community involvement

Community Involvement

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There’s a lot of talk these days in business and professional circles about “social responsibility” and the need to “pay it forward.” For the attorneys and staff of Dean Mead, public service and pro bono are more than words; they’re an integral part of the business plan. Here, every member of the firm subscribes to the philosophy that service to the community is an essential part of service to the client.

 

GIVING BACK: A CORE VALUE

Since its founding 34 years ago, Dean Mead has established public service as a core value and priority. The firm’s attorneys and staff are encouraged to become part of the fabric of their local communities, to invest both time and money in service of others.

“At Dean Mead, we believe it is incumbent upon us, as community leaders and partners, to give back to those in need,” says Marc Chapman, the firm’s President. “As John F. Kennedy said: ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ In our commitment to service, we try our best to embody this concept.”

As a result, Dean Mead attorneys and staff have contributed to well over 125 different philanthropic, civic and pro bono organizations, in the past year, throughout Florida. We participate in numerous foundations and committees serving universities and other educational institutions, the legal community, healthcare and disease prevention/treatment, agricultural and environmental, food banks, and community associations.

Three areas, in particular, are near and dear to our hearts: Education, Children’s Issues, and the Cultural Arts.

BUILDING A FOUNDATION IN EDUCATION

As attorneys, we recognize the value of education, not only in achieving personal success, but also in creating a thriving and prosperous community. As such, we invest heavily in supporting educational initiatives, from elementary education through to the college and university level, and in the community.

Support for Central Florida’s Own Medical School

One example of this commitment is the firm’s financial support of a plan proposed by Dr. Deborah German, Dean of University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, seven years ago, to provide full scholarships for all 41 students in its inaugural class. Shareholder, Michael Minton, served as co-chair of the UCF Charter Class Scholarship Committee. He led the firm’s initiative to endow the first scholarship, for charter class member Virgil Secansanu, an electrical engineering student from Georgia Tech, who was accepted to practice internal medicine at his top-ranked match school – the University of Colorado, one of the nation’s top facilities in that specialty field. It’s imperative that, like Virgil, our med school grads obtain the best post-graduate medical training possible – whether here in Central Florida or elsewhere.

Minton explains: “It is the hope of the firm’s lawyers that by establishing this and other gifts and scholarships, the firm will lead the way for others to follow suit. Public and private partners working together is the surest path to developing a strong and sustainable region designed to attract the best and the brightest.”

The firm’s endowed scholarship at UCF was named for Robert W. Mead Jr., a founding member of the firm and a long-standing legal advisor to Central Florida’s medical community.  For the past 40 years, Mead has had a remarkable impact on the community through his work representing physicians and medical institutions throughout Florida. In fact, he has been recognized every year since 1983 as Outstanding Corporate and Employee Benefits counsel by Best Lawyers in America for his work in this capacity. He also serves as an active member of the Board of Trustees of the Florida Heart Institute.

Throughout his extensive career, Mead has represented thousands of physicians and medical groups, and participated in numerous boards, foundations and associations serving the medical community.

“It has been my pleasure and honor to contribute to the growth of Florida’s healthcare system through representation of some of the state’s leading medical practices,” says Mead. “Year after year, I have an even greater appreciation for the impact world-class medical care can have on a community, not only because of the improved quality of life our clients are able to provide for those who live here, but because leading health care systems attract top notch physicians, as well as other medical professionals and researchers from all over right here to our door.”

Lawyers and Leaders Guiding Florida’s Future

In addition to the firm’s commitment to the University of Central Florida’s long-term vision for the College of Medicine, Dean Mead also invests extensively in the University of Florida. Many of the firm’s attorneys are graduates of the Fredric G. Levin College of Law in Gainesville, Florida, and continue to contribute significantly to the University of Florida Foundation and Law School. For more than three decades, Dean Mead has both established and funded scholarships through the University, supporting legal education, ethics and faculty enrichment. The firm also has supported SHARE, the Florida 4-H Foundation and the University of Florida College of Agriculture.

