Muskegon lawyer Jenny McNeill receives Woman's Club Women of Accomplishment award

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By Diana L. Coleman
Legal News

The Women of Accomplishment program was started by the Greater Muskegon Woman’s Club in 1997 when they assumed the responsibility for this award from Muskegon Community College. The award is presented annually to women who have been a good example to others, are mentors, are
involved in the community and who advocate for women and children.  Attorney Jenny McNeill certainly exemplifies all of these characteristics. 

At the 2014 Women of Accomplishment celebration breakfast and awards program, McNeill was presented with the prestigious award. She was nominated by Lori Rasmussen, Executive Director of Every Woman’s Place/Webster House. “I have known Jenny since I started at Webster House in 2002,” said Rasmussen. “She was a mentor and friend. When I was an advocate at the family court for Every Woman’s Place, Jenny was so helpful teaching me about the legal system. She is an excellent mentor and will give you guidance no matter what. Jenny is very good with survivors and has a level of empathy not possessed by most people.

“Since I have been become Executive Director of Every Woman’s Place/Webster House, Jenny, who is currently serving as Chairman of the Board, has been an excellent leader,” said Rasmussen. “We have been friends for years and I do not think she realizes how valuable she is.”

Will the permission of Lori Rasmussen and staff at EWP/WH, sections of the nomination submitted on McNeill’s behalf are set out below.

“Jenny is a role model in both her personal and professional life.  Jenny is a reliable volunteer to her children’s school, PTO and other activities. 

Jenny is a tireless volunteer for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Jenny’s compassion for survivors of domestic and sexual violence has been evident throughout her career and community involvement.  Jenny is a role model as a young, professional business woman.  After spending 9 years in the nonprofit sector working as a Legal Aid attorney, she joined the firm of Ladas and Hoopes in 2007. In January 2014, Jenny was made partner in what is now Ladas Hoopes McNeill Law.

Jenny’s compassion for survivors of domestic and sexual violence has been evident throughout her career and community involvement.  Jenny is a role model as a young, professional business woman.  After spending 9 years in the nonprofit sector working as a Legal Aid attorney, she joined the firm of Ladas and Hoopes in 2007. In January 2014, Jenny was made partner in what is now Ladas Hoopes McNeill LAW. “When I served as the Program Director for Safe Haven, she was an open door for any questions that I would have. I would seek her knowledge of the court system with any situation, because she was an advocate for survivors.”   – Crystal France, Director of Youth Services with Webster House Youth Services.

Jenny has served her community throughout her career, including holding several positions on the Board of Directors for Every Woman’s Place/ Webster House Youth Services since joining in 2001.  In 2012, she became the president of the board and continues to lead the organization forward, notably to successfully achieve agency accreditation for the first time.  Since her first year on the board, Jenny has been very involved beyond just governance. Her knowledge of the community’s resources, agencies and governance, has helped facilitate many collaborative ventures to help agency clients, both women and their families of Every Woman’s Place and the youth of Webster House. She has been instrumental in the growth of agency programming, including Safe Haven (supervised parent/child visitation and safe exchange), enhancing the role of the Legal Advocate’s office in the County Building, and supporting the agency’s goal of renovating the residential shelter facilities.  Jenny has been an instrumental part of the success of the agency’s events, including her participation as a volunteer for Girls on the Run, a 5k run and empowerment program for elementary and middle school girls.  Jenny has been a featured speaker at Take Back the Night, held as part of the Domestic Violence Awareness activities during the month of October.  Jenny leads fellow board members by example with her annual success in generating corporate sponsorships for Cheers and Chocolate, the agency’s major fundraiser. She now frequently uses Facebook and other electronic means of promoting Every Woman’s Place/Webster House programming and fundraising, as well as to advocate for women’s and youth issues.

Jenny has served for over 10 years as chairperson for the Muskegon County Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force from 2002 to 2013.  During her tenure, the Task force has successfully advocated for survivors through the criminal justice system, family court and community agencies.  As a member of a consulting committee, Jenny was instrumental in the development of Safe Haven, a supervised parent/child visitation and safe exchange program in Muskegon County.  Jenny served as the Bar Association President from 2008-09.  During her time as Bar Association President, Jenny organized several events that focused on generating support for Webster House youth.  She also served as Law Day chair in 2007 and co-chair the following year.

Shortly after beginning her career, Jenny became an attorney for Legal Aid of Muskegon County.  As a Legal Aid attorney for 11 years, she maintained a very large case load and dealt primarily with clients with few options and resources.  Jenny has provided the same level of high quality service, whether for free or fee-based services.  When Jenny left Legal Aid, she joined Ladas and Hoopes, a successful practice in North Muskegon.  Despite the fact that Jenny she now works at a practice in which she has to earn her own income, she rarely turns down a case to represent victims of domestic violence and their families.  She advocates for her clients, regardless of their financial circumstance, and she does it with great determination. 

Other examples of Jenny’s advocacy for children can be seen in her involvement and volunteer work at her children’s schools and the Ross Park PTO. She also co-chaired Resource Assessments, one of the task forces of the Youth Comprehensive Strategy, a county-wide collaborative of United Way and Community Foundation for Muskegon County.

There are so many examples of Jenny as a mentor, role model, dedicated volunteer and advocate that this narrative could not do her justice.  I hope that you will consider Jenny McNeill as a candidate for this prestigious award.”

McNeill and her husband, Cavan Berry (who is also an attorney and works for Legal Aid of Western Michigan), juggle very busy legal careers and manage the coverage of their two children’s (fourth and sixth grade) events together, as well as making time for community service.  They take turns getting the children to school, social, orthodontist, and doctor appointments. McNeill continues to be selfless in her determination to help those less fortunate and to advocate for those who sometimes do not have a voice of their own. Congratulations, Jenny.

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