By Debra Talcott
Attorney Lisa Hamameh, this year's recipient of the Oakland County Bar Association's Frances R. Avadenka Memorial Award, likes to regularly revisit her childhood, which partly explains why she received the coveted honor from the OCBA.
The prestigious award was created in memory of the former OCBA president for whom it is named, and it is presented annually to a member who makes significant contributions to the community beyond the legal profession.
A first-generation American, Hamameh considers it her duty to encourage and model volunteerism. One of her favorite places to spend time is Children's Hospital of Michigan, where she has been a volunteer since 1997.
"People often ask me what I do at the hospital," says Hamameh, "and I can't help but chuckle when I tell them I play games, color, paint, and play with Play-Doh. I mean-seriously-who doesn't love playing Connect Four, Uno, or Candyland?"
Other ways Hamameh has enjoyed volunteering her time are judging Wayne State University's First Year Moot Court Program, speaking at the White Lake Township Citizen's Academy, judging at the Michigan Center for Civic Education high school mock trial tournaments, and coaching a Youth in Government team at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester. Through the OCBA, Hamameh also has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.
"I was on door duty, and we put up six doors in one day. Fortunately, I haven't had to put up a door since, but at least I know what a 'shimmy' is," says Hamameh. "I know it's really called a 'shim,' but I nicknamed it a 'shimmy' and kept calling it that -- along with a little hip shake -- to the guys working with me."
Hamameh also has packed Thanksgiving baskets with Lighthouse of Oakland County, prepared and served holiday meals at Grace Centers of Hope, and co-organized coat collection for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen Coats for Kids program. She has served as president and board member of the Aberdeen Gardens Condominium Association, and she has twice walked the 60 miles to raise money for breast cancer research with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure event.
"Every year I also participate in the Komen Race for the Cure 5K event, which raises funds and awareness for breast cancer research," says Hamameh.
With such devotion to worthy causes, Hamameh epitomizes volunteerism. Yet, she was truly humbled when she learned that she had been chosen to receive the Avadenka Memorial Award.
"I was overwhelmed -- especially after looking at past recipients of the award," says Hamameh. "This is a big award, and I did not feel worthy of this honor."
On hand to witness Hamameh receiving her award at the June 2 ceremony were colleagues and friends from the OCBA and all three partners from Adkison, Need and Allen, PLLC, the firm where she practices.
Hamameh has been employed with Adkison, Need and Allen since March of 2002. She practices in the areas of liquor license law, zoning and land use law, condominium and homeowners association law, and municipal law.
"Our liquor practice covers the complete spectrum of legal services for any business involved with liquor sales in Michigan," explains Hamameh.
The firm provides legal services for operators of restaurants, bars, convenience stores, hotels, golf courses, bowling alleys, gas stations, wholesale wineries, brew pubs, and retail or wholesale outlets.
"We also serve as general counsel to several municipalities and public authorities in Oakland County," says Hamemeh.
The firm's zoning and land use practice represents the private sector in rezoning requests, special land use permits, variance requests, planned unit developments, and eminent domain proceedings.
For their condominium and homeowners association clients, the firm drafts and amends master deed and bylaws documents, enforces restrictions, collects delinquent dues, and assists with other association living issues.
At this stage of her career, Hamameh considers herself fortunate to have her weekdays filled with work, professional commitments, and volunteerism, while being able to call her weekends her own.
"On the weekends, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I love going to Tigers games, playing golf, or just lying by the pool."
Hamameh has recently been bitten by the tennis bug as well and has added lessons to her mix of summer activities.
Life hasn't always fallen into place so comfortably for Hamameh and her family, however. Born in Highland Park and living in Detroit, she was just a little girl when her father died.
"My father passed away when I was only 4 years old, leaving my mother, age 37, and sister, age 7," says Hamameh.
The family's life immediately following her father's death was made even more difficult when their home became an easy target for break-ins.
"I can recall, at such a young age, returning after a short visit with neighboring relatives, to our home in shambles: overturned drawers, broken windows, and theft of belongs. Sometimes bricks were thrown into our home while we slept. To this day, I don't know how Mom managed to get through that difficult time with two young children to care for."
Hamameh's mother eventually moved her daughters into a low-income housing development in Roseville, where the attorney lived until she completed her education and felt settled in her career.
Her family story is an interesting one that is shared by many families in the Detroit area.
"We are Palestinian. My parents were born and raised in a small town just outside of Ramallah, in the West Bank, called Taybeh. They married when Dad was 24 and Mom was 18. Dad had U.S. citizenship because his father, my grandfather, had come to the U.S. as an adult to find work, which was hard to come by in Palestine."
When Hamameh's grandfather was granted citizenship, his children automatically became citizens.
"Dad, too, came to the land of opportunity to find work. He stayed with his brother, who had already immigrated here. Dad found work at the Silvercup Bakery," says Hamameh, naming a historic Detroit fixture. "About six years later, after establishing himself, Dad went back home, married Mom, and brought her here."
When she was very young, Hamameh was told she should become a lawyer because she was notorious for asking, "Why?" As she grew older and her family's financial struggles mounted, that goal appeared unrealistic and unattainable. An undaunted Hamameh worked hard to overcome those struggles and make it all happen.
"Now I often half-wittingly joke that I went to law school because I was told I couldn't," she says.
Growing up without a lot of money may have given Hamameh the drive to succeed academically and in the workplace. However, it also paved the way for her to become the dedicated community servant she is today.
"As a kid, I can remember receiving food and gifts from the giving tree at our Church. Being young, I did not care much about the food, but I remember receiving the coolest gift ever. It was a bright yellow scarf that had mittens built in on each end of the scarf. I can still recall opening that gift and feeling overwhelmingly happy," says Hamameh.
That scarf was not expensive, but it brought immense joy to a young Hamameh, who has never forgotten the feeling that someone cared about her plight.
"Now I strive to bring that same joy to somebody who needs it-whether it's a sick child in a hospital with nobody to play with, a homeless adult who can use a warm meal and a smile, or a student who is anxious to absorb any bit of confidence and encouragement needed to succeed in life."
Published: Wed, Jun 29, 2011