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Akron Bar Foundation on a mission to improve access to justice

The Akron Bar Foundation's Annual Gala Dinner & Silent Fundraising Auction was held Feb. 1 at Akron Fairlawn Hilton. At left is Executive Director C. Allen Nichols. At right is President Bernie Rochford. (Photo by Tracey Blair/Akron Legal News)

Legal News Reporter

Published: February 14, 2020

Last year, the Akron Bar Foundation awarded $45,000 in scholarships to 11 law school students based on grade point average, affiliation with Summit County, a demonstrated history of community involvement and a strong financial need.
In addition, the foundation – the fundraising and charitable arm of the Akron Bar Association – awarded 2019 grants to area nonprofit groups that will improve the access to justice or will improve the justice system.
Grants were awarded to the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina counties, prison re-entry program Bondage Breakers, Broken Chains Ministry, the Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina counties, the Salvation Army and Victim Assistance Program, among others.
The law students were among an estimated 225 people who attended the foundation’s Annual Gala Dinner & Silent Fundraising Auction at the Akron Fairlawn Hilton Feb. 1.
“We announce those folks so people can see what their money from last year went to,” Akron Bar Foundation President Bernie Rochford said. “Last year, we raised $130,000 that the foundation presented to the community. About $24,000 came from the gala.”
The highlight of the gala is the traditional silent auction. The gala committee solicited donations and put together gift baskets for attendees to bid on. Half of the funds go to the foundation’s scholarship fund – which gives scholarships to Ohio law school students through the Summit County connection. The other half of the proceeds go to community organizations.
The foundation also offers two summer internships for law school students.
The foundation, led by a 16-member Board of Governors, strives to broaden its role in the community by supporting philanthropic activities and 501(C)(3) nonprofit organizations. Its mission is to improve the quality of justice and the image of lawyers through the support of law-related and public service programs primarily directed to the Akron metropolitan area.
“A big part of the gala is the social aspect,” Rochford said. “We try not to have a long program or long speeches. It’s got to be quick. It’s your time to socialize with people you don’t see outside of work or court.”
Executive Director C. Allen Nichols said the gala is an ideal way to network with other busy legal professionals. High-profile attendees included Chief Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor.
“People’s practice areas are so different in many cases,” Nichols said. “I may be a bankruptcy attorney who hasn’t seen this friend of mine for a long time who is in criminal law because we just never cross paths and never have time for lunch. This is a great opportunity to catch up with people.”
Event sponsors included Brennan, Manna & Diamond, LLC, Brouse McDowell, LPA and Roetzel & Andress, LPA.
“The event was well organized and the auction items donated by various individuals or entities are always interesting,” said Brennan, Manna & Diamond Partner Duriya Dhinojwala. “It’s a good event to meet and socialize with fellow attorneys. I try to attend the annual gala each year. Brennan, Manna & Diamond sponsors this event because the foundation supports many great causes in the community, including equal access to justice.”