From left to right: Rick Hobish, Executive Director, Pro Bono Partnership; Stephen Wiessner, Executive Director, Flat Rock Brook Nature Center; David M. Stryker, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, BASF Corporation; Mark Nordstrom, Senior Counsel – Labor & Employment Law, GE and Chairman, Pro Bono Partnership.
Pro Bono Partnership, a nonprofit legal assistance provider serving Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York nonprofit organizations, celebrated its 2012 Volunteers of the Year at a March 13 reception hosted by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. BASF Corporation Senior Vice President and General Counsel David Stryker and McCarter & English Firmwide Managing Partner Stephen Vajtay were presented their awards by two of many Partnership clients BASF and McCarter attorneys have assisted: Stephen Weissner of Flat Rock Brook Nature Center (Englewood, NJ) and Ariel Hauptman of Greyston Bakery (Yonkers, NY) respectively. Individuals honored for their outstanding volunteer service were Eric I. Cohen, senior vice president, secretary and general counsel, Terex Corporation; Britt-Marie Cole-Johnson of Robinson & Cole; Brian DuPerre, chief privacy officer & senior legal counsel, UnitedHealthcare; Gary Ekman, assistant general counsel, JPMorgan Chase Bank; and Patricia Melick, partner, Wiggin and Dana.
Among dozens of nonprofit organizations benefitting from the pro bono assistance of these exemplary volunteers was Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, an urban natural sanctuary providing environmental education programs, which received a state grant to renovate its aging facility and improve its educational program. A BASF attorney walked the Center through several public bidding processes and multiple contract negotiations. Executive Director Wiessner said, “Having an extremely competent attorney on our side made the project so much easier, made the contract documents stronger and protected our interests.” In two years, BASF attorneys have undertaken 31 matters for Partnership clients.
When Career Resources of Bridgeport, CT, which provides career development programs, approached the Partnership about a merger with STRIVE-New Haven, Eric Cohen single-handedly represented Career Resources. The merger enabled the combined agency to expand programs for job seekers. Said Scott Wildeman, Career Resources’ President and CEO, “Through Eric’s efforts we can also assist the impoverished to achieve self-sufficiency over a much broader geographic area (Greenwich to Hartford).”
Britt-Marie Cole-Johnson has been providing ongoing employment advice to Integrated Health Services in East Hartford, CT, a health services provider for underinsured children and families. Debbie Poerio, president/CEO of IHS, noted, “With Britt-Marie’s assistance we have created cost-effective measures that ensure financial sustainability.” Ms. Cole-Johnson commented, “I take pride in being able to support organizations that help Connecticut’s families and children.”
Brian DuPerre advised Foodshare of Bloomfield, CT, which works to relieve hunger, on the extent to which it might be subject to HIPAA compliance; the ReCONNstruction Center of Newington, a building materials re-use store, regarding OSHA regulations; and Bethsaida Community in Norwich, concerning insulin injections provided to shelter residents by staff.
Gary Ekman helped the Rockland Council on Alcoholism & Other Drug Dependence of Nanuet, NY, to negotiate a lease and the IFCA Housing Network, Ossining, NY, to obtain full property tax exemption for one of its low-income housing properties. Mr. Ekman is currently advising A-HOME, a Westchester County affordable housing agency, on questions relating to Hurricane Sandy.
Patricia Melick has volunteered for a decade on corporate, contract, finance and intellectual property matters, frequently undertaking matters that would otherwise be difficult to place. She has assisted the Connecticut Association for Children with Learning Disabilities and Inspirica, one of the largest Connecticut providers of services to the homeless, and advised the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County and Stamford CARES on mergers.
A project for St Paul’s Child Development Center in Bridgeport, CT, was named Outstanding Nonprofit Project of 2012. Attorneys David Swerdloff of Day Pitney, Eli Salcedo, formerly of Day Pitney, and Aleksander Lamvol of Sikorsky Aircraft worked for two years to structure the Center as a stand-alone nonprofit, negotiated with its new landlord and helped keep it operating without a gap in service after its church sponsor of 25 years closed.
Pro Bono Partnership recruits more than 900 attorneys annually to volunteer for its clients. Executive Director Rick Hobish noted, “We are proud to celebrate the contributions of these dedicated volunteers, each of whom has made a commitment far above and beyond the ordinary. Their gift of expertise has significantly strengthened a wide range of nonprofit organizations serving dozens of communities and, often, the most vulnerable people in those communities.”