My year as president of your Oklahoma Bar Foundation (OBF) has been filled with opportunities to fulfill our mission of transforming lives through the advancement of education, citizenship and justice for all. All OBA members are also members of OBF. As any American Express advertisement will tell you, “membership has its privileges”, but for the OBF, Fellowship makes you a true believer in our mission — it means you own a part of the OBF’s purpose, to promote justice, fund essential legal services and advance public awareness of the law.
To be a Fellow means that you are a player — not just a fan. Fellows are stakeholders in the mission and purpose of OBF. Mixed metaphors aside, I present you with my top ten reasons why you should be proud to be a Fellow of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation.
10. 90,000 Oklahomans were affected this Year by OBF Grants and Awards. Your Fellow contributions will touch lives throughout the State.
9. OBF helps Children and Vulnerable Adults. OBF makes grants to Oklahoma Lawyers for Children and Tulsa Lawyers for Children. These organizations provide training and support services to Oklahoma lawyers who provide pro bono representation for deprived children in juvenile court and for representation at emergency show-cause hearings. OBF also makes grants to fund Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Court Appointed Advocates for Vulnerable Adults (OCAAVA). More than $1.7 million in grants have been made in support of children’s programs.
8. Clinton is #4 in the NATION. OBF is the sole source of funding for the annual OBA High School Mock Trial Competition. Clinton High School was this year’s state champion and placed fourth in the National High School Mock Trial Competition. Clinton’s fourth place finish was the best finish for an Oklahoma team in the national competition–EVER.
7. OBF helps our Courts. OBF’s court grant program is funded through a cy pres award derived from class action litigation. Since inception of the court program in 2008, grants totaling $269,000 have been awarded to 25 Oklahoma district courts for courtroom equipment such as computers, sound systems, video equipment, court reporting equipment and Wi-Fi hardware.
6. OBF is the Charitable Heart of OBA. The OBA has the responsibility of regulating the legal profession in Oklahoma and providing valuable services to its members. OBF supports Oklahomans who are not lawyers through grant making to legal service organizations and other law-relation nonprofit organizations that education the public about the law and the legal system.
5. Old White Guys are no longer in charge. In 2013, for the first time in recent memory, white men over age 50 (like me) will no longer constitute a majority of the OBF Trustees. OBF now has the most diverse board in its history and we fund a diverse array of law-related programs across Oklahoma.
4. $10,500,000.00 plus in OBF Grants and Scholarships have been awarded. Enough said.
3. We are like the united way for Lawyers. OBF is a big tent. Within the tent are twenty to thirty-some organizations carefully selected to receive support. The convenience of one gift to support as many as twenty plus organizations, which have been fully vetted by a Board of Trustees composed of lawyers, makes OBF attractive. OBF is the charity of choice for Oklahoma lawyers.
2. OBF Only Funds Causes that are Unique to Our Profession. What if Oklahoma lawyers had a charitable organization that made grants to charitable organizations dedicated to legal services for vulnerable adults and children; and dedicated to educating the public about their legal rights? You do — the OBF. OBF is a clearinghouse for such organizations and its grants and awards committee sifts through dozens of requests each year to carefully select those organizations which are most worthy of support, and we follow up with them to make certain funds are spent as they should be. There is no better bargain for your money.
1. Because it Feels Good! While it is free to be a member of OBF — to really feel it — you must be a Fellow!
It has been my pleasure to serve OBF, an organization that every Oklahoma lawyer can believe in. For those of us who have been given much — much is expected. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Very truly yours,
Shon T. Erwin