Denver Bar Association
October 2004
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Enjoy the Purposeful & Ebullient

by Norman Beecher

"Great persons are able to do great kindnesses." Miguel de Cervantes, 1615.

"We often lose sight of how fortunate we are amidst the responsibilities of cases, clients and our own families. I became an attorney to help people; through CAN’s projects we make an immediate difference to homeless children, hungry families and victims of domestic abuse." Rebecca Franciscus, 2004.


The poverty rate in America increased in 2003 for the third straight year. Almost one-fifth of the population lacks health care, according to recent Census Bureau reports. You can do something about it in November.

On Nov. 12, the DBA’s Community Action Network, the "CAN" Committee, holds its Annual Desserts & Delights Auction to benefit Work Options for Women (WOW). Economic downturns disproportionately impact women and children, and single women with children most of all. WOW, founded in 1996, prepares low-income women for jobs in the food service industry. From a base in a commercial kitchen donated by the Archdiocese of Denver, WOW has expanded to operation of the employee cafeteria at the Richard T. Castro Human Services Center, training approximately 30 women in job-related and societal skills each year.

The Annual Desserts & Delights Auction, on the other hand, is an elegantly-catered gran soirée, celebrated this year at the Warwick Hotel. There will be music, a wine tasting, and a smorgasbord of desserts and delectables to sample and purchase. Bill Walters will auction the donated "delights," which typically range from airline tickets to patisseries, spa vacations to feng shui classes. The proceeds may not solve every concern raised in the latest Census Bureau reports, but they represent a serious contribution toward ameliorating a critical problem despite being the product of a genuine good time.

That juxtaposition—the purposeful and the ebullient—is characteristic of CAN. Formerly the Community Concerns Committee under DBA President-elect Chris Little, CAN is verifiably the only Bar committee dedicated to charitable endeavors outside the scope of our profession. (Check the list!)

Re-christened under 2002–2004 Co-Chairs Rebecca Franciscus and Lisa Williams with an acronym better evincing their optimism and determination, CAN offers lawyers an opportunity to provide educational, social and civic assistance to people among us we might otherwise never meet. The Committee currently administers three projects each year, in addition to the Desserts & Delights Auction:


Kids In Need of Dentistry Toothbrush Drive. A non-profit charity organized in 1912 by the Denver Dental Society, "KIND" furnishes comprehensive dental care to children up to age 18 from low-income families not receiving public assistance and not covered by dental insurance. Each February, CAN collects dental supplies to be used at KIND’s outreach clinics.

Roll Out the Barrels! Food Drive. Since 1978, the Food Bank of the Rockies has channeled food to participating agencies throughout northern Colorado and Wyoming. More than 900 hunger-relief programs depend on this vital volunteer agency to serve the basic needs of more than 300,000 people in our region who struggle to make ends meet. Of this number, approximately 135,000 are children who lack proper nutrition. In March, CAN distributes rubber barrels that local law firms fill with non-perishables collected over a two-week period from attorneys and staff.

Back-to-School Supply Drive. The Denver Public Schools’ Educational Outreach Program, run by the redoubtable Liz Murphy, marshals education as a prime defense against poverty. This year the program identified more than 1,000 homeless children in need of school supplies, education-related transportation, clothing, eyeglasses, gym
uniforms, sport/activity fees and graduation expenses in order to eliminate the barriers that so often prevent the homeless from attending school. This summer, CAN helped out by
collecting school supplies intended for more than 800 homeless children, many of whom lined up with their families in 90-degree heat outside Cole Middle School at 3:30 p.m. on August 3 for a distribution not scheduled to begin until 5 p.m. Based on the laughter in the school’s marbled halls, the tubs of markers, erasers, backpacks and notebooks were a treasure trove to the recipients, two of whom are pictured above.

CAN is completely volunteer-owned and operated. Constructed of unalloyed altruism and fully organic, it runs entirely on environmentally-friendly geniality. Working with CAN, you encounter people who may never have met a lawyer, and you meet other lawyers in a non-legal context, which may be where we are at our best.

Some days, the practice of law can feel like a roll in mud, and I wonder at times if our profession accomplishes anything more useful than enabling avarice. On such days, CAN is both release and salvation. Turning Cervantes’ quotation on its head, I hope that great kindnesses can make me, if not a great person, at least a slightly better one, a little more deserving of my own happiness.

Could we be doing more? Are there other worthy causes we should support? Would you like to become involved? Please call either of the current CAN Co-Chairs, Michelle Ferguson at (303) 623-2700, or Norman Beecher at (303) 888-8857. We welcome any and all help, comment, suggestions and humor.

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