It’s hard to believe, but we’re now more than halfway through the Academy. We began the day by visiting with Oksana Esberard, who led us in our second mindfulness session. Scott Baena and Jessica Buchsbaum joined us for this “heartful” session, in which Oksana directed us to close our eyes, lean back in our chairs, spread our arms, and focus on our hearts. While we did breathing exercises, Oksana encouraged us to think about all the things that we felt grateful for in our lives.
My thoughts turned to my family and friends of course, but also to the present moment. I felt lucky to be part of an organization that takes wellness seriously and gives each first year associate the tools needed to become successful young attorneys. It was a powerful experience, and it’s an exercise I plan to do again on my own. I left the session with a tremendous feeling of gratitude.
In the afternoon we visited Lotus House, a nonprofit homeless shelter dedicated to improving the lives of homeless women, youth and children. Lotus House shelters approximately one quarter of the sheltered homeless population in Miami-Dade County, but receives little public funding. As a result, support from the community is of paramount importance.
Program Director Isabella Dell’Oca gave us a tour of Lotus House’s new building, which was completed in December 2017. The new facility can house over 400 individuals and includes a play zone for children, a full kitchen, a beauty salon, a second-floor garden, and an educational area. Before we left we had the pleasure of meeting the founder and president of Lotus House, Constance Collins, in a section of the building that Bilzin Sumberg sponsored. We were proud to learn that Bilzin Sumberg had played a role in Lotus House’s successful move to the new building. Before heading back to the office we had lunch together and reflected on the impact that one person with a big idea can have on the community.
Back at the office we met with Meg Daly, the founder and president of Friends of the Underline. After falling and breaking both of her arms, she was riding the Metrorail to physical therapy a few years ago when she noticed the unused space underneath the train tracks. That was how she got her big idea: the Underline, a proposed 10-mile linear park running under the Metrorail line from the Miami River to Dadeland. Once completed, the Underline will incorporate a wide variety of amenities and activities, including recreation areas, dog parks, dining and gaming tables, and artist spaces. Meg helped us understand her vision for the Underline and the positive impact it will have on the community, while Land Use associate Carly Grimm explained some unique zoning issues that are presented by such an ambitious project.
At the end of the day we spoke with Scott. He challenged each of us to think about what we could do to give back to the community and to help those around us. Fortunately, the Academy continues to provide excellent examples for us.