Sometimes it takes two to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Lacey Rochester and Mark Kaplinsky began their volunteering for the Justice For All Ball (JFAB) as the committee chairs for Raffle and Auction, respectively. After the first year, it became apparent that by working together they could bring Ball goers a much better raffle and auction experience. The partnership clicked, and the 2016 and 2017 JFAB Raffles and Auctions were two of the most profitable in the history of the event.
This month’s "5 in 5 with …" talks with this formidable team about how they and the JFAB have benefited from their work together, what they have planned for this year’s 30th Anniversary celebration, and how you can help.
1. What do you love most about your work with The Pro Bono Project, and in particular, in the roles you take on for the JFAB as Co-Chairs of Raffle/Auction Committees?
Lacey: Every year at the JFAB, when we set up the display of the prizes that have been donated by local businesses, artists, restaurants and others for the raffle and auction - it truly hits home just how incredibly generous the donors are. I love seeing everything come together the night of the ball like that because without their continued support each year, the JFAB would not be the same.
Mark: Even though I’m retired, I’ve continued as an LSBA member and working with the JFAB enables me to support and stay connected with the N.O. legal community and the Civil Justice system. I’ve built wonderful relationships with The Project’s staff and volunteers, and this has added to the fun and enjoyment I get out of doing this. I spent many years helping my wife, Barbara, on raffles and auctions for many of her galas, and so I knew that this was the one place where I could make my most significant contribution to the JFAB.
2. How many years have you all been managing these crucial aspects of the JFAB and what got you interested in taking on these roles?
Lacey: This is my third year serving as Co-Chair of the Raffle/Auction Committee. My law partner and mentor, Jan Hayden involved me when she served on The Project’s board and as the JFAB Committee Chair. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it has been the experience of a lifetime.
Mark: In 2015, The Project’s Board Chair and my friend, Carole Cukell Neff suggested I get involved, and so I volunteered for the Auction Committee. Jan Hayden, my friend and Ball Chair of the 2016 JFAB actively encouraged me to take on the Auction Committee Chairmanship. I said okay, and the rest, as they say, is history.
3. Initially, you each headed separate committees, but for the last few years, you've worked as a team to make the raffle and auction hugely successful. Each of you, please talk about what quality/talent/skill the other brings to the table that makes your partnership work so well.
Lacey: Mark’s optimism is what makes him so perfect for this committee. I do not think I have ever seen or heard him be negative, even when the going gets tough. Mark also helps keep me on task. I tend to get too entrenched in the details. Mark lets me ‘spaz out' while keeping me focused on the big picture.
Mark: It became clear to me, and I believe to Lacey also as Chair of the Raffle Committee, during the course of our first chairmanship that there was a lot of overlap with the roles and needs of the Auction and Raffle Committees – so we teamed up. As a practicing attorney with the network that naturally develops, Lacey was in a position to accomplish specific tasks that would have been harder, if not impossible, for me. Since I’m retired, I had the time to perform tasks too time-consuming for a practicing attorney. Despite a full-time practice, Lacey is an extraordinarily talented human dynamo, who, based on her overall performance, seems to treat the JFAB as a full-time job. We may be co-chairs, but I consider her the senior partner.
4. What do you want people to know about the 2018 Raffle/Auction? What can they expect this year in celebration of the 30th Anniversary?
Lacey: It takes a full team of volunteers for the Raffle and Auction Committee. We need all the help we can get to make our 30th Anniversary Raffle and Auction the biggest and best! We want to auction and raffle off some great prizes so anyone who can help us find some unusual and fun prizes should join our committee or share their ideas and contacts with us!
Mark: As usual, we expect to have a broad range of items to bid on, including a variety of domestic, as well as foreign vacation trips as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration. We're always looking for great prizes, and people can help by sharing their thoughts with us for what they'd like to see. Better still, they can join the committee or put us in contact with anyone who might be willing to donate something for the raffle or auction.
5. What is the one thing that you all have learned in working together for The Project/JFAB that might encourage people to get more involved either with The Project or the Ball?
Lacey: It is worth every second of time that you put in. The relationships I have made by just giving my time have enriched my life in ways that I did not think possible. Moreover, the feeling you get from knowing that you pulled off a massive event like the JFAB for a worthy cause is something that stays with you long after the Ball ends.
Mark: A large part of The Pro Bono Project’s yearly budget comes from the proceeds of the JFAB. There is a feeling of satisfaction in contributing to an organization that does so much to support members of our community that seem to are often forgotten. The Project offers a safety net to access civil justice for those who often fall through the cracks as a result of shrinking budget cuts and declining governmental support for human and social services.
You can help Lacey and Mark make the 30th Anniversary raffle and auction spectacular by:
- Joining the committee
- Securing prizes from businesses and individuals you know
- Providing contact information for companies and individuals who might contribute to the raffle or auction
Here are some ‘personal touch’ items that Lacey and Mark would like to add to this year’s raffle and auction:
- Weekend getaway at a private home or condo
- Private dinner prepared by a local chef in an exclusive location
- Behind the scenes tour at a place or event not accessible to the general public
- Exclusive use of private boxes at a sporting or entertainment event
- Any item, event, or other that needs a personal connection to access
If you are interested in helping Lacey and Mark, please contact The Project via email.
The 2018 Justice For All Ball celebrates its 30th year of raising funds to support The Pro Bono Project’s mission to provide access to civil justice for those who are underserved in a six-Parish area surrounding New Orleans.
The 30th Anniversary celebration is on Friday, October 5, 2018, at the Audubon Tea Room from 8:00 p.m. to midnight; a Patron Party on the grounds of the Audubon Zoo will precede the Ball.
For more information and to purchase tickets and sponsorships, visit JFAB 2018.