Last year, when Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens spearheaded a Legal Food Frenzy, law schools asked for the opportunity to participate in their own category.
For the second straight year, the Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law trumped the competition to win the Attorney Generals Cup in the law school division. The event encourages lawyers to collect food and money to benefit needy families across the state.
In fact, Middle Georgia had a strong showing in this years competition, with Warner Robins attorney Bo Sammons capturing the Attorney Generals Cup as the biggest fundraiser per capita in the state.
The law school students and Sammons were honored Monday when Olens spoke to the Macon Rotary Club.
Olens started the Legal Food Frenzy last year, modelling it on a similar competition in Virginia. The money and food brought in through the competition were given to the seven regional food banks across the state. Funds and items raised in each region went to the food bank in that region to help low-income families.
About 60 percent of school children (in Georgia) qualify for a free or reduced lunch, Olens said. Thats a scary number to me. Weve geared this to help kids over the summer, those nine or 10 weeks they arent in school.
Overall, the state took in 842,317 pounds of food, a 38 percent increase over last year.
Mercer came within 200 pounds of food of doubling its number from the first year, when it blew away the other law schools. While the University of Georgia School of Law doubled its total, it still fell a distant runner-up to Mercer.
Georgia stepped it up, so we did things like competing in different grade levels, said third-year law student Cameron Roberts, who led Mercers effort both years. Mercer is a super-generous community, so it wasnt hard to get people to give. Theres just a lot of organization.
Fellow third-year student Sarah Dubale and second-year student Tiffany Watkins also were at the event Monday. Dubale said a lot of the organization was done when students came up with ideas of how to get the rest of the law school, including the faculty, involved.
Watkins came up with an idea of no-call ribbons. If they donated $5 for the ribbon, they wouldnt get an early morning phone calls soliciting money for the cause.
Gary Simson, the law schools dean, said Mercers effort is symbolic of what the university tries to do in the community.
Im very proud, but thats very characteristic of the Mercer law school, he said. Its a very philanthropic group.
Sammons, who practices on his own, ended up gathering 4,600 pounds of food through cash and can donations.
Sammons, a member of the music group the Alex Tjoland Band, convinced bandmates Alex Tjoland, Rachel Elkins, Erik Tjoland and Delisa Kyzer, to hold two concerts in Warner Robins to help raise money. Because law firms are judged on per capita pounds collected, Sammons was able to beat other firms across the state.
I raised a lot of money, and people brought in a good bit of food, he said. But the main thing this means is that Ive got to do better next year.
Ronald Raleigh, director of the Middle Georgia Food Bank, said it was nice to have both winners in his coverage area.
Theres value having two winners, he said. They beat out the rest of the state. Thats pretty cool.
Because it works with government agencies, the food bank can purchase four pounds of food per $1 spent. The food bank serves 24 midstate counties, which includes 250 agencies.
During Mondays luncheon, Olens discussed the Legal Food Frenzy and took questions about a variety of legal issues, including Georgias water wars with Florida and Alabama, sex trafficking, health care reform and payday lending.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.