Volume 19, Number 3
April/May 2002

The Chair's Corner

A Call for Volunteers

By George R. Ripplinger

This month I'm looking for volunteers. It won't cost you any money or a lot of time, and in return, you'll receive the satisfaction of helping some kids learn how to succeed in life.
The Griffin Center in East St. Louis, Illinois, provides after-school tutoring, homework assistance, and social recreation for more than 700 grade school children who live in four public housing communities.
East St. Louis is a poverty-stricken city in which over 40 percent of its citizens live below the poverty line. More than 14,000 city residents (35 percent of the population) are children under the age of 18. I went to high school in East St. Louis many years ago. That high school is now a state prison-a sad commentary on how far the city has fallen.
The MCI Foundation awarded the Griffin Center a "bridging the digital divide" grant, in partnership with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, to provide computer training and e-mail access for these children. I learned about the program by chance, while I was investigating grant requests made by the Griffin Center to the Illinois Bar Foundation. I have seen the work of this mostly volunteer program, and I can assure you that it is fulfilling its mission with dedication and success.
During one of these visits, Sister Julia Huiskamp, the director, told me about the Center's online mentor program. Courtesy of the Internet, successful professionals match up via e-mail with the children so that they have contact with a role model who encourages them and supports them in their quest to succeed as students and citizens. I told Sister Julia that I knew "a few" people who would be willing to help. You, the members of the General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division, are the "few" I was thinking about. I am especially eager to have our law student members participate, because you are much closer to the current college experience than those of us who are already grandparents. If you've come up the hard way, as many of us have, so much the better.
Thus, my call for volunteers. Once your application is accepted, you will be paired with one of these students (or more if you so desire) and become an official online mentor. Many of these kids have few successful role models, especially those with whom they can develop a consistent relationship over time. This is your chance to make a difference in a child's life, and I encourage everyone to send an e-mail offering just a small portion of your time to Diane Sonneman at griffinds@juno.com. She'll take it from there.
It's difficult for a national organization with such a widely dispersed membership to do any meaningful pro bono or charitable project. This is a rare opportunity for us to do just that-send Diane an e-mail today!



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