Working to combat hunger

Melinda Nelson (L) vice president of the Piedmont Bar Association, encouraged PBA members to participate and promote the Legal Food Frenzy competition to combat hunger in Georgia. Barrow County Juvenile Court Associate Judge Nancy Ragsdale (R) is spearheading the group's participation in youth mentoring in programs in place by the school systems within the Piedmont district.

The Piedmont Bar Association is hosting several fundraisers and community outreach initiatives in 2021 in hopes of giving back to those affected most by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The PBA met April 23 following this year’s legislative session, which adjourned April 2. During the meeting, Sen. Bo Hatchett, whose district covers part of the PBA area, discussed foster care and adoption reform initiatives he’s taken during his freshman year as senator.

Senate Bill 28, authored by Hatchett, provides for the consideration of evidence, including hearsay, in juvenile proceedings in order for the court to better decide the child’s best interests. The bill, among other things, requires annual training for juvenile court intake officers and revises provisions relative to the Juvenile Code and the reporting of child abuse.

Sen. Hatchett also discussed other bills passed that aim to make adoption more affordable and accessible.

In light of recent measures taken by legislators to improve the lives of Georgia’s children, PBA president Barry King encouraged members and the community to participate in fundraisers and outreach initiatives taking place in the coming months.

The 10th Annual Legal Food Frenzy, a friendly statewide competition managed in partnership with the Attorney General, State Bar of Georgia, the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Food Bank Association to support Georgia’s regional food banks, is currently underway,

Donations on behalf of PBA, which serves Banks, Barrow and Jackson counties, will go to the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia in Athens.

According to Melinda Nelson, Vice President of the PBA, one of the things she wants to do is address food insecurity.

“It is huge,” said Nelson, a Child Protection and Advocacy attorney. “In almost every courtroom, you hear something about people not having money for food. We can take care of each other better than that.”

Since its inception in 2012, the Legal Food Frenzy has raised the equivalent of 12.2 million meals for food banks statewide. Last year alone, fundraisers generated 3.3 million meals for food banks, according to Attorney General Chris Carr. With every $1 donated, the food banks can distribute $8 worth of groceries into the community.

Those outside the legal community are encouraged to donate and may credit their donation to PBA to support its quest to win this year’s competition. Donations are accepted until April 30 online at galegalfoodfrenzy.org or by check-in-mail made payable to the Food Bank or Northeast Georgia.

Another outreach initiative needing immediate action is youth mentoring, which PBA participation is being spearheaded by Barrow County Associate Juvenile Court Judge Nancy Ragsdale.

“There is a tremendous need in our circuit for mentoring children,” said Ragsdale.

Mentoring programs are in place in all school districts in the Piedmont circuit, such as Legacy Youth Mentoring, which serves Jackson County, Jefferson City and Commerce City Schools Systems.

Barrow County School System Mentor Program and the Banks County School System P.A.W.S. Program (Positive Adults Winning Students) are also in place and in need of volunteers to donate one hour of their time once a week to help provide encouragement, friendship and guidance for students in grades K-12.

“I can tell you first hand that nothing matters more than a human being who says, 'I’m going to be with you at this time,'” said Ragsdale. “I have a lot of children who need someone to come in and commit to being there,” she said.

Other fundraisers and events sponsored by PBA include speaking engagements May 1 at local high schools for National Law Day, a golf tournament for the Jackson County High School softball team June 4, a Bike Ride for the Kelly Wilhite Aplastic Anemia Research Fund June 19, a blood drive in July and reading of the Declaration of Independence at various court houses, city squares and parks July 4.

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