Michael Minton currently serves as the University of Florida College of Law Center of Association’s Chair of the Board of Trustees. Additionally, Lauren Detzel, shareholder and chair of Dean Mead’s statewide Estate & Succession Planning department, has been an adjunct professor at the law school since 1989. She also volunteers her time as a member of the Board of Trustees, and she led a multi-year effort as the creator and founding board member of the new UF Tax Institute that held its inaugural conference in Tampa earlier this year.

In addition to the book award sponsored by the firm and the scholarships to UF law funded by our attorneys, Jack Bovay, who heads up the Gainesville office of Dean Mead, has served the University of Florida in numerous capacities through the years, including his current, active participation as a member of the Board of Trustees for the University of Florida Law Center Association and as the Chair of the Curriculum Committee.

Says Bovay: “Over the past several years, we’ve worked successfully with the Dean and faculty to modernize the Law School’s curriculum. Specifically, we’ve focused on placing more emphasis in the first year of law school on ethics, civility and what it means to be a good lawyer, and more emphasis in the third year on practical, real-world experience with the goal of properly preparing new lawyers for the realities of practicing law in today’s world.”

Not only has Bovay taught Advising the Entrepreneur, an intensive, practical exposure to the office practice of a business lawyer, for the past four years, but he and his wife funded the Book Award for the Advising the Entrepreneur class.

“We named it after my father, her father (who was a UF Law grad) and my first business partner (who received both his J.D. and LL.M. in Tax from UF),” says Bovay.

The firm’s support for future lawyers and new lawyers continues beyond law school. Most Dean Mead lawyers actively participate in local bar associations as well as The Florida, not only as members, but also as leaders.

“It is important to the firm’s partners that we play a leadership role in the legal community,” says shareholder, Darryl Bloodworth, who served for many years in the Orange County Bar Association (OCBA) Legal Aid Society, as the President of The Florida Bar Foundation and in numerous capacities in other Bar Associations, including the American Bar Association and the Orange County Bar. “Not only is our role as leaders in the legal community about upholding the standards of the Bar, it also is about educating the public so people in the community feel comfortable availing themselves of the services good lawyers provide.”

Following in Bloodworth’s footsteps is Nicky Mooney, shareholder in Dean Mead’s Orlando office, who focuses her practice on employment litigation matters. Mooney was asked to serve on the Executive Committee of the OCBA from 2010 – 2014. Recently, she was appointed to serve as President of the Orange County Bar Association Foundation.

“The primary mission of the OCBA Foundation is education,” remarks Mooney. “We focus on community education initiatives. This includes consequences of one’s actions, how the judicial system works, support of local schools, and mentoring.  The purpose is to helps citizens gain a better understanding of the judicial system.”

For example, the OCBA Foundation works with the Justice Teaching initiative wherein lawyers help to teach students about the system of government and basic principles underlying it.  Attorneys work on a collaborative basis with Orange County Public Schools to train teachers about the law and how it affects the community, which assists them in developing curriculum for classes.  These are resources they might not otherwise have.

Dean Mead litigation attorney, Melanie Griffin, knows the importance of hard work and building a legacy of leadership. As President of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division in 2013-2014, Griffin’s term encompassed leading a premier organization that includes approximately 26,000 members and more than 50 local young lawyer chapters throughout the state of Florida.  Upon assuming this coveted position, Griffin fostered a sense of teamwork to energize her fellow Board of Governors to tirelessly work as a cohesive unit throughout the 2013-14 Bar year to meet the needs of Florida’s young lawyers.

The YLD kicked-off 2013 with a campaign aimed at raising the group’s social media profile, while at the same time, generating funds for The Florida Bar Foundation.  Spearheaded by Griffin’s leadership, the YLD pledged to donate $1 in July 2013 to the Foundation for each new follower it gained on Facebook and Twitter, resulting in the YLD’s social media presence exponentially growing from a few hundred followers to a few thousand.  By the end of July, the YLD was able to better connect and communicate with its constituents, while also presenting a check for more than $2,000 to the Foundation for legal services for the poor.  At the end of Griffin’s presidency, the YLD gave another $10,000 to the Foundation in recognition of its important work providing access to justice to those who would not otherwise have a voice.

