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UF Law helps local bar play Santa for elementary school

Published: January 12th, 2009

Category: News

Joy lit up the faces of hundreds of children as lawyers from the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association (EJCBA) gave Christmas gifts to an entire elementary school. Words like “inspiring” and “uplifting” do not adequately describe the event.

More than 400 students at Rawlings Elementary in Gainesville received gifts from EJCBA members and other donors, based on wish lists the children had written to Santa Claus (The EJCBA is a voluntary bar comprised of lawyers from Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union Counties in Florida).

Comfortable in a suit of any sort, Gainesville Attorney Carl Schwait gave each child a personal greeting and a collection of gifts.

Shoppers picked up bags, each containing a child’s wish list, name, grade level, and instructions to fill the bag with gifts whose combined value was $45 – $50 (to promote parity).

Some shoppers “adopted” children (agreed to fund the gifts); others shopped for so many children that they’ll need reimbursement from the EJCBA.

Eight Circuit State Attorney Bill Cervone allowed the EJCBA to store and organize gifts in his building.

All Holiday Gift Committee members, including chair Margaret Stack (EJCBA’s president) and President-Elect Becky O’Neill, spent spare time shopping for dozens of children and preparing for the event.

As well as doing massive shopping, Committee members Lua Mellman and Elizabeth Collins created a data base and an intricate system for making sure that every child received gifts. These ladies didn’t stop at checking the lists twice.

Rawlings’ principal Emery Bishop and school staff spent much of the day before Santa’s arrival loading the truck at the State Attorney’s office and unloading the truck at the school.

Rawlings’ staff and teachers devoted after-school time to checking lists and bags, which were color coded by grade level.

Stack, Santa’s chief elf, led groups of students in a chorus of Jingle Bells: the only effective way to bring Santa out. Other members of the legal community joined Santa at Rawlings to help pass out gifts, including local attorneys Nancy Baldwin, Sherrie Galambos and Liz McKillop, along with Judge-elect Denise Ferrero.

Administrators, faculty and staff from the UF law school pitched in to help shop for children and raise donations.

The children’s reactions were a blend of surprise and sheer elation. Many children applauded even when their classmates received gifts, excited by their friends’ good fortune.

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