JCPenney's Legal Department And The Dallas Area Community - A Strong Partnership

Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - 01:00

Clydia J. Cuykendall and Celeste Flippen
J.C. Penney Corporation

JCPenney's Legal Department associates (employees) and others at the company's headquarters in Plano, Texas, have served the nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Collin County for many years. CASA's mission is to provide trained community volunteers to advocate the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in the court system. The ultimate goal is for the volunteers to be a voice for these children in court. The result is that each child is placed into a safe, loving home where he or she can thrive.

The involvement of JCPenney's Legal Department with CASA is merely one reflection of James Cash Penney, founder of JCPenney, who left a legacy of partnership and community responsibility, hard work and moral principle. The company and its Legal Department associates continue to affirm these values today. JCPenney employs nearly 180,000 associates nationwide and abroad in JCPenney stores, catalog sales and fulfillment centers, and other business offices. A healthy social environment is important for JCPenney associates, their families, and friends. It is also an environment where business can grow and prosper. For all these reasons, JCPenney reinvests its money, and - equally important - its people, skills and know-how, in communities across the nation.

JCPenney associates are encouraged by the company actively to participate in community affairs. All across the country, thousands of JCPenney associates volunteer and work with charitable groups, parent-teacher associations, after school programs, chambers of commerce, and a host of other civic and community service organizations. CASA of Collin County is one of the United Way organizations for which JCPenney Legal Department and other associates provide a number of volunteer hours. For many years JCPenney associates have trained as CASA volunteers, served on its Board of Directors, and provided additional hands-on support to the organization. For these reasons, CASA honored JCPenney with its Voice For Children Award in 2003.

While CASA was incorporated in 1991, today it is assigned as the Guardian Ad Litem for all the children in foster care in Collin County. CASA serves over 400 children annually. Over 80 percent of CASA's children are 12 and under, and more than 20 percent of CASA's caseload involves sexual abuse victims. The involvement of JCPenney Legal Department associates with CASA has provided important leadership to the nonprofit and allowed CASA to grow to serve the booming population in Collin County. The Legal Department associates, meanwhile, are continuing James Cash Penney's legacy as well as dedicating their time, energy and love to less-fortunate kids in their community.

Another organization that has received support from the JCPenney Legal Department is the Women's Legal Advocacy Center sponsored by Legal Aid of North Texas. The Women's Legal Advocacy Center helps women obtain the legal assistance they need with highly complex legal problems, such as domestic violence, housing and employment discrimination, access to education and custody and child support disputes. Over a three-year period, the company provided half of the funding for a staff lawyer in collaboration with a matching grant from the National Association for Public Interest Law. Upon ºthe expiration of this period, legal associates help plan and implement an annual fundraising event to ensure the continuance of the Center.

Finally, two JCPenney lawyers are participating in Southern Methodist University's LLM Host Family Program where a local lawyer is paired with an international LLM student. JCPenney's lawyers are mentoring students from Thailand and Venezuela this year. Putting together the law school's thirty-seven 2004-2005 international students (who are attorneys in their own countries) with attorneys in the Dallas metroplex, the program has been sponsored by the SMU Dedman School of Law and the Dallas Bar Association for many years. The program is certainly rewarding for the international students. While the volunteer hosts often develop fulfilling, long-lasting relationships with their students. Hosts are matched with students of a similar gender, language, nationality, or legal pursuits and interests to facilitate mentoring. The hosts get together with their assigned student a few times throughout the school year - perhaps having the student to their home for dinner, or to a sporting event, or perhaps to their office. The law school also has a couple of events during the school year where all the hosts and their designated students get together.

Clydia J. Cuykendall is Vice President and Associate General Counseland Celeste Flippen, is Senior Litigation Counsel, at J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. Questions about this article can be addressed to Ms. Cuykendall at cjcuyken@jcpenney.com.