Dean Mead attorney, Felipe Guerrero, understands the significance of leadership within the legal profession. In 2012, he served as the President of the Hispanic Bar Association of Central Florida (HBACF). In his role as president, Guerrero worked with other members to educate the Hispanic community about a broad range of legal topics with the goal of empowering them to assert their legal rights. One example was the HBACF’s “Know Your Rights Campaign”, where the organization offered public seminars – conducted in Spanish and English – to educate the community about relevant legal topics and provide general information.

Always one to seek new professional development opportunities, Guerrero knew that he wanted to use and build on the leadership skills he acquired through his involvement in the HBACF. That’s when the call came that would open a new door.  In March 2013, he was nominated for the inaugural class of The Florida Bar Leadership Academy. After a highly competitive application process, he was notified that he had been selected.

Says Guerrero, “I was truly honored to be chosen as one of only 59 Fellows, out of hundreds of applicants from around the State, to participate in the first class.  One of the goals of the academy is to connect leaders in the legal community and teach us how to take our skills to the next level so we can have an even greater impact on a statewide basis.”

Education Leads to Extraordinary Results

For many years, the firm has partnered with Indian River State College to jumpstart the “President’s Challenge/Take Stock in Children” scholarship program. Now in its 20th year, the program identifies capable, at-risk eighth and ninth graders in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties and promises a full scholarship at a Florida college or university if the students focus on good citizenship, maintain a solid GPA and graduate from high school.

The positive outreach of this program has led to extraordinary results. In 2009, the firm established the Robert “Bobby” Klein Memorial Endowment Scholarship created to honor the legacy of Bobby Klein, a champion of education and a former member of Dean Mead.

To date, more than 815 scholarships have been awarded. Our firm and our clients are reaping the benefits — seeing students who might otherwise not have finished high school go on to graduate from college and returning to become contributing citizens of the community.

The firm also supports the education high school students through Viera High’s Viera Academy of Business and Finance. This unique program helps students develop skills for the workplace through classroom instruction, shadowing professionals, and participating in internships and mock interviews.

Laura Minton Young, an attorney in Dean Mead’s Brevard County office, has worked with the Viera Academy since its inception, and currently serves on the Community Directors Board of the program. Not only does she facilitate shadowing and internship opportunities for the students with the firm, she also regularly visits the high school to teach the students necessary skills through activities like mock interviews.

“It is so rewarding to see how the children grow—how much more confident they become—as they work their way through the program. It’s also a great way for the firm and myself to connect with the community.”

Driving Technology Forward

Also, through the years, the firm’s Viera office has enjoyed a successful working relationship with the Florida Institute of Technology, a valued client and integral institution in Brevard County. There is no doubt technology is the vehicle that will transform our world, our country and our community. Through its support of the Florida Institute of Technology, Dean Mead works to foster the growth of high-tech business in the heart of the Space Coast, and to help develop technology leaders with the ability and skills to innovate, develop solutions, and build a better tomorrow.

For the past decade, Dean Mead has been a premier sponsor of FIT’s Sporting Affair, commonly known as Florida Tech’s largest annual fundraiser to support the students in the university’s new Panther football program. It’s a day-long event filled with golf, fun, contests, shootouts, good friends, food and drinks.

In 2012, the Florida Institute of Technology Nathan M. Bisk College of Business named Claudia Haines Jones, corporate attorney in Dean Mead’s Viera office, its Outstanding Business Leader of the Year.

“Claudia Haines Jones is a strong supporter of entrepreneurship education at the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business and is a member of our Technology Innovation and Venture Development Executive Council,” said Dr. Annie Becker, dean of the college. Haines Jones is a guest lecturer in graduate classes, providing her expertise in business planning, intellectual property, and managing innovation. She has also served as a guest speaker in the college’s Entrepreneurial Training Services program sharing her technical knowledge with those exploring entrepreneurship as a career path.

