Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Denise Bates met her husband – a Tolono/Pesotum native – as an undergrad at the University of Illinois. After she finished law school at Loyola University in Chicago, the couple decided that they wanted to live in the Champaign-Urbana area to work and raise a family. Bates and her husband, Justin, have been married for 12 years and have two children, 6-year-old son Hayden and 3-year-old daughter Morgan. She is a partner at the law firm of Thomas, Mamer & Haughey, LLP. When she’s not working or with her family, she is an avid volunteer. She has served as president of the East Central Illinois Women Attorneys Association, the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana, and the Eastern Illinois Estate Planning Council (but not at the same time).
Last weekend she was crowned prom queen at the annual Eastern Illinois Foodbank Prom, raising more than $10,000 for the organization which fights to alleviate hunger in our region.
See why we think Denise Bates is a Chambana Mom to Know.
Q: Congratulations on being EIF Prom Queen! Why is supporting the EIF so meaningful to you?
The EIF is such an amazing organization that does such important things for our community. As a member of the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana, I was exposed to the EIF when the Junior League partnered with it to start the Backpack Buddies program. My favorite volunteer shift was stuffing backpacks for the program.
Q: Describe the differences and similarities between this prom and your high school prom – your dress, how you primped, and who you danced with? 🙂
Crazy enough, this year is my 20-year class reunion. So, 20 years ago at this time, I was trying to find THE dress just like I did this year. Going online to find a dress was not an option then. I remember my mom and I going to every store in the area to find the perfect dress. I would also say in terms of primping, I am now very careful with my skin so, I spray tanned instead of going to a tanning bed. I danced with my friends like I did 20 years ago but, my best dance partner of the night was my husband.
Q: It seems now more than ever, with social services under significant stress, that more people may be going hungry in our midst. How can we further help alleviate this insidious problem?
I think that we all need to volunteer, to give, and to spread the word about this insidious problem. The problem will not solve itself. We all have to work together to fight this growing epidemic. I plan to continue to do my best to support the EIF and to tell people how they can support it as well.
Q: How do you – or do you plan to – instill your love of service, volunteering and fundraising into your children?
My children are still young but they are getting to an age where they are starting to understand what mommy is doing when she leaves the house to volunteer. They were very interested in my latest fundraising effort, raising money for the EIF. They were very proud of me for raising the money that I did. I only hope that by exposing them to my efforts at a young age, it will make them want to volunteer as well.
Q: As a working parent, how do you fit in the time for service and fundraising?
It is definitely work to find the right balance between my family, my job, and my service and fundraising efforts. However, I just believe that it is so important to give back to the community that has given so much to me. So, I make sure to make time for service and fundraising.
Q: You are not from here but have made Champaign-Urbana your home and chose here to raise your family. What do you think it is about this community that draws people in?
I could not picture raising my children anywhere else. I love the people, the schools and the community spirit. I love that I can go anywhere and run into people that I know. I remember taking my son to Kindergarten on the first day. I knew so many people in the halls of the school. I did not tear up because my baby was going to Kindergarten, I shed a tear because I felt like I was home. It was such a great feeling.
Q: What’s your favorite place in the Champaign-Urbana area (outside of your home/neighborhood)?
Outside of my home/neighborhood, I would say my office at Thomas, Mamer & Haughey, LLP. I am very lucky that I love my job as an attorney, I feel privileged to work with the other attorneys and staff at TMH, and I really enjoy my clients. Nothing makes me happier than being there for people at the best and worst times in their lives and helping them through it. From planning for the future and buying a house to helping someone who has lost a loved one or is in need of a guardianship, I enjoy my clients and what I am able to do for them.
Q: Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I began figure skating at the age of 3 and I skated competitively up until I went to UIUC. At UIUC, I taught Kinesiology 105, figure skating. I still remember my students singing Happy Birthday to me when I turned 19. When they asked me how old I was, I was younger than all of my students.
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