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Front Page - Friday, November 5, 2010

Barristers, Beer and Bar-B-Q to benefit Backpack Project

Jason Demastus, president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Chattanooga Bar Association, and Elizabeth Hill, social chair, are encouraging all members of the bar to attend their group’s first annual Barristers, Beer and Bar-B-Q, a fundraiser to benefit the local chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocates, which trains volunteers to become court appointed advocates for abused and neglected children in juvenile court. - David Laprad

The Young Lawyers Divi-sion of the Chattanooga Bar Association is throwing its hat into the ring of local charitable efforts with Barristers, Beer and Bar-B-Q, a fundraiser for the group’s Backpack Project and
the local chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocates. The affair is scheduled to take place Nov. 18 at Museum Bluffs Parkview condominiums, located by Walnut Street Bridge, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Jason Demastus, YLD president, says the group has been searching for a project through which Chattanooga’s young lawyers could give back to the community. In the past, the organization has solicited people to work legal clinics and pro bono nights, but its members wanted to come up with an event they could call their own and that would make a difference in Hamilton County.
“After discussions with the Tennessee bar and some young associates across the state, we saw people were wanting to do something for children. We have an interest in kids, so we came together as a board, talked about what we could do and decided an event like this would be the best way to raise funds,” Demastus says.
Demastus says the YLD wanted to do something that would have an immediateimpact on a child’s life, so its members turned to CASA, which carefully screens and professionally trains volunteers to become court appointed advocates for abused and neglected children in juvenile court.
These volunteers represent the interests of victimized children and help to secure a safe and permanent home for young persons. Following talks with Denise Cook, the sole employee of the local chapter of CASA, the YLD hit upon the idea of giving children for whom CASA will be providing advocacy a backpack in which they could keep personal belongings.
The backpacks might come with a coloring book that explains what’s happening, what CASA does and what guardians do in an effort to help children understand what’s taking place. If the YLD’s discussions with local vendors prove productive, the backpacks will also contain some essentials, such as a toothpaste and a toothbrush.
“The children don’t know what to do with their parents, their siblings or themselves, and there are guardians involved, too, so we wanted to put something in the backpack to help them understand the process through which they’re going and let them know it’s not their fault. We also wanted them to have something into which they could stuff their teddy bears, blankets and other things. That way, they could keep some things with them and hopefully feel more comfortable,” Demastus says.
The funds the YLD raises during Barristers, Beer and Bar-B-Q will go toward the purchase of backpacks and might also help to subsidize the printing of the coloring books.
Demastus says the YLD is encouraging all members of the Chattanooga bar to become advocates.
“CASA will take anyone who’s willing to provide a neutral viewpoint. There are a lot of kids out there who need someone to step in on their behalf, and it’s imperative that someone from CASA be there to do it,” Demastus says.
Local attorney Elizabeth Hill is the social chair for the YLD. She says the organization has hosted more social events this year than in the past, but that it’s never held a fundraiser before, as the group couldn’t decide on who to help or the nature of the social. Once they decided to join forces with CASA, the rest fell into place.
“We’re good at eating and drinking, so we thought a dinner event would be the best way to get the bar involved and raise some funds to help a group within the courts that needs us,” she says.
Demastus says the event’s alliterative name was a matter of much discussion.
“We were looking for a name, and nothing was coming together, so we asked ourselves what else we could call an attorney. We went with an old English term for lawyers, which is barristers. At first, we were going to go with ‘Beer, Brats and Barristers,’ but the brats fell by the wayside, so it ended up being ‘Barristers, Beer and Bar-B-Q,’” he says.
To acquire a unique location for the event, the YLD teamed up with Real Estate Partners of Chattanooga, which granted the group use of the condominiums at Museum Bluffs. The event will take place outdoors in a secluded courtyard, with three kinds of barbecue available buffet style, including beef, chicken and pork. In addition, the YLD is working to acquire outdoor heaters and “some kind of entertainment” for the evening.
The YLD is inviting every member of the local bar and their spouses to the event. Members wanting to purchase tickets can call Demastus at 423-622-4535, Hill at 423-756-7117 or the Chattanooga Bar Association at 423-756-3222. In lieu of purchasing a ticket, a member of the bar can donate a new backpack valued at $25 or more.
Demastus and Hill say those who can’t attend but would like to help can donate backpacks.
Hill says she hopes enough people attend Barristers, Beer and Bar-B-Q to justify making it an annual event.
“It’s our first fundraiser, so please support it. Our events are a great way for young lawyers to meet and be sounding boards for each other. We see each other in court, but we’re usually with other attorneys from our firm, so this is our chance to get together and discuss what we’re going through as associates in our different practice areas.”
For more information about CASA, including details on how to inquire about becoming an advocate, visit www.casaforchildren.org and enter your firm’s zip code into the search box beneath “Find a CASA program.”