Reed Smith's Pro Bono Legal Services Recognized at 2017 GHC Gala
The following article appeared in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on April 24, 2017.
Since 1898, Gads Hill Center (GHC) has helped low-income, immigrant and other families build better lives.
With early childhood education centers, after-school and in-home educational programs for children, mentoring for middle schoolers, STEM after-school programs for high schoolers and education, job and health-related help for adults, the nonprofit organization based at 1919 W. Cullerton St. serves more than 4,000 children and their families in Chicago's West and Southwest Sides.
Now, thanks in part to some help from attorneys at Reed Smith LLP's Chicago office, the organization is expanding into another early childhood education center in Brighton Park.
On Thursday April 20th, Gads Hill Center recognized Reed Smith at its annual Gala at the Lacuna Artist Lofts in Pilsen.
Beverly A. Wyckoff, board president of Gads Hill Center, said the nonprofit may have had to abandon its plans to open the Brighton Park facility without the hundreds of hours of pro bono real estate work it received.
"If it were not for Reed Smith, if it weren't, in particular, for Cynthia Jared, who really raised her hand and volunteered to help us out, I don't think we could have done this," said Wyckoff, who is vice president and associate counsel of global regulatory affairs at Dover Corp.
With the help of a $2.5 million grant from the state, Gads Hill Center leaders found an old discount store property at 4255 S. Archer Ave. in Brighton Park. Located near the Nos. 52 and 62 CTA bus routes, they saw it as an ideal space to convert into an early childhood education center.
The site that will host center-based child programs is on the same block as a satellite office space for Gads Hill Center's home visiting early childhood education program.
But there were surprises, according to one Reed Smith partner who sits on the Gads Hill Center board.
"It turned out to be actually much more complicated than we expected," Mark S. Hersh said. Hersh, treasurer for Gads Hill Center, said the description of the building was "a little off," including a wall where one wasn't expected.
Although Gads Hill Center CEO Maricela García said about 80 percent of Gads Hill Center's board of directors are lawyers, none had real estate backgrounds. Hersh turned to Reed Smith partner Cynthia Jared and the rest of the firm's real estate group asking them if they could pitch in pro bono.
As more and more tricky legal hurdles arose - land title issues, difficult negotiations, the removal process of a building tenant - Wyckoff said the Reed Smith volunteers remained "unflinching."
"They answered silly, quick questions, crazy questions, panicked questions," Wyckoff said. "You could not have had better client counseling experience than we had."
The property is now purchased and Gads Hill Center is considering construction bids, Wyckoff said. Renovations are expected to begin this summer or fall.
Once open, the center is expected to serve 124 infants, toddlers and preschoolers from the mixed residential and industrial neighborhood from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to accommodate working families, García said.
Wyckoff said Brighton Park is one of the most underserved communities in the state in terms of early childhood education and support services for children from low-income families.
García said the Reed Smith attorneys' guidance was essential to making the right decisions and allowed the nonprofit to put the money it would have spent on legal help directly into the program.
"This recognition, this award that we're giving, attests to the importance of law firms and lawyers individually to make greater efforts to serve nonprofit organizations whose mission is to improve the lives of society, especially those that need opportunities for better chances at life," García said.