Young lawyers to the rescue

first_img October 15, 2004 Associate Editor Regular News Young lawyers to the rescue Jan Pudlow Associate Editor The Lucky 13 truck stop was the scene of a most happy delivery on the edge of disaster.Four days after Hurricane Ivan ravaged the Pensacola area, Maria Armas, assistant general counsel of the 11th Judicial Circuit, cruised up from Miami, to mile marker 70 near Crestview. She was behind the wheel of her twin brother’s camper truck jam-packed with everything from generators to surge protectors to jugs of water to bug spray.Meeting her there alongside the highway was fellow Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division board member Julie Jones, who drove over from storm-tossed Pensacola in her empty truck.Putting tailgate to tailgate, they managed to slide the heavy generators over to Jones’ truck, along with the rest of the survival gear.Jones’ co-workers at Gulf Power in Pensacola—a dozen left with nothing but the clothes on their backs and only concrete slabs where their homes once stood—were in crisis.“We have many I work with who lost everything,”Jones wrote in an e-mail. “Things are slowly opening, but not anywhere near enough to meet the need, and the shelves are bare. My co-workers were awed by the fact that people not even from here were going out of their way to send help.“Many have asked me who you all are, and this is my response: They are the leaders of the young lawyers in Florida, and they are not only fine attorneys, but they are wonderful people who care enough to reach out to those who cannot help themselves without hesitation.”It is the Young Lawyers Division that The Florida Bar turns to for hurricane relief volunteers. In a cooperative arrangement with the ABA YLD’s district representative Mark Arnold, of Holland & Knight in Miami, the Bar’s YLD mobilized more than 700 Florida lawyers to staff a toll-free hotline to answer legal questions from hurricane victims who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. After Hurricane Jeanne brought the historic hurricane season to the fourth killer storm to hit Florida in six weeks, more than 200 calls a day are pouring in to the hotline.While YLD lawyers generously donate their time to help strangers in crisis, in the days following Ivan’s wrath, they turned their efforts to helping a colleague in need.During Ivan’s Category three, 130 mph winds, Jones and her family took shelter at her grandmother’s home, where about 40 trees crashed all around them, necessitated a chain-sawed path to leave the scene that she described as looking like a bomb went off. She was one of the lucky ones, and she called out to help her co-workers.A dazzling array of e-mails among YLD board members crisscrossed the state.Maria Armas in Miami: “Julie needs a generator. Who has one?”Jamie Moses in Orlando: “Maria, I think I can get Julie a generator. Would you be driving to her? If so, you’d be coming my way, right?”Jennifer Ator in Miami: “I was in Orlando and coming home this afternoon, so I picked up the generator and dropped it off at Maria’s house. We packed up the truck.. . . I would say it is nothing short of a superstar effort. Please keep (Maria’s) safe travel in your prayers. That is one long trip.”It was a team effort. Jill Bennett of Ft. Lauderdale bought gallon jugs of water and Clorox. Virginia Pagliery of Miami donated batteries and food. Jamie Moses’ mom, Cherolen Billotte, wrote a check for $250 to buy supplies, and Victoria Wu in Washington, D.C., and Mindi Wells in Ohio sent money, too.Armas stopped in Bradenton to pick up another generator and empty gas cans, mosquito repellant, and water from Brandon Vesely. Lara Tibbals in Tampa offered her generator as well, but it wouldn’t fit in the stuffed truck. Kelly O’Keefe offered her Tallahassee home for resting.During a pit stop at a gas station in Tallahassee, Ginger Barry brought extension cords and surge protectors. And Kathy Bishop of Perry kept Armas company via telephone on the long, windy drive back to Miami.Armas was heartened by generous souls who stepped up without being asked.“I had people offering me money in the elevator, just listening to me on the cell phone,” Armas said. “People saying, ‘Here, I have $20 on me. Buy what you can. See what you can do.’ It was amazing.“I took stuff like toothbrushes and personal toiletries,” Armas said. “Because if you have lost everything, you have lost everything. You are starting from scratch.”Armas said driving a truck all the way from Miami to the Panhandle “took no talent,” and it was the least she could do. She remembers how Hurricane Andrew destroyed her old Country Walk neighborhood in Miami in 1992, where her sister rode out the storm and the family lost everything. That’s all the motivation she needed to see what she could do to help Ivan’s victims.This reciprocal recovery will be felt, one kind person to another, during future disasters, Armas predicts.“Years from now, the people that got helped, when someone else has this problem, they will think back on Ivan and they will do whatever they can do,” Armas said.Back in Pensacola, where Jones said she is getting good at cooking on a Coleman camp stove, the generous truckload for her co-workers will not be forgotten.“Our people in this area are heartbroken. Our beautiful city and countryside are in tatters,” Jones said. “But we will persevere and rebuild, and your kindness is appreciated by us all.” Young lawyers to the rescuelast_img read more