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Eleventh Judicial Circuit judges volunteer at Midwest Food Bank in Normal

Judges from the Eleventh Judicial Circuit ditched their robes for hairnets and gloves Wednesday night as they spent the night volunteering at the Midwest Food Bank in Normal.

From packaging cereal to helping in the “disaster aisle,” the judges came out to lend a helping hand and show their support for the nonprofit that seeks to alleviate food poverty across the country.

This is a new effort by the judges, said Judge Sarah Duffy. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit includes McLean County.

“We decided this year to begin trying to have a regular service event, as judges, not only as a team-building activity, but also as a demonstration of our commitment to the community,” she said.

Many of the judges at the event connected their volunteer effort to their work on the bench.

“I think one of the primary reasons I wanted to become a judge is because I found it as an avenue to continue helping people. Obviously, as an attorney, you have the ability to help others, but being a judge gives you an even greater platform to be able to do that — make a positive impact in other peoples’ lives,” said Judge Rebecca Foley.

Chief Judge Mark Fellheimer said those on the bench care about the communities they serve, but it can sometimes be difficult to show that.

“We can't do a thing where you're soliciting to raise money, things like that,” Fellheimer said. “So we're kind of restricted in what we can do. But we're also citizens of this community. We need to help out and do our share. We've been given a lot, but we owe back to society too.”

Judge Amy McFarland of Bloomington said she saw the value of community service from an early age.

“Community service has always been a part of my life from my family — hard work, community service, you give back, and true leadership should be servant leadership … how you treat the people who come before you, how you treat everybody in the community. That's a big value in my family,” said McFarland, whose previous service includes leadership roles with Project Oz and the women’s division of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce.

Aside from the food bank, some judges volunteer in other areas of the community as well.

“We do a lot outside of the courtroom activities. I do a lot of readings and speaking at schools in my community, and it's just something that I enjoy,” shared Judge William Workman.

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