable channels and on public access.  Grassroots efforts to promote the video include press releases sent to local media outlets, distribution of the video at select events, and cooperative efforts with partnering organizations and Outreach members.  In the program, past and present members of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Sexual Assault Task Force provide chilling yet realistic perspectives. Viewers witness a live chat room demonstration and learn about other hotbeds for online predators. The program also uncovers key prosecution and defense strategies, ramifications and common misconceptions about Megan’s Law, how sexual predators get caught and most importantly, how to protect children from being victimized.  To generate early interest, the MBA announced prerelease availability of the video at the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District Web Wise Kids training program for middle school teachers and faculty where several dozen preorders for the DVD had been fulfilled for parent/classroom training.  Generous funding for the program was provided by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the MBA Community Outreach Committee and other sponsors.