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A 'heart' to serve: Boy Scouts honor legal couple for volunteerism

Paul Lawrence and Helen Ogar
Edith Brady-Lunny
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Paul Lawrence and Helen Ogar

Former McLean County judge Paul Lawrence and his wife Helen Ogar, a retired lawyer, will be honored with the Good Scout Award from the W.D. Boyce Council, Boy Scouts of America, for their commitment to community service.

Lawrence and Ogar “are shining examples of McLean County community leaders,” said Viki Burnett, the council's development director.

The award will be presented Sept. 22 at the Bloomington Lawn Social, an annual fundraising event for at-risk youth served by the council, held at the home of Cat Wood, 2302 Northpointe Drive in Bloomington. Tickets for the 5:30 p.m. event are available by contacting Burnett at Viki.burnett@scouting.org.

For Lawrence, community service was passed down from his father, William B. Lawrence, also a lawyer.

“My dad was involved in a lot of things when I was growing up here in Bloomington, so I became involved in some of those same things,” said Lawrence, who retired last year after 20 years on the bench and 17 years in private practice.

Ogar credits the multiple activities of the couple’s five children as the source of some of her charitable work.

“You just end up taking a leadership role with them and it grows from there,” she said.

For her part, Ogar considers her work with Prairie State Legal Services, a nonprofit group that provides legal assistance to people in need, and the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal as among her favorite community service projects.

After 37 years working with clients in family court, Ogar said her experience with both organizations “gave me satisfaction and the opportunity to feel like you were helping the community.”

Lawrence spent 35 years as a member of the Project Oz board of directors.

Project Oz “is near and dear to my heart,” Lawrence said of the nonprofit that provides counseling and support services for teens and young adults.

Lawrence’s connection to the Boy Scouts dates back to his service with W.D. Boyce Council and his childhood scout position as bugler with Troop 41 at First Baptist Church in Bloomington.

Lawrence acknowledged that judges face limitations when it comes to their volunteer work in the community. He said he discussed his plans to join a group with other judges to determine any potential conflicts.

In May, a group of 11th Judicial Circuit judges spent time helping at the Midwest Food Bank in Normal. Lawrence said he supports the event for people “to see we do care about the community and the decisions we make, and that we’re people just like them.”

Since their retirement several months ago, the couple is in “retirement mode,” said Lawrence, adding he has chosen not to renew his law license. Ogar is wrapping some pro bono work and enjoying her morning coffee at home.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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