Involving Service Providers Makes Charity Efforts Successful

Sunday, August 1, 2004 - 01:00

Nick Grieco has been practicing law in his home state of New Jersey for 14 years and one of the things that pleases him most about his profession is the large number of attorneys giving their time and resources to the support of philanthropic and charitable activities.

"It seems to be pervasive in our profession," notes Mr. Grieco, a partner in the firm of Grieco, Oates & DeFilippo in West Orange with a practice in insurance defense, toxic torts, real estate, medical malpractice, personal injury and products liability. "All of my friends and colleagues want to give back to the community. Each of us has our time restraints and we have to choose the way in which we can do it, but everyone I know gives when he or she is called on."

Attorneys go about philanthropy in different ways, explains Mr. Grieco. Some with ties to major corporations as clients or colleagues will ask a company for a large donation to anchor the charity's fund-raising efforts. Others have clients and friends who are celebrities and professional athletes, asking them to participate in celebrity golf outings designed to raise money for a cause.

The latter has been Grieco's approach in part because the Oates in Grieco, Oates & DeFilippo is Bart Oates, retired New York Giants center and five-time Pro-Bowler, and also because New Jersey is rich with native-born sons and athletic greats like Yankee catchers Rick Cerone and Yogi Berra who can gather a crowd for a charity golf outing with the swing of a club.

For Mr. Grieco, it began several years ago when a lifelong friend and fellow Newark native, Mike Adubato Jr., suggested that Grieco, Oates and some friends find a way to give back to the boys and girls of Newark. They enlisted Rick Cerone, another Newark native and founder and president of the Newark Bears minor league baseball team, and created the Teach Our Children Foundation. Mr. Cerone's wife, Teri Festa, a veteran sports marketing executive, and the spouses of the other founders, Clarissa Grieco, Michelle Adubato and Michelle Oates ardently put their support into the program as well. Their goal was to raise money for educational programs and facilities in New Jersey's largest city. They put together a golf outing, called everyone they knew and pulled in more than $80,000. That was six years ago and in the interim the Teach Our Children Foundation has grown and supported the youngsters at St. Benedict's Prep, St. Michael's Grammar School, the North Ward Center, the Newark Boys and Girls Club, The Link Community School, and Shepherds of Youth.

Sadness also struck during that time. Mr. Adubato, one of the Foundations' founders, passed away with cancer and this year the organization has created a Friendship Award in Michael Adubato's name to honor individuals who have given their time and their resources freely and often to support the Foundation. No surprise that the first recipient is Yogi Berra. "He is the best," Mr. Grieco says. "He's always here early, meeting and greeting the golfers."

Now in its sixth year, the outing has taught Mr. Grieco some lessons in how to attract participants who will play and make a donation.

"First, always pick a golf club that is hard to get into," Mr. Grieco says. "Everyone wants to play a top-rated course and if it's hard to get on one, the better the turnout. Try to hold it on a Thursday. Some organizations hold them on a Monday at the beginning of the work week - a tough time for some people to attend. And play a 'fivesome' not a foursome with the fifth player being the celebrity or professional athlete. This format works really well."

And if it's a law outing, don't hesitate to ask business suppliers and companion services to participate and contribute.

"It's a real opportunity for them to get together with you in a social setting for a good cause," notes Mr. Grieco, citing the case of Doerner & Goldberg, a well known national provider of deposition and litigation support services which has participated annually in the golf outing.

"They are always there for us with the finest professional support for our practices and our philanthropic causes," Mr. Grieco says.

"Like Nick and Rick Cerone, many of us have our roots in urban communities where giving back should be a part of our professional success," notes Marshall Goldberg, a principal of the deposition and litigation support firm. "It's also great fun to be with the attorneys and the celebrities in a relaxed environment where the end result is for a good cause," emphasizes Kim Haduck, a senior services representative at Doerner & Goldberg.

"The brightest news is that we are only one of hundreds of programs involving attorneys around the state and the region," Mr. Grieco notes. "And it has been going on for years."

Mr. Grieco recalls his early years in an Essex County law firm where a senior partner, Kevin O'Toole, who went onto serve in the state assembly, was running charity programs every year. "A lot of the ideas came from Kevin," Mr. Grieco said. "It created a legacy of philanthropy we hope we now can pass on to a younger generation of lawyers who will also see the importance of giving to the community.