COMMITTED TO CHILDREN’S ISSUES

For almost 30 years, Pete Dunbar, who heads up the firm’s Tallahassee office, has been actively involved in the Special Olympics, most recently as a golf coach. The couple’s youngest child, daughter Sarah, and her husband of three years, both have been named “Special Olympics Athlete of the Year.” The whole family was honored to be named “Special Olympics Family of the Year” for Tallahassee.

“I can truly say, our involvement as a family in the Special Olympics has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” says Dunbar. “Many people think philanthropy and community involvement is about what you give, but spending time coaching these athletes has enriched my life in too many ways to name.”

Jennifer Lester, an attorney in the firm’s Gainesville office, completely agrees: “I’ve been involved in the Alachua County Guardian Ad Litem program for about 22 years,” says Lester. “We give children who have been abused or neglected a voice in the courtroom when, otherwise, they would have none. Although there have been many heart-wrenching stories over the past two decades, the heart-warming ones are the ones that keep you going. There is nothing quite so rewarding as being able to give some hope to a child caught up in a seemingly hopeless cycle.”

Brad Gould, shareholder in our Fort Pierce office, is the founder and former Chairman of the Parent Academy of St. Lucie County. The not-for-profit organization was created to strengthen the families of St. Lucie County by giving parents and caregivers access to resources, information, and support they might not otherwise know about. Brad has been serving on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties since 2005 and served as chairman in 2008.

Rob Naberhaus III, shareholder in our Viera office has been serving on the Junior Achievement of the Space Coast (JASC) board for four years.  During his tenure he’s volunteered in the classroom, recruited volunteers and the firm has made significant monetary contributions. “Their mission is important to me because I care about my community and I believe the future of our community depends upon the strength of our youth,” says Naberhaus. He also was appointed recently to the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation for Brevard (CFB).

Dean Mead Shareholder, Dennis Corrick, previously served on the Children’s Services Council for four years. Since that time, he has been working on a campaign for the reauthorization of the Children’s Services Council, which was on the ballot in the November elections.  When the Florida legislature passed legislation in 2010 requiring that the CSC go back on the ballot, we began organizing a group which would ultimately be called the “St. Lucie Children’s Coalition,” and run this campaign.  We had to start from scratch, raising money to hire a consultant, run radio and TV ads, distribute flyers, etc.  It was a small core group, but we raised over $150,000 for the campaign, and we got 86% of the vote in the election.

PASSION FOR PERFORMING ARTS

In addition to supporting high-quality education and healthcare, the attorneys of Dean Mead are proud to support the growth of arts and culture in communities throughout the state.

Arts Impact

Most recently, the firm was on hand with other community leaders to participate in the grand opening of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, just a few blocks from the firm’s main office in Orlando.

“No doubt the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will have a significant impact not only on the arts community, but on the business community here in central Florida,” says Chapman. “As a Founding Donor of the new Center, Dean Mead is proud to lend its support. We are beyond excited about the national and international performances we now will be able to attract to our region, and the impact this will have on, not only Downtown Orlando, but Central Florida as a whole. We anticipate not just a cultural boost, but an economic one as well.”

Arts Appreciation & Education

In addition to its support of the new performing arts center, the firm has been a long-time supporter of the Orlando Ballet, Central Florida’s only fully residential professional ballet company. The 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, founded in 1974, employs a full-time professional company of 25 nationally and internationally recognized dancers. The organization also operates a renowned school; one of only 4 academies accredited by the American Ballet Theatre and named 2014 “Outstanding School” at the prestigious Youth American Grand Prix.

Dean Mead shareholder, Matt Ahearn, has been involved with the Orlando Ballet for many years. He currently serves as the Treasurer/Finance Committee Chair and a member of the Board of Directors.

“The arts strengthen our economy, help our local businesses and drive tourism to Central Florida.” says Ahearn.  “Arts education is very important for our children, having been shown to enhance higher-order thinking skills, such as analytical, problem solving and social skills. The arts, whether performance or visual, enrich all of our lives.”

