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.
Since its formation 35 years ago, Dean Mead 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.
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.
Dean Mead was a founding member of the President’s Challenge to SOAR/Take Stock in Children scholarship administered by Indian River State College, celebrating its 20th year this year. Since its creation, it has awarded 915 scholarships within the four (4) county area of Okeechobee, Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie. The graduation rate of these scholarship recipients, at almost 95%, is three times that of similarly situated “at risk” students.
This year, Dean Mead’s Viera office commemorated their 25th anniversary of serving the Space Coast, with a gift to the Florida Institute of Technology. As part of the festivities, attorneys Kim Rezanka, Mason Blake, Claudia Haines Jones, Rob Naberhaus and Laura Young announced that the firm established The Dean Mead Scholarship at Florida Tech for $100,000 to benefit S.T.E.M. students from Central Florida.
“Dean Mead has supported the Florida Institute of Technology nearly 20 years, and we’re honored to carry on the tradition,” say Kim Rezanka, managing shareholder at Dean Mead. “Many of us have deep roots in the Space Coast and are passionate about giving back to our community and helping the next generation succeed. This donation will bring additional opportunities to STEM students, and we hope to continue to support the institute and its mission for many years to come.”
“The success of our firm, much like the success of Florida Tech, was built on the foundation to create a better community and afford opportunities to the next generation,” says Claudia Haines Jones.
Another example of our commitment to education is through the firm’s financial support of a plan proposed by Dr. Deborah German, Dean of University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, eight 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 contribute 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 also contributed the first endowed scholarship at UCF’s Medical School, which is 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 a 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.”
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 is the Past Chair of 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 UF Tax Institute. In just two years, the program raised $75,000 benefitting UF Law students in the Graduate Tax Program by way of scholarships and to meet student needs.
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 Bar. They’re active 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 business litigation attorney, 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.”
Robert Griscti, litigation attorney in the firm’s Gainesville office is the President and National Delegate of the North Central Florida Chapter Board of Directors and president of the Gainesville Area Chapter for the Federal Bar Association. He frequently lectures at academic institutions and for national, state and local bar organizations and associations.
David Akins, attorney in the firm’s Estate & Succession Planning department, was appointed chairman of the Estate and Trust Tax Planning Committee of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law (RPPTL) Section of The Florida Bar. He has been active in RPPTL for more than 11 years having served in numerous leadership roles. Additionally, he was elected a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). He is one of 140 lawyers in Florida and 2,700 lawyers across the globe to have earned this distinguished honor.
Orlando litigation 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 and building on the leadership skills he acquired through his involvement in the HBACF, Guerrero graduated from the inaugural class of The Florida Bar Leadership Academy in 2014. Says Guerrero, “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.”
Currently he serves on the Executive Council for the Orange County Bar Association. The Executive Council helps guide OCBA’s business and events, and also works to integrate and assist the voluntary bar associations. Guerrero serves as a liaison between the OCBA’s Real Property Committee and the Executive Council.
Laura Minton Young, a real estate 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.”
Young is also a member of the Business Hall of Fame Committee for Junior Achievement of the Space Coast (JASC) and sits on their Board of Directors alongside Robert Naberhaus III. They, together with fellow Viera/Melbourne attorneys, Brian Stephens and Michelle Naberhaus, taught the Junior Achievement “Our Region” lesson to 4th graders at Suntree Elementary in October this year. “The JASC 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 who is now in his fifth year of serving on the JASC Board.
Tampa based litigation attorney, Melanie Griffin, hosted a luncheon for more than 50 community leaders to educate them about Frameworks and the positive impact the organization is making. She serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Community Outreach and Development Committee of Frameworks of Tampa Bay. Since joining the Board in July, 2014, she has raised over $10,000 to support the organization’s mission of teaching local youth social and emotional learning (SEL) skills to create an increased likelihood for academic, personal, and professional success. SEL contributes to the emotional well-being of children, especially those already at a disadvantage due to living in areas where violence and crime occur at a high frequency. Frameworks gives students the skills they need to reduce classroom disruptions, violence, and other risky behaviors, including low self-esteem, physical violence, substance abuse, bullying, eating disorders, and more.
Frameworks’ mission became evermore critical this year, as the Hillsborough County School Board recognized the significant value of SEL and implemented Frameworks’ curriculum in every 6th grade in the county. Next year, the curriculum will be in every 6th and 7th grade, and by 2017, Frameworks’ curriculum will be taught in every middle school grade in each middle school in Hillsborough County, allowing Frameworks to make a positive impact in the lives of more than 45,000 children annually. While the benefit of Frameworks’ work is presently most directly felt in Hillsborough County, the hope is that the implementation of Frameworks’ curriculum in Hillsborough will lead to the implementation of SEL curriculums in additional counties throughout the state.
Orlando estate and succession planning attorney, Brian Malec, sits on the Advisory Board for The First Tee of Central Florida. This organization impacts the lives of local youth by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. As a member of the Advisory Board, which supports the full Board of Directors, Malec’s focus is toward organizing fundraising events that the organization puts on each year.
