November 19, 2008

Dickstein Shapiro Award: Paul's Acceptance Speech

So yesterday, Kristin announced the news that our partners and friends, Dickstein Shapiro LLP, won the National Capital Philanthropy Day's Outstanding Corporate Partner award. Great news! We asked Paul Taskier, partner at Dickstein Shapiro and fantastic board member here at Bread for the City, to send us over a text of his acceptance speech. (I found the story he tells toward the end, about a junior member of their administrative staff, to be especially touching.)

Dickstein Shapiro is honored to have been chosen as the Outstanding Corporate Partner for National Capital Philanthropy Day. As a firm, we believe deeply in giving back. The firm in fact began with representing the victims of Senator Joe McCarthy in the loyalty-security cases of the 1950s. We started there and have never looked back.

We didn't seek this honor; we certainly didn't expect it; but we are very grateful for the recognition - not so much for us, as for our pro bono partner, Bread for the City. It has been very easy to be a partner with such an outstanding organization, which we have been privileged to serve and to support.

As you all know, for over 30 years Bread for the City has provided five high-quality programs to the poorest residents of Washington. It has a legal clinic, where our firm first began its volunteer work; it has a medical clinic; it gives out free clothing; it provides social workers to clients who need help navigating our public welfare system; and it has the largest private food pantry in Washington, giving our groceries to more than 10,000 people a month in Shaw and in Anacostia.

Apart from providing pro bono services and general support for Bread, where I think our firm has outdone itself is in supporting Holiday Helpings. Holiday Helpings is Bread's program to provide groceries and turkeys for 10,000 family Thanksgiving dinners, so that the poorest in our city too can have the joy and dignity of a holiday meal in their own homes, and not have to stand in a soup line to get a meal. Last year, the 11th year of contributing, every firm partner and more than half of the associates and staff contributed over $145,000 to this worthy effort. One note last year from a very junior member of our administrative staff hit home for me:

He wrote, "When I was growing up, the only time we ever had a holiday meal with a turkey was when my mom got one from Bread for the City. Without that help, we never would have had a real Thanksgiving. I don't have a lot to spare, but I feel like God has given me the chance to give something back. So please take this contribution so that some other kid can have a real Thanksgiving like I had."

That about says it all for me. And that's why we support Bread for the City. And I urge all of you to do so too. (I'll be outside collecting checks on the way out.) There are few place where the need is so great, and the impact is so enormous.

I also would be remiss if I didn't mention our longstanding partnership with the Duke Ellington School for the Arts. Our senior partner and founder, Sidney Dickstein, who is here with us today - and who handled many of the McCarthy-era cases, championed the partnership with Duke Ellington over a decade ago. As a result, our annual holiday card is designed by a Duke Ellington student - chosen from a half dozen submissions by a vote, where the whole firm comes in and judges the cards and votes. The firm also supports the visual arts program and each summer sponsors selected students to attend an intensive arts course at the Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Village, Colorado. And our lawyers also mentor students through Georgetown University Law Center's Street Law clinic. All of this commitment comes from Mr. Dickstein; our firm's drive to serve the community is part of the DNA that he and David Shapiro gave us.

But we are obviously not the only law firm in Washington, a pretty lawyer-heavy city, that tries to give back to the community. Our city is a better place for the many law firms and companies that do unheralded philanthropic work every day. Dickstein Shapiro deeply appreciates this award recognizing our small part in the everyday struggle to make this city and the world a better place.

Thank you.

Read more about Dickstein Shapiro's great work in their 2008 Pro Bono Report.

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