Pro Bono Partnership Announces 2010 Volunteers Of The Year

Monday, May 2, 2011 - 01:00

In April, RBS Global Banking & Markets-Americas' Legal Department; Robinson & Cole, LLP; and attorneys Ginger H. Stillman, contracts manager, Verizon Wireless; Vance G. Camisa, counsel, Merck & Co. Inc.; and Barry L. Salkin, of counsel, Olshan Grundman Frome Rosenzweig & Wolosky, LLP, were named by Pro Bono Partnership as 2010 Volunteers of the Year, in recognition of their outstanding pro bono work on behalf of Pro Bono Partnership's clients in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - nonprofit organizations promoting community economic development, creating new jobs, or providing affordable housing and services for new immigrants, prisoners re-entering society, victims of domestic violence and disadvantaged children. The Partnership has helped hundreds of nonprofit organizations that assist thousands of individuals throughout the region.

Anahaita Kotval, general counsel, RBS Global Banking & Markets - Americas, said, "We are honored to be recognized by the Pro Bono Partnership as Corporate Volunteer of the Year. Employee volunteering is a critical component of our ongoing initiatives to support the communities in which we work and live. We look forward to continuing to leverage our legal skills and expertise to assist the nonprofit clients of this terrific organization."

"RBS's volunteer legal team's professionalism, commitment, sound advice and diplomatic skills were invaluable in bringing our project to fruition. We truly couldn't have done it without them," said Kathie Walsh, former president & CEO of the Stamford Partnership, a group of business, government and community leaders who have joined together to bring a practical and visionary focus to economic development efforts in the City of Stamford, CT. RBS attorneys volunteered for Stamford Partnership on a complex project involving the formation of a Connecticut affiliate of a New York-based organization that works to enhance the healthy integration of recent immigrants.

Robinson & Cole has provided pro bono assistance through the Partnership for many years and, in the last year alone, the firm's volunteers handled more than 30 matters for Partnership clients. "Communities throughout the Northeast depend on nonprofit organizations, and so many of our firm's lawyers recognize the profound and unique impact that the Pro Bono Partnership allows us to have on those organizations " said Edward J. Heath, partner and chair of the firm's Pro Bono Committee.

As one example, lawyers from Robinson and Cole assisted Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises (GBCE), a community development corporation whose mission is to assist low-income families in disadvantaged neighborhoods achieve self-sufficiency and financial stability through an innovative mattress recycling project which will provide new green jobs. Working in partnership with lawyers from General Electric, Pamela Elkow of Robinson & Cole addressed numerous corporate issues for GBCE, including helping GBCE structure the relationship between its Green Team and Family Re-Entry, a nonprofit partner in this unique social venture, which operates on the cusp between a nonprofit and for-profit enterprise.

Ginger Stillman, a contract manager at Verizon Wireless, said "I enjoy helping others." Ginger hit the ground running and took on 12 pro bono matters during 2010, providing each client with a thorough, detailed analysis of the legal issues involved in various transactions. Her thoughtful questions have led clients to a more in-depth evaluation of the details of these transactions, and they have become much better-educated legal consumers as a result of her guidance.

Assisting victims of domestic violence is one of the primary areas of focus for Verizon's pro bono program. Ginger helped the YWCA of Eastern Union County navigate the complicated laws relating to transitional housing agreements. The YWCA provides housing and services for women who are victims of domestic violence, assisting participants through a transitional period from domestic violence to a sustainable healthy lifestyle.

Vance G. Camisa, counsel, Merck & Co., Inc., has been a Partnership "go-to" volunteer for several years. His breadth of knowledge on real estate issues has been a huge benefit to the Partnership's clients, particularly those addressing complex or difficult real estate negotiations. Vance recently assisted Rising Tide Capital, a New Jersey organization, with a complicated commercial lease negotiation. Rising Tide assists low-income entrepreneurs to start and grow successful businesses as a way to create jobs and economic opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Barry L. Salkin, of counsel, Olshan Grundman Frome Rosenzweig & Wolosky, LLP, is an expert in diversified employee benefits, compensation, ERISA, tax-qualified plans and welfare plans. In 2010, as in most years, Barry dedicated scores of hours providing direct pro bono assistance to Partnership clients. "We are indebted to Barry Salkin for his sage advice," stated Judith Dobrof, DSW, executive director of the Cancer Support Team, the only Westchester County, NY-based home care program that provides nursing, counseling and other supportive services free of charge and without regard to insurance coverage.

In Barry's view, the law is about helping people, and attorneys have an obligation to do pro bono. He says, "Helping nonprofit organizations solve problems is a pre-condition to enabling them to make a difference in their communities."

Executive Director Rick Hobish says, "The Pro Bono Partnership is honored to be able to recognize the contributions of our Volunteers of the Year. They have made a concrete and important difference to communities throughout the tri-state area."

For more information, contact Lisa Rosenbloom at the Pro Bono Partnership, Inc., (914) 328-0674 x326 or lrosenbloom@probonopartner.org.