More law firms demonstrate the holiday spirit of giving


 by Cynthia Price

Legal News
Law firms and attorney organizations tend to shy away from publicity about their generosity at holiday time, but they are quietly giving back to the community every year.

Rhoades McKee kicked off its holiday giving at Thanksgiving by making a donation in honor of its “clients and friends” to Kids Food Basket (KFB). That well-known non-profit, which supplies sack suppers
to students whose families face economic challenges so that they will not go to bed hungry, has expanded the number of children it serves, and this year started a program in Muskegon.

Rhoades McKee sends out a card at Thanksgiving with bright holiday artwork, such as a turkey and a Christmas tree, formed of handprints, advising of its KFB donation.

In addition, at the firm’s holiday children’s party, children and grandchildren of Rhoades McKee employees decorate a number of the sacks in which KFB delivers its evening meals. This decorating has an importance that should not be overlooked.

Bridget Clark Whitney, KFB Executive Director, tells the story of a teacher visiting the home of one of the students KFB?feeds. She found an array of the sacks taped like artwork above the child’s bed. When asked why, he responded, “Because they’re mine.”

In addition, Rhoades McKee has a giving tree to supply gifts and needs for children at St. John’s Home. “We also make sure that Santa visits the home during the holiday,” says Robin Burns, the firm’s Marketing Director.
Warner Norcross and Judd has for many years raised money for holiday giving by holding fund-raising events throughout the year, culminating  in the staff and attorney holiday party.

“That actually began back in 1995,” explains Robin Keith, Warner’s Community Relations Manager. “At the firm’s holiday party there was an announcement that a local family was really struggling because of unexpected medical expenses. A collection was taken up, and after seeing the results of that, one of our legal secretaries took the initiative to plan internal fund-raisers where at the end of the year, the money was donated.

“Over the years we’ve raised over $100,000 for local charities and families through everything from grazing parties and potlucks, through publishing a cookbook, to a huge silent auction where attorneys would donate things like the use of a cottage or a homemade crocheted baby blanket.

“And a few years ago there was this really ugly pink ceramic unicorn,” Keith says, laughing. “There were competitions between floors to raise money so that the winner could demand that someone keep it on his desk all year.” She adds, “I’m hoping we can revive that.”

This year the holiday party, which is open to people in all of the WNJ offices, drew in $3000 for contribution to CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates.

The other six Warner Norcross offices have their own holiday drives. For example, though there are only eight people in the Lansing office, they fill about six barrels for the Lansing City Rescue Mission each year.

The Muskegon Warner Norcross office adopts a family from the women’s shelter, Every Woman’s Place and gives them necessities and a few luxuries. This year the family consists of a mom with four children. One of the staff’s teenage daughter has been wrapping those gifts for years.

While it is obviously not itself a law firm, the Young Lawyers Section (YLS) of the Grand Rapids Bar has for over thirty years tapped into attorneys’ spirit of giving for its Horn of Plenty drive, also leading up to Thanksgiving.

According to Stephanie Newton, current YLS?chair, there were approximately 15 downtown law firm drop-off locations this year, with all donations going to the Baxter Community Association.

“This year it went really well, actually,” Newton says. “I think we had our biggest haul for as long as I’ve been involved. We had two full-to-the-brim U-Haul cargo bins of clothing and non-perishable food — and other things like professional items for their educational outreach — plus $2100 of cash donations.”

The Friday before Thanksgiving, four YLS members delivered the proceeds. Kara Rosen, as YLS Community Outreach Coordinator, spearheads the drive.

Another multi-attorney donation drive is Santa Brings a Lawsuit®, led by the firm of Schnelker Rassi and McConnell, with donated business attire going to those in need.

According to Andrew Rassi, “This year is a decent response but we do best in years where we get a lot of press coverage in advance. But it’s not done yet, and we usually get our biggest response in the last week, so we’ll see.”