Community Impact: McGuireWoods Makes a Difference

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Bryan Brantley Ensures Pittsburgh Kids Soar

Bryan C. Brantley

McGuireWoods Pittsburgh partner Bryan Brantley grew up attending Boys & Girls Clubs in Youngstown, Ohio. He has witnessed the evolution of youth organizations from just a “place to go” after school to dynamic environments that stimulate learning and development for children. Today, Brantley plays a significant role with Pittsburgh’s National Aviary, which impacts kids through educational opportunities, and he serves his community through involvement in several youth organizations in the city.

Brantley certainly takes McGuireWoods’ “community” core value to heart. In 2014, he joined the board of the National Aviary, located on Pittsburgh’s North Side. As a nonprofit center working to protect birds and their habitats, the aviary promotes the importance of education to support its initiatives.

Brantley stressed the value of the National Aviary for kids within the community. “I thought it was an important jewel that the city had that a lot of people didn’t know about,” he said. “What drew me to it is the fact it was on the North Side, but also their outreach. They do a lot for the inner-city schools, showing career choices to the kids who would not have the opportunity otherwise.”

In addition to its array of preservation resources, the aviary provides educational opportunities for kids in the area. “There is something therapeutic for kids about having these interactions with the animals,” Brantley said. “That’s a main draw for me and I think it is a very important institution to continue to support.”

Brantley also volunteers at other organizations that support underprivileged children in the Pittsburgh area. He has been involved with the Sarah Heinz House Boys & Girls Club since 2013. The Heinz House, also on Pittsburgh’s North Side, provides after-school care and summer activities that promote education and fitness for youth development.

And Brantley supports the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh’s “Y Achievers” program, which aims to “expose youth to career and college knowledge through the lens of professionals who look like them.”

Noted Brantley: “These kids are really special and these programs offer a safe place for them to be off the streets in a place where people care about them. We’re trying to make sure that everything we expose them to helps them toward their future. That’s the biggest thing.”

Bob Cramer Serves Around the World and at Home

Robert Cramer

“Sports is the universal language of the world,” said Charlotte partner Bob Cramer, who serves on the board of advisors for Sports Friends International, a church-based Christian sports ministry active with more than 250,000 children each week in 15 countries across four continents. Cramer — who became involved through his longtime friendship with the organization’s co-founder and international director — has been involved since it launched in 2002.
Cramer is thankful for the reach and impact Sports Friends has had on young people in South America, Africa and East Asia. “The neat thing is to see the spiritual and character development in kids, and through the kids, their families and communities,” he said.
Cramer and his family have made 10-15 trips to Sports Friends’ international locations. “Getting out of our culture and the bubble we live in — going somewhere that couldn’t be more different in culture, people and faith and immersing in that, while at the same time looking back at ourselves — has really impacted us,” he said.
Cramer developed close relationships with members of the group, most notably with Berhanu Kebede and his family in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who were the first people Cramer supported through Sports Friends in 2004. Kebede is now the regional director for Sports Friends’ East and Southern Africa subdivision. Cramer and Kebede have stayed in each other’s homes and Kebede attended the wedding of Cramer’s son.
Cramer’s work and experience with Sports Friends advanced his interest in doing such outreach closer to home. In 2004, following his first trip to Ethiopia, he joined the Harvest Center of Charlotte’s board of advisors.
Founded more than 30 years ago, the Harvest Center is a faith-based organization that provides job skills training, educational classes, counseling and housing to “help people help themselves,” Cramer described.
McGuireWoods has embraced the Harvest Center through pro bono services, Cramer added. “We’ve done everything from re-working corporate governing documents to addressing real estate issues. I’m really proud of the way the firm and our attorneys have stepped in to help the Harvest Center with its operational legal needs.”

Diane Flannery Gives Back to Make a Real Impact in Richmond

Diane Flannery

Through her work with local organizations, Richmond partner Diane Flannery is dedicated to the capital city’s past, present and future.

She is a member of the Council of Historic Richmond, an organization that works to preserve the city’s historic landscape and significant architecture.

“One of the highlights of living here is the charm of the Fan District and the historic buildings. We don’t look like every other city in the country,” she explained. “That doesn’t happen without some love and care in this day and age.”

Since 2014, Flannery has been a member of the Impact 100 Council’s Richmond chapter, a fundraising organization based on a model of at least 100 women each donating $1,000. Impact 100 reviews applicants and selects a finalist to receive a $100,000 charitable grant to help make a significant impact on the charity’s mission.

“It’s a new way of creatively bundling money to have a larger impact, as opposed to giving a little bit to a lot of different places,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out where we can put our money to make the biggest difference and effect immediate change.”

