There were a lot of lawyers MIA on Friday, June 10. Nearly a thousand to be exact. The cause for non-billing hours was the Attorneys Serving the Community annual luncheon at the Hilton Anatole benefiting Dallas CASA. It was a remarkable gathering thanks especially to keynote speaker Steve Pemberton, who not only understood the need for Dallas CASA but rose above his childhood of neglect to become vice president of Walgreens and an author. Evidently Half-Price Books brought 100 of Steve’s books to sell. Evidently they wished they had brought more. The line to get Steve’s autograph lasted more than an hour after the luncheon.
Another moving talk was provided by Honorary Chair/Dallas CASA Board Member Cynt Marshall. Here is a report from the field, and remember that Dallas CASA is on a campaign for volunteers:
Walgreens VP Steve Pemberton told attendees at Attorneys Serving the Community (ASC) luncheon benefiting Dallas CASA on Friday, June 10, that despite his childhood of abuse, neglect and deprivation, he always knew he had the power in him to rise above. He just needed one person to believe in him.
“If the headlines bother you, give from wherever you are with whatever you have,” Steve said. “I’m one small example of what’s possible when you give somebody a chance in the world.”
Held at the Hilton Anatole Dallas with 900 seats, the luncheon was the culminating event of a year of fundraising by ASC for Dallas CASA. The group had raised more than $300,000 for Dallas CASA, which recruits, trains and supervises community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children.
Steve’s official title is Vice-President, Diversity and Inclusion and Global Chief Diversity Officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, the first global pharmacy-led, health and well-being enterprise in the world, employing 370,000 people in 25 countries. Now a father of three, Steve admitted that finding a place for an African-American boy with no home, blue eyes, a blonde Afro and a Polish last name in working class Boston was a challenge. He named his autobiography “A Chance in the World” after a social service workers’ note in his file that “this child doesn’t have a chance in the world.” Ultimately, Steve created his own chances, finding success despite his circumstances.
“I inherited a tragedy I didn’t ask for or create, but nobody could stop me from changing it,” Steve said. “I was always looking out for that someone who would not see me as dumb, ugly or broken beyond repair. I was told ‘No’ a lot, but ultimately I was told ‘Yes’ more.”
For many abused and neglected children, a CASA volunteer is the one caring, constant adult who can make a critical difference in their lives and says “Yes.”
ASC annually chooses a beneficiary for a year of fundraising support. Events during the year include a silent auction and a 5K race, with the luncheon serving as the final event. ASC Chairs for 2015-16 were Cortland Kelly Grynwald and Kara Altenbaumer-Price. Mistress of ceremonies was Gloria Campos, and the ASC Friend of the Community Award was given to The Margulies Group. Honorary chair was AT&T Senior VP and a Dallas CASA Board Member Cynt Marshall, who shared with the crowd her own experience with children living in foster care.
Cynt told the crowd about a nine-month-old baby abandoned with his nine-year-old brother for two months. With only a toaster oven to keep them warm, the older boy foraged for food and kept his baby brother alive for two months. She also told about a 12-year-old girl forced to eat peanut butter and jelly alone in the pantry while the brothers in her birth family enjoyed turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving day. And she told about a baby girl, born premature, with medical needs and weighing less than two pounds, abandoned by her mother in the hospital.
“These are now my own children. We were blessed to adopt them with the help of lawyers, judges and… yes, CASA volunteers,” Cynt told the cheering crowd as she introduced her youngest daughter, who was left at San Francisco General Hospital and is a junior in college today. “These honeys were kept as safe as possible because of people like you.”
ACS events raised more than $300,000 in critically-needed funds to recruit and train volunteer advocates who gather information to help judges decide where abused and neglected children can live safely and permanently. On an average day in Dallas, more than 2,000 abused and neglected children live in foster care because they cannot safely live at home. Only about three out of five of those children have a Dallas CASA volunteer who can speak for them, but funds from ASC will allow Dallas CASA to recruit, train and supervise more volunteers to serve more children.
“Children in foster care are thrust into a bewildering world of strangers. CASA volunteers help them navigate this very grown-up process,” Cynt said. “Good things can always come out of bad things. Being a CASA is simply a matter of opening your heart.”
Individuals, retailers and manufacturers provided in-kind donations included Cornerstone BTI, D CEO Magazine, Half Price Books, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Judy Norsdeth Photograph, The Margulies Group, Mary Kay, McShan Florist Inc., Michaels Stores Inc., Platinum, TXU Energy and Texas Lawyer.
The following sponsors are underwriters:
- Presenting ($25,000) — The Members of Attorneys Serving the Community
- Crystal ($10,000) — Anonymous, Baron and Budd and Texas Lawyer
- Platinum ($5,000) — D CEO Magazine, Locke Lord LLP, The Marketing Connection, McKool Smith, ORIX Foundation, Sidley Austin LLP and TIER REIT
- Gold ($2,500) — Amy Stewart PC, AT&T, Baker Botts LLP, Cinemark Theatres, Farrow-Gillepsie and Heath LLP, Gray Reed and McGraw PC, Husch Blackwell, Jackson Walker LLP, JMO Firm PLLC, Khirallah PLLC, Lynn Pinker Cox and Hurst LLP, The McClure Law Group, Norton Rose Fullbright, Perkins Coie, Scheef and Stone LLP, Thompson and Knight Foundation and Winstead PC
- Silver ($2,000) — Andrews and Bath, PC/Angela Maverick, The BVA Group LLC, Carrington, Coleman, Sloman and Blumenthal, LLP, Counsel on Call, Dallas CASA Board Members, Dallas Women Lawyers Association, Haynes and Boone LLP, Holland and Knight LLP, HSSK, Littler Mendelson PC, Powell Coleman and Arndol LLP, Schwob Building Company LTD and Vinson and Elkins LLP
- Bronze ($1,750) — Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP, Bell Nunnally and Martin LLP, Bracewell LLP, Capital Financial Partners/Patte Lee, Cooper and Scully PC, Deloitte, DTI, Energy Future Holdings, Gibson Dunn, Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer LLP, Jackson Lewis PC, K and L Gates, Kilgore and Kilgore PLLC, LeBoeuf Law, PLLC/Spencer Scott PLLC, Legalpeople LLC – A LegalPartners Company, Lennox International, Marsh and McLennan Agency LLC/MHB, Munsch Hardt Kopf and Harr PC, Powell Coleman and Arnold LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Quilling Selander Lownds Winslett and Moser PC, Republic Title, Strasburger and Price LLP, UNT Dallas College of Law and Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelamn and Dicker LLP/Allied World
* Photos provided by Dallas CASA