Environmental and land use attorney, Anna Long, spends her free time volunteering with Odyssey of the Mind – an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and world levels. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.
Long got involved as a coach when her daughter was in the second grade in 2004. She served as an Assistant Regional Director for several years and took over as the Regional Director in 2009. “It’s important to me to be a role model for my own children, but being there for many other kids is truly fulfilling,” says Long.
For almost 30 years, Pete Dunbar, managing shareholder of 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 Athletes 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.”
Brad Gould, tax and business succession planning attorney 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. Gould also serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties. This year Dean Mead was a sponsor for the organization’s Taste of St. Lucie event which raised donations that enable them to better serve the community.
Children’s Services Council of St Lucie County is a wonderful partner and funder of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
This year Dennis Corrick, Fort Pierce/Port St. Lucie real estate attorney, received the Kathryn Basile Champion for Children Award as recognition for his leadership of the campaign to reauthorize the Children’s Services Council in 2014. Corrick previously served on the Children’s Services Council of St. Lucie County whose mission, is to improve the quality of life for all children in St. Lucie County. They do this by ensuring that every baby is a healthy baby, by stopping child abuse before it starts, keeping kids off the streets and away from drugs and alcohol, and keeping kids in school with the tools they need to be successful.
Greg Lawrence, Chair of the firm’s Financial Institutions Industry Team and a member of the Real Estate department is Dean Mead’s attorney champion for the Summer of Dreams program. Summer of Dreams is a free, 10-week program that provides homeless students with meals, academic enrichment, mentoring and school supplies as well as financial counseling for parents and students in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties during the summer break.
According to school officials in the tri-county region, an estimated 11,000 children are considered homeless. They move frequently – living in shelters, motels and cars … even on the streets. Summer brings added instability to their lives. During these months, most have nowhere to go, nothing constructive to do and no access to resources like free/reduced lunch that help them while school is in session.
The Summer of Dreams program was founded to help those children who would otherwise “fall through the cracks.” The program’s goal this year is to raise enough funds to serve 2,000 children next summer. Dean Mead is proud to be a supporter alongside, the program’s founding sponsor, Fifth Third Bank.
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.
In addition to its support of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, 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.
Matt Ahearn, estate and succession planning attorney in the firm’s Orlando office, 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. “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 also strengthen our economy, help our local businesses and drive tourism to Central Florida.” says Ahearn.
Michelle Naberhaus, probate, trust and guardianship litigator in the firm’s Viera/Melbourne office, serves on the Board of Directors for Brevard Cultural Alliance (BCA). This year, Dean Mead began supporting the Brevard art community through BCA’s “Art in Public Places” – a community-based program managed by BCA that provides opportunities for local businesses, government buildings and other diverse locations to host professional art exhibitions. BCA installs a new exhibit every four months, providing a creative, stimulating environment for staff and visitors who have the opportunity to purchase the art.
“The arts, whether performance or visual, enrich all of our lives,” says Naberhaus who also serves on the Board of Directors for the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne.
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.”
Throughout the year, Dean Mead and its employees give to local charities – whether monetary contributions, in kind or simply by volunteering their time.
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 its inception, more than $42,000 has been raised to benefit charities. This year’s “Causes” included: American Heart Association, Mustard Seed of Central Florida, Victim Service Center of Central Florida, Harbor House, Christian Service Center, Autism Speaks, Susan G. Komen of Central Florida, The Angel Tree Project and school supplies for Central Florida Association of Women Lawyers (CFAWL) and Hispanic Bar Association (HSA).
Dean Mead collaborated with Central Florida Association of Women Lawyers (CFAWL), again this year to purchase school supplies for the students of Rock Lake Elementary School, one of Central Florida’s most economically disadvantaged Title I schools where at least 95% of the student body lives at or below the federal poverty line. All money raised will go directly towards school supplies for the students of Rock Lake, who otherwise would not receive the tools necessary for a year of successful learning.
Dean Mead also participated in a school supply drive with Hispanic Bar Association (HSA), that benefited the same school as last year, New Beginnings (formerly known as Crossroads and Cornerstone). New Beginnings is the only public alternative school for the Osceola School District. The school serves Kindergarten thru 12th grade students, who are regular and ESE (exceptional education). All students are recommended for placement through the district Student Services department for the ESE department and may be placed for a minimum of 1 successful semester to a maximum of 2 years.
Although many of our attorneys and staff volunteer many hours in the community throughout the year, there is something special about holiday giving that brings good cheer.
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 of Central Florida, Daily Bread, Sharing Center of Central Brevard, Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and Big Heart Brigade of the Treasure Coast.
The firm also participates in the Angel Tree Project whose ultimate goal is to get new toys and clothing into the hands of needy children during the holiday season. Spearheaded by Melanie Griffin, Orlando attorneys and staff 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).
“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.
This year, our Gainesville office is supporting the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association’s (EJCBA) Holiday Project – a toy drive benefitting children in the Head Start program in Alachua County.
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 the burden for 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.”