Flannery also serves as a board member for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. One of the organization’s initiatives identified the greatest need for skills for future jobs in Richmond and then works with school districts to help prepare a trained workforce to meet the need for those jobs.

“The Chamber is a powerful force in Richmond,” Flannery said. “It’s very inclusive and has gone a long way to bridge the Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover relationships. It’s one of the organizations in Richmond that is forward-looking and brings businesses together to help make Richmond a great place to live and work.”

Kate Hardey Seeks Justice for Domestic Violence Survivors

Kate Hardey

McGuireWoods Charlotte partner Kate Hardey is involved as a board member for Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), an organization dedicated to providing legal justice for survivors of domestic violence and the protection of their children. Hardey works with DV Leap as an advocate and speaker to domestic violence survivors involved with the organization.

As a survivor of domestic violence herself, DV LEAP played a large role in Hardey’s personal story and legal proceedings, providing effective exit strategies and counsel during her custody dispute. Her experience with DV LEAP motivated her to become directly involved with the organization. She promotes awareness of domestic violence and custody issues, testifying at congressional hearings, speaking at DV LEAP fundraisers, and planning fundraising and community outreach events.

As one of DV LEAP’s pro bono partners, Hardey serves as counsel for victims of domestic violence in the preparation and process of their court proceedings against their abusers. McGuireWoods also is assisting DV LEAP in a larger pro bono research project to evaluate whether and how ADA protections extend to victims of domestic violence.

DV LEAP focuses on changing and improving how domestic violence cases are handled in court. As a national leader in domestic violence litigation, DV LEAP works to hold trial courts accountable for “fairness embodied in the law.”

The organization also works to impact legal policy locally and nationally, with a focus on child custody battles and changing laws that will ensure the safety of children caught in the middle of domestic violence disputes.

“There is a fire and a passion with DV LEAP as the work we do greatly impacts parents and kids,” Hardey explained. “You may lose a lot of small, incremental proceedings, but no one ever gives up, and it is a neat thing to be a part of.”

Matt Monsour Helps Pittsburgh’s Four-Legged Friends

McGuireWoods Pittsburgh partner Matt Monsour’s dedication to animal rescue has led him to provide community service and pro bono assistance to several nonprofit animal organizations in the Pittsburgh area, including Animal Friends, True Companion, Gray Paws and the Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team. All four of these organizations are in constant need of legal representation to navigate complex regulations to achieve their goals.

As a board member and pro bono counsel for Animal Friends, a companion animal resource community, Monsour helps with legal outreach to address several key areas. “There are all sorts of animal-related statutes passed recently that are ambiguous and have no precedent,” he explained. “We’re always working to figure out what we can do to further the humane treatment of animals under the laws.”  The nonprofits that Monsour works with assist animals in need every day and when these complex issues inevitably arise, McGuireWoods is there.

Monsour has been searching for opportunities to assist animals since he began his legal career.

“The amount of animals that need loving homes is startling. Without these nonprofits, many of the animals would be euthanized,” Monsour said. “It’s an epidemic and lawyers are needed to assist in giving these animals a second chance. Getting involved on a pro bono basis has been the most rewarding aspect of my career.”

Monsour hopes to expand his animal welfare work and he is developing an animal law clinic in conjunction with Duquesne Law School. The clinic will be staffed by volunteer law school and undergraduate students. Through this program, Monsour will create opportunities for new lawyers to argue motions in court evidentiary hearings on animal abuse and custody issues.

College Full Ride Instills Need to Pay It Forward

Seth Schaeffer

McGuireWoods Richmond partner Seth Schaeffer  traces his community involvement back to his days at Colgate University. Growing up on a dairy farm outside of Cooperstown, N.Y., Schaeffer received a full tuition grant to play basketball close to home at Colgate. Since being afforded the opportunity, he says he “has always had a sense of wanting to give back.”

Today, Schaeffer serves his community through several impactful organizations in Richmond and continues to be involved in the community at Colgate University where, for the past five years, he has served as his class’s gift chair and president of the Hardwood Club, raising money for the school and basketball program.

Schaeffer is a mentor with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, a national organization of corporate counsel and law firm managing partners dedicated to inspiring a “new and more diverse generation of attorneys ascend to positions of leadership.” McGuireWoods has been a member and active participant in LCLD since the organization was founded in 2009.
Mentoring through LCLD, Schaeffer helps a first-year student at the University of Richmond School of Law handle the demands of law school. “If you’re in a group that represents 10 percent of a law school class, you already may feel like a fish out of water to go along with the pressure of law school,” Schaeffer said. He assists his mentee with grade feedback and job preparatory skills and offers advice to manage stress.

