Auction to Fight Funding Shortage for MALS

By Andy Meek

Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. is known for the help it provides to people in need of legal services.

But the organization itself could use some help of its own.

To combat a sharp decline in funding, the Memphis legal community is coming together to raise money via a silent auction for MALS. Alpha Reporting Corp. is leading an effort to use an online auction that opens Monday, June 4, and runs for two weeks – and includes two additional auctions in the near future – to bring in funds.

Material being distributed to prospective auction participants laments that “due to federal funding reductions, (MALS) has lost one-fourth of its staff and 15 percent of its budgeted income over the last couple of years, while calls for its services have tripled.”

George “Buck” Lewis, a shareholder in the Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz PC who’s also a former president of the Tennessee Bar Association, said MALS raised a record $350,000 last year from private donations – and still had to lay off staff because of congressional budget cuts that offset the additional funding.

The auction, which will be conducted by Walker Auctions, begins June 4 and closes June 18. Details are available at alphareporting.com, and all proceeds go to MALS.

Donors are asked to contribute anything of value, with suggested items running the gamut from auto services to oil paintings to theater tickets and pottery.

“As we all know, we can depend on the government for just so much,” said Kathy May, owner of Alpha Reporting Corp. “It’s our community and the goodness of people that we are turning to for help during this time of need.

“The traditional way of doing something like this has been through phone calls and contacts and things like that. It was decided this year, because the economy is so tight and because there’s a lot of organizations that are trying to get various funding for different endeavors, that rather than calling people up and asking for a contribution that we’d ask them to donate an item they may no longer have a need for.”

The first auction will feature more than 100 items. The second will occur sometime in July, with the third auction happening in August.