Elder Law of Michigan presents the third annual Joe D. Sutton Call to Justice Awards

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

The Country Club of Lansing was the scene of the Elder Law of Michigan Third Annual Joe D. Sutton Call to Justice Awards Ceremony last month. The club's main ballroom was full of members of the legal, education and business communities along with their family and friends.

Karen McLaren, member of the Elder Law of Michigan, opened the ceremony, introducing Ingham County 54-A District Court Judge Hugh B. Clarke Jr who gave the benediction.

"The awards," said Chris Holman, Master of Ceremonies, "were created in honor of Joe D. Sutton, former assistant and chief deputy attorney general of Michigan and champion of Elder Law of Michigan and for his life of public service. Joe knew the value of providing this kind of help where the need was great. He served on the Board of Elder Law of Michigan from 2001 to 2005."

"I know that each of the honorees tonight will tell you that they get a lot more out of service than they give," said W. Anthony Jenkins, president of the State Bar of Michigan, keynote speaker and award presenter. "Tonight we are taking time to appreciate those things that make life fulfilling. Our honorees lead by example and by deed. They stand up for what is right; very simply, they do work for all the people."

Jenkins called Frank J. Kelley to the podium to receive the Joe D. Sutton Call to Justice Award. Kelley, the longest serving state attorney general in the United States, "served with distinction, fighting for the civil rights, health and financial well-being of Michigan's citizens and for the protection of our environment. His leadership on the civil consumer protection issues inspired many of us. His work continues to offer protection to older adults who are the targets of scams."

Kelley came to the podium following a standing ovation in recognition of his service to the community. In accepting the award, he said "Elder Law of Michigan has grown along with the aging population who wake up one morning wanting to know what services are available for me. Joe Sutton devoted the last years of his life to assist older adults to plan for their health and security and economic future. I am glad to have been a small part of the success of Elder Law and am grateful for your recognition tonight."

The Vanguard Awards for Contributions to Law and Aging were presented to:

Joseph Cunningham, a dedicated legal and financial professional who makes pro bono service a high priority in his life and in his practice, received the Contributions in Law and Aging Award. Cunningham is the leader of the State Bar of Michigan's MiLAPP QDRO program, which provides Qualified Domestic Relations Orders for low-income families to ensure their economic security in retirement. "It's very special for me to be selected for this award by the Elder Law Of Michigan," which provides a wide range of services to the citizens of Michigan.

Judge Phillip E. Harter, who served on the Calhoun County Probate Court for 26 years, was presented with the Judicial Contributions in Law and Aging Award. "Our probate courts see some of the most heart-breaking cases," said Jenkins presenting the award. "Judge Harter brought knowledge, wisdom and empathy to the court everyday. That is no small accomplishment. He is presented with this award because he has focused the time and attention of his court on reducing the use of unnecessary guardianships. He found alternatives that would allow people to exercise their freedom and independence."

Harter expressed his thanks for the award.

Jerutha Kennedy received the Vanguard Award for Contributions to Law and Aging for her contributions to the people of Detroit and Michigan. She worked with the Neighborhood Service Organization on Detroit's East Side retiring as Unit Director of the Harper Gratiot Multi-Service Center in 2007. Her present leadership roles include the chair of the Michigan Commission on Aging and a member of the Michigan League for Human Services.

"I feel that the people I have been working with for the past seven years are truly the people who should receive the award. They are truly the visible and vocal advocates for our seniors in the state of Michigan. Elder Law gave me an opportunity to give information to people who did not know where to turn. I thank them for this award," said Kennedy, accepting the award.

"David Hughes Duke is no stranger to awards," said Jenkins, calling him to the podium to accept the Media Award for Contributions in Law, Aging, and the Rights of People with Disabilities. "He is an Emmy Award-winning writer and filmmaker specializing in documentary films. His work is important because he tackles thought provoking and socially important subjects while reminding us to understand our complex world."

Though Duke is not publicly known for his music, he sang one of his original songs, "Come Explore with Me," during the Call to Justice Awards Dinner. Commenting that we should learn from our elders who have so much to give, he encouraged the members of the audience to broaden their relationships to make the world a better place.

The Action Awards for Contributions in Law, Aging, and the Rights of People with Disabilities were presented to Senator Roger Kahn, MD and Dudley Spade. Kahn is committed to education and is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine for MSU. He is been a board member of the Jane's Street Clinic and donated time to Saginaw's free medical clinic.

As deputy director of the Strategic Services for The Department of Human Services, he brought years of services as a state representative serving as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the Department of Human Services. He oversaw a $7 billion budget to fund public assistance and service programs including temporary assistance for needy families, state disability assistance, child day care and food stamps.

Both men champion Elder Law of Michigan's MiCafe (Michigan's Coordinated Access to Food for the Elderly) program, which assist low income adults age 60 and older to secure food, medical and utility assistance to meet their basic needs.

"They understand that healthy older adults contribute to the health of Michigan," said Jenkins.

"Elder Law is a top-notch organization," said Dudley. "They use your contributions well. If you are considering a contribution, this is an organization that leverages every dollar. Thank you for this honor."

The Call to Justice Awards were presented in partnership with the Access to Justice Fund of the State Bar of Michigan and the Ingham County Bar Association. Sponsors included:

* Sutton Advisors.

* Miller Johnson.

* Consumers Energy.

* Blue Cross and Blue Shield. of Michigan.

* Foster, Swift, Collins, & Smith.

For additional information about the services provided by Elder Law or to make a contribution, contact them at 1-866-400-9164 or www.elderlawofmi.org.

Published: Thu, May 5, 2011

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