Schaeffer also serves on the vestry for St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Goochland, Va., where he handles operational tasks that support the growth and development of the church. Through the vestry’s community outreach, Schaeffer has become affiliated with Congregations Around Richmond to Assure Shelter, an organization that provides safe shelter locations for Richmond area homeless.

Schaeffer is co-chair of the CARITAS outreach committee for his church, planning the committee’s major events and organizing fundraising for long-term solutions for homeless families. “It’s a huge undertaking to provide housing and entertainment for so many people of different ages and needs, but it’s so rewarding to look back and see what you did for them as they touch you with their gratitude,” Schaeffer said.

The importance of community service also is evident from Schaeffer’s service on the board of directors for the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation, as well as the countless nights and weekends he spends coaching youth basketball and soccer through the YMCA.

McGuireWoods’ Jen Stearman Has a Lot of Heart

Jennifer Stearman

Inspired by a loved one who suffered a heart attack, McGuireWoods Baltimore partner Jen Stearman has long worked to promote cardiac health. “Being touched personally really inspired me to focus on making a difference by promoting heart health,” she explained.

Stearman is a longtime volunteer with the American Heart Association’s Mid-Atlantic affiliate, which hosts marquee annual events including the Heart Walk fundraiser and the Go Red for Women campaign. She has served on the executive leadership team for the Heart Walk fundraiser and currently serves on the executive leadership team for the Go Red for Women campaign, which raises money for women’s heart health awareness, and Stearman chaired its 2016 campaign.

“The symptoms for heart health in women are different than men, so in addition to raising money, the events provide a huge education component,” she said, noting McGuireWoods also has been involved with the cause. “I was amazed by the support from McGuireWoods, not just from the Baltimore office but firmwide. Many people reached out who had been affected by heart disease in some way and shared their personal stories.”

Stearman also serves on the board of visitors of the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. She chaired the board for several years and she led several successful fundraising initiatives focused on pediatric cardiology, including a campaign to support a new pediatric cardiac catheterization hybrid lab and, most recently, a new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the hospital.

“It’s heart-warming to see the children who benefit from the new NICU,” Stearman said. “To hear the stories of the beneficiaries of your work is priceless.”

Just the Beginning Pipeline Programs Support Local and Legal Communities

Jacquelyn E. Stone

McGuireWoods Richmond partner Jackie Stone is a champion for diversity and inclusion and a peerless mentor. As a D&I advocate in the legal profession for decades, she promotes increased representation of lawyers of color, women and LGBTQ lawyers as a key component to delivering exceptional client service. She created and chaired the firm’s D&I Committee and was instrumental in developing family leave and flex-time initiatives.

Stone’s contributions also make a difference in local communities. For years, she has worked with, and is a board member of, Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization, which develops pipeline programs to inspire and foster careers in the law among students of color and other underrepresented groups.

The long-term mission of Just the Beginning is to build a legal environment that includes minorities in legal positions that reflect the diverse population. “It’s important for the judiciary and the legal representatives to be more reflective of the people who are going through the system,” Stone explained. “The way to do that is to get more diversity in law schools and law firms and create that whole pipeline process.”

Just the Beginning provides a range of resources and development for students — from middle school to law school — to build a foundation of skills needed for successful careers in the legal field. One of the organization’s most successful initiatives is the Share the Wealth Judicial Law Clerk Program, a referral program run by federal judges that provides law students and graduates opportunities to interview with multiple judges at one time for federal judicial clerkships. Many of the law students who have benefited from this program have gone on to work at McGuireWoods.

It Takes a Village to Help the Homeless

Christopher Thanner

McGuireWoods Jacksonville partner and pro bono coordinator Chris Thanner has left an indelible imprint on his community through his work with the Sulzbacher Center, Northeast Florida’s largest provider of comprehensive services for homeless men, women and children.

Thanner led a team providing pro bono real estate counsel to assist the center in building Sulzbacher Village, a new community for disadvantaged women and families in Jacksonville. The Village, which opened in May 2018, houses 350 family members and provides free health services to residents of the Village and members of the surrounding community. Under Thanner’s leadership, the McGuireWoods team formed new entities and arranged public financing under a complex tax credit structure, among other initiatives.

Thanner credits those who assist with the day-to-day operations of the center for its success. “The people involved with the Sulzbacher Center are wholly invested in helping the community and they have made significant headway over the years serving the homeless population in Jacksonville,” he said.

“Serving folks who, through no particular fault of their own, have found themselves in dire circumstances is heartening to see,” he said. “The Village serves an important purpose by helping people to get the ground back underneath them and stabilize their lives.”


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