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Campaign for Justice on track for Nov. 15 launch

Standing, from left: Jonathan Falk, Jim McElheny, Marlene Attardo, David Tennant, Dan O’Brien, Sheila Gaddis, Tom Durkin, and Bill Lowe. Seated, from left: Victoria Munian, Karen Schaefer, and Duwaine Bascoe. (Photo by Nora A. Jones)

Standing, from left: Jonathan Falk, Jim McElheny, Marlene Attardo, David Tennant, Dan O’Brien, Sheila Gaddis, Tom Durkin, and Bill Lowe. Seated, from left: Victoria Munian, Karen Schaefer, and Duwaine Bascoe. (Photo by Nora A. Jones)

Just as sure as Labor Day comes each September, kids go back to school and the Rochester legal community gears up for the annual Campaign for Justice, a fundraising initiative in its 25th year, supporting Volunteer Legal Services Project, Inc. (VLSP), Legal Aid Society of Rochester (LAS) and Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY).

This year’s CFJ Cabinet wasted no time, holding their first meeting 8:30 a.m. the day after Labor Day. Co-chairs Karen Schaefer, Thomas Durkin and Jonathan Falk each bring unique skill sets to the team.

Schaefer, a partner at Lacy Katzen LLP, is a long-time VLSP supporter but first-time CFJ cabinet chair. Well known for her estate and business succession planning services, she has years of leadership experience with both the Monroe County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. She has also volunteered and chaired community programs focused on education and learning.

Durkin was a CFJ co-chair last year—the first year the initiative relied on an electronic database instead of paper records. His familiarity with both the campaign and corporate counsel groups helps him spread the campaign message to a broader audience in support of the Rochester community’s civil legal services.

Falk, a native of Yorktown, Virginia, is relatively new to the Legal Aid Society and also new to Rochester (2015). A 2012 graduate of University at Buffalo Law, his campaign focus will be on younger lawyers, working with William Q. Lowe on a participation challenge. The goal of the Law Firm Challenge will again be on spreading the word about the campaign and connecting with new donors.

Cabinet and committees

Marlene Attardo (LawNY), Duwaine Bascoe (Woods Oviatt LLP), T. Andrew Brown (Brown Hutchinson), Megan Dorritie (Harter Secrest & Emery LLP), Sheila Gaddis (VLSP), Brian Hedges (Mengel Metzger Barr & Co.), Barb LaVerdi (Constellation Brands), William Q. Lowe (Harris Beach PLLC), James McElheny (Woods Oviatt), Maureen Mulholland (Monro Muffler Brake, Inc.), Victoria Munian (Woods Oviatt), Gail Norris (University of Rochester), Frank Novak (Harter Secrest & Emery), Dan O’Brien (Woods Oviatt), Carla Palumbo (LAS), Thomas Richards (former Rochester mayor), Paul Richardson (retired), Kelley Ross Brown (Woods Oviatt), Arline Santiago (ESL), Fernando Santiago (Santiago Burger LLP), Michael Schnittman (retired), David Tennant (Nixon Peabody LLP), Steve Tranelli (Barclay Damon LLP), Sharon Underberg (Eastman Kodak Co.), and Franz Wright (Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC) are also on this year’s cabinet with many heading specific committees or bringing experience from prior campaigns.

Tennant and Schnittman will use their many years of experience to lead the individual solicitations portion of the campaign, with hopes of recruiting many to help with calling past and potential donors.

McElheny, O’Brien, and Munian will focus on high givers and related efforts.

Falk will head up the Law Firm Challenge initiative this year, targeted at attorneys under 40 years old.

Tranelli and Bascoe will lead the initiative to solicit vendors within the legal community — ranging from commercial landlords to janitorial services to technology support.

Novak will head the CFJ effort to educate and solicit law firms that have recently opened or have no prior CFJ giving history.

A Justice Society reception will be planned to recognize donors next March, and Carla Palumbo is awaiting a response from a probable co-chair in making those plans.

Setting the goal

Looking into the crystal ball is never easy. The demand for civil legal services in the region continues to exceed the resources, but with all three CFJ beneficiaries in the same building (Telesca Center for Justice) they have become more efficient and agile in responding to the community’s legal needs.

After discussion among cabinet members, $270,000 was agreed upon for the 2017 goal.

Launch date

Since the days of assembling a team of callers in one location to flip through paper donor files has now fallen by the wayside and been replaced with the simplicity of volunteers using an online donor list that can be updated in real time, the campaign launch is preceded by a social/educational reception called CELEBRATE CFJ!

That reception will be held Nov. 14 at the Telesca Center for Justice. In addition to technical demos of how the donor database is accessed and updated, the pre-solicitation event offers refreshments and paper scripts that might help someone new to making these fundraising calls.

Nov. 15 is the official “start calling” date — with volunteers fitting in calls during the day, lunch, evening — whenever time allows, and via their own office, cell, or home phone, so “caller ID” helps them get a connection.

“Our database has 2,200 names to be called on November 15,” explained Gaddis. “Many do not have a history of giving to the campaign, but often that is because they don’t know enough about VLSP, Legal Aid and LawNY legal services programs. At the CELEBRATE CFJ! event on November 14, we provide brief summaries about our organizations so volunteers can easily explain the campaign’s purpose when making calls to potential donors.”

Nora A. Jones is a Rochester-area freelance writer.