The Academy participants with Meg Daly, Founder of Friends of the Underline

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.

This past Wednesday evening, the summer associates and several other Bilzin Sumberg employees volunteered to serve meals at the Chapman Partnership‘s Miami Homeless Assistance Center. It was a rewarding and meaningful experience for all in attendance. Chapman Partnership seeks to empower homeless men, women, and children to build a positive future by providing the resources and assistance critical to growth and independence.

Chapman Partnership operates two Homeless Assistance Centers with 800 beds located in Miami and Homestead. The organization provides a comprehensive support program that includes emergency housing, meals, health, dental and psychiatric care, day care, job training, job placement, and assistance with securing stable housing. Since 1995, Chapman Partnership has had more than 98,000 admissions, including 20,000 children in Miami-Dade County, and a 63% success rate of moving people from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

The Bilzin Sumberg volunteers proved to be a fantastic team outside of the office as well. Several volunteers formed an assembly line behind the cafeteria counter and put together dinner trays containing chicken, mashed potatoes, bread, corn, and dessert. Other volunteers served these trays.  According to Rafael Ribeiro, a Partner in Bilzin Sumberg’s Litigation Group, Jerry Goldsmith was the “MVP of the night” because he “kept the supply lines open and took an undue amount of abuse from all of us!”

Nadia Kruler, an associate in Bilzin Sumberg’s Tax Group,  arranged for Bilzin to participate in the volunteer opportunity. Nadia first became involved with Chapman Partnership in 2011 when a colleague and close friend invited her to volunteer at a meal service. Nadia continued volunteering at events and shortly thereafter joined the Nextgen Council. Nextgen is a group of young professionals that works to increase awareness, revenue, and advocacy for Chapman Partnership. Nadia now serves as the Vice Chair of Service and Advocacy for Nextgen.

IMG_0959

Rafael Ribeiro and Marty Steinberg.

IMG_0960

Bilzin Sumberg Cares.

IMG_0962

Scott Baena and Leah Aaronson.

IMG_0963

Moshe Zaghi and Nadia Kruler.

IMG_0964

From Left to Right: Jared Spector, David De La Flor, Michael Levine and Rafael Ribeiro.

IMG_0967

The Bilzin Sumberg volunteers after the meal service.