Community Legacy & Landmark

As a statewide firm, Dean Mead’s support of the arts is not limited just to the Orlando area, though. In Fort Pierce, for several years, attorneys from the firm’s Treasure Coast office have been instrumental in helping to raise funds for the restoration and reopening of the 1920s-era Sunrise Theatre, a focal point for economic development and entertainment in downtown Fort Pierce. The firm pledged $75,000 to this initiative and was able to reach this goal with a generous $25,000 contribution from Michael and Misty Minton.

Says Dean Mead shareholder, Joel Zwemer: “We were so pleased to join in with the rest of the Fort Pierce community to preserve this historical landmark and local treasure. Today, because we came together as a community, the Sunrise Theatre once again serves as a focal point for economic development and entertainment in downtown Fort Pierce.”

FIRM-WIDE GIVING

Throughout the year, Dean Mead and its employees give to local charities – whether monetary contributions, in kind or simply by volunteering their time.

Casual for a Cause

Dean Mead’s Orlando office participates in “Casual for a Cause Day”, where employees are offered the opportunity to wear casual attire for the day with a contribution to the designated charity. This raises awareness and funds for a different charity or non-profit organization each “day”.

Since inception, more than $36,000 has been raised to benefit charities such as: American Heart Association, The Russell Home, Victim Service Center, Grace Medical Home, Harbor House, Christian Service Center, Autism Speaks, Kids Beating Cancer, Angel Tree Project and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando to name a few.

Holiday Giving

Each holiday season, the attorneys and staff of Dean Mead work together to make financial contributions to food banks within our communities including Second Harvest Food Bank, Daily Bread, Sharing Center of Central Brevard, Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and Big Heart Brigade of the Treasure Coast.

Kimberly Rezanka, managing shareholder in our Viera office, has a longstanding relationship with The Daily Bread Inc., a volunteer-driven 501( c )3 nonprofit in Melbourne, Florida, dedicated to improving the dignity and quality of life of the hungry and needy they serve. This is done by offering a daily free meal at their soup kitchen, supplying food to local agencies for redistribution to the needy and providing hygienic and social services, in collaboration with partners.

“I became involved with Daily Bread after coming to understand the challenges that Daily Bread’s clients face.  I was determined to help make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate in my community. Watching the successes of Daily Bread and those it serves has been extremely fulfilling,” says Rezanka. In the spirit of giving, Dean Mead makes a financial contribution that helps provide meals during the holiday and throughout the year.

Melanie Griffin, an attorney in our Orlando office, became involved with the Angel Tree Project through the Orange County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section and the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers, who have participated in the project for many years. Melanie spearheads our participation each year with the Angel Tree Project. We purchase holiday gifts and necessities for approximately 20 children at Rock Lake Elementary School and the Devereux Project (a program for children with emotional, developmental, educational, and cognitive disabilities).

Most of the children attending Rock Lake Elementary School live below the federal poverty line, and many are homeless. These factors create difficulties that most elementary school children and their teachers never have to face. Nevertheless, Rock Lake Elementary has a proud tradition of excellence and is rated as an “A” school, despite these challenging circumstances that its teachers, children and families experience every day. “Seeing the joy on the children’s faces when they receive their gifts each year and knowing that they would not otherwise be remembered during the holiday season motivates me to ensure that each child knows that he/she is loved, appreciated and valued, not only at this time of year, but all year long,” says Griffin.

Our Fort Pierce attorneys and staff for years have collected gifts, wrapping paper, bows, and cards along with some baked goodies that enable mothers at the Counseling and Recovery Center to give their children a memorable holiday.

As a leading law firm with offices and connections throughout the state of Florida, our job is to tackle big issues, develop solutions and, ultimately, ease a burden for the people who trust us with their closest thoughts and concerns. Community collaboration and service is one way we do that.

“The real benefit of community service and giving though,” says Chapman, “is that it makes us better people. It binds us to our neighbors and our communities in a way work alone cannot.”

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