Feb. 26—The Berks County Bar Association was recently recognized by the Pennsylvania Bar Association for its COVID-19 legal response and its Perk Up the Vote program.
The Berks association received the awards virtually during the state association's annual conference. It was one of 20 local bar associations honored this year for sponsoring projects that improve the legal profession, justice system or community.
"We are so proud of the innovative projects and programs that members of each local bar association initiate to better serve its community," state association President David E. Schwager said in a press release.
The Berks association's board of directors established the COVID-19 Legal Response Program to expand the scope of its existing pro bono program to include any individual, family or small business owner who had been furloughed, whose position was eliminated permanently, suffered significant income loss or otherwise had been adversely affected by the pandemic.
Many of the people helped by association members were small business owners who needed assistance with leases or other issues that pushed them to the brink of closing permanently, according to the press release. Some veterans and seniors in the community also received help preparing durable powers of attorney and other documents related to their health care in the event of exposure to COVID-19, officials said.
The Perk Up the Vote program promoted an understanding of the electoral process and the importance of voting, and the bar association leveraged its social media channels through posts in English and Spanish to raise awareness of the nonpartisan election resources available. Links to the PAVotes website were shared with reminders about deadlines for registering to vote and explanations about the mail-in voting process.
In addition, the association encouraged members to vote, and those who dropped off their mail-in ballots at the county services center across the street from the association's office were invited to stop for a free cup of coffee.
Then to encourage voting on Election Day, the bar partnered with a locally-owned coffee shop to offer a free coffee or tea to all members who showed their "Perk Up the Vote" email.