Heroes of the Year | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Heroes of the Year

The 2013 Heroes of the Year are the members of the Women’s Initiative at Baker Donelson, including (from left) Sheryl Bey, Marlena Pickering, Ashley Tullos, Kenya Rachal, Alicia Hall, Anna Powers and Amy Champagne.

The 2013 Heroes of the Year are the members of the Women’s Initiative at Baker Donelson, including (from left) Sheryl Bey, Marlena Pickering, Ashley Tullos, Kenya Rachal, Alicia Hall, Anna Powers and Amy Champagne. Photo by Melanie Boyd.

Thanks to the recent trend of big-budget Hollywood films, our idea of a "hero" is often a person in a cool costume fighting evil. If you read or watch the news, maybe your vision of a hero is a police officer, firefighter or soldier—someone who risks life and limb to protect our freedom and safety. Most of us probably wouldn't picture our heroes as a group of attorneys working in one of the country's largest and oldest law firms.

"We chose the Women's Initiative at Baker Donelson as our Heroes of the Year because that's exactly what they are," says Sandy Middleton, executive director of the Center for Violence Prevention. The attorneys offer free legal services to the center, including assistance with child custody and divorce, restraining orders, business disputes, and help with criminal investigations. "I call them frequently for help and they are always there for us. They have always gone the extra mile," Middleton says.

The Women's Initiative Committee was formed to promote diversity and the advancement of females within the firm, the firm's website states. Another aspect of the initiative is to aid women within the community, with is a focus on pro bono service.

The members of the initiative spoke to the Attorney General's office and saw the need for their services right here in central Mississippi. As a result, they reached out to Middleton and the center to offer their services. The attorneys within the initiative have shown the victims at the center that legal help is available for them.

"It made sense for us to get involved the with the center," said Ashley C. Tullos, one of the initiative members. "We recognized the center had clients with needs, and it was good way for us to utilize our skills. Some of the women can be intimidated by law enforcement and are unaware of the options that are available to them. We like to see these women educated within the community."

The women of Baker Donelson went the extra mile, committing to a day of training with Middleton and Heather Wagner, director of the domestic-violence division of the state attorney general's office, on issues that face the center. "The training helped us realize the tough and diverse issues some of these women are facing," Tullos says.

She also made it clear that the initiative's involvement with CVP has the complete support of the firm. "The great thing is that this is not something that is not just talked about at Baker Donelson, but there is a level of commitment. Things like our work with the Center and sponsorship of the Chick Ball shows the firm truly cares about these issues," Tullos says.

The initiative has been involved with the CVP for more than year now. Aside from the wide range of legal services they offer, they have made themselves completely available to the center.

"They have achieved results in protecting these women. In short, they are lifesavers," Middleton says.

The members of the Women's Initiative Committee include: Jonell Beeler, Sheryl Bey, Amy Champagne, Nakimuli Davis, La'Verne Edney, Amy Elder, Wendy Ellard, Sue Fairbank, Alicia Hall, Jennifer Hall, Adria Hertwig, Ceejaye Peters, Marlena Pickering, Anna Powers, Kenya Rachal, Wendy Thompson, Ashley C. Tullos, Anne Turner, Ginger Weaver and Gretchen Zmitrovich.

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