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Home / Expert Opinion / GRAWA President’s Message: A bustling schedule signals a return to autumn

GRAWA President’s Message: A bustling schedule signals a return to autumn

Melanie Wolk

Melanie Wolk

The crispness in the air, the changing of the leaves, the darkness when I awake each morning and the exceedingly overwhelming amount of events on my calendar tell me that it is fall in Rochester. We are all back in the swing of things, cases and clients picking up from the lull of summer, children back to school and now our evenings filled with meetings, social hours and different events.

GRAWA’s calendar has been no exception to this season’s scheduling conundrum as we have held numerous events and committee meetings. Yet, last week GRAWA and its members took time to celebrate one of our own and her accomplishments.

As many of us know, October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a social issue that is often not discussed in our community, as well as others. Rochester is very fortunate to have an attorney, Kate Cerulli, who has worked diligently to address domestic violence issues, along with other social issues, facing women and children. Kate is presently the director of Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at the University of Rochester, where they continue to sponsor programs that are of great importance to women.

While I knew of Kate’s involvement with women’s issues on an international and local level, I was unaware that in 1992 she, along with Suzanne Tomkins, co-founded Buffalo Law School’s Women, Children & Social Justice Clinic. For over 20 years the clinic she co-founded has served as a regional resource center addressing domestic violence, interpersonal violence, elder abuse, child abuse and sexual violence. Specifically, the work performed in this clinic helps law students become effective legal professionals capable of challenging and championing both policies and people.

Recently, the clinic created two new fellowships in honor of its co-founders. The Catherine Cerulli Women, Children, and Social Justice Research Award will help fund student research relating to intimate partner violence and facilitates the presentation of this research at conferences and in publications. The Suzanne E. Tomkins Women, Children and Social Justice Advocacy Fellowship will fund work by a law student advocating on intimate partner violence issues.

Once endowed, these fellowships will provide students new opportunities for research and training, serving both the Western New York community and those affected by domestic violence and injustice worldwide.

On Oct. 4, GRAWA had the privilege and honor of hosting an intimate wine and cheese tasting to raise money for these respective fellowships. It was truly a pleasure for GRAWA to assist in raising funds for activities so closely related to our mission statement, “to promote the advancement of the status of women in society. … [and] … the fair and equal administration of justice …”

In the event that you were not able to join us for this event and would like to contribute to the fellowships, please visit, where you will be redirected to a secure site for donations. Kate, from myself and all of GRAWA, thank you for seeing a need 20 years ago and continuing with passion and perseverance to continue to address these issues today.

As previously mentioned, GRAWA has been busy. Late in September, GRAWA held its New Member Reception, which was attended by over 80 individuals, and almost 50 new attorneys. We could not have been more excited about the turnout and involvement from our members, both new and long-standing. It was wonderful to introduce these recent additions to our community and supportive membership. I look forward to seeing all the new faces at our events throughout the upcoming year.

We continue to plan for our FUN “raiser” on Nov. 7, which will celebrate the establishment of a new financial source to be used by GRAWA to encourage the participation of new lawyers in our offerings. The evening will include grazing stations, socializing, a light-hearted look at where we’ve been, and a special surprise guest.

Also, we have a brand-spanking new committee, “Wine Club,” which is chaired by one of our new members, Ashley Heisler, and Guy for GRAWA, Jimmy Paulino. Our first wine tasting will be held in November and is being referred to as the “Tour de France — Red, White and Sparkling” with informative regional history and tasting notes from an esteemed sommelier. The seating will be limited at this event so RSVP quickly.

Also, look for several events that will be co-sponsored with the MCBA and RBBA throughout the next several months. We believe strongly that in order to be the best women’s bar association, we should be working closely and collaborate with our fellow bar associations.

Last but not least, a committee that has been inactive for some time, Wills and Trusts, now has new life thanks to Julie Bielecki and Amanda Carden. I have said it before and will say it again, there is something for everyone at GRAWA, and if you can’t find it, we can create it.

On a personal note, I have been back to work about a month now and have thus far made it to work “timely” only one day (please don’t tell my employer). While I knew that there would be challenges to “getting out the door,” the logistics of a family’s schedule and all the baby’s items could baffle the members of MENSA.

Redmond seems to be keen to the chaos and continues to grow at an alarming rate. He likes his daycare and smiles upon arrival each morning, which makes it just a little easier for us to leave him. He has also learned a new “trick” other than eating, sleeping and leaving poo packages for us — he now can roll-over! As each parent knows, each day is full of new challenges and novel accomplishments, even if they are measured by “roll-overs” or getting out the door with the correct number of bottles.

Melanie S. Wolk is special counsel with the law firm of Goldberg Segalla, LLP, and is the 31st president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys.