Community Impact: McGuireWoods Makes a Difference

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Bryan Brantley Ensures Pittsburgh Kids Soar

McGuireWoods Pittsburgh partner Bryan Brantley grew up attending Boys & Girls Clubs in Youngstown, Ohio. He has witnessed the evolution of youth organizations from just a “place to go” after school to dynamic environments that stimulate learning and development for children. Today, Brantley plays a significant role with Pittsburgh’s National Aviary, which impacts kids through educational opportunities, and he serves his community through involvement in several youth organizations in the city.

Brantley certainly takes McGuireWoods’ “community” core value to heart. In 2014, he joined the board of the National Aviary, located on Pittsburgh’s North Side. As a nonprofit center working to protect birds and their habitats, the aviary promotes the importance of education to support its initiatives.

Brantley stressed the value of the National Aviary for kids within the community. “I thought it was an important jewel that the city had that a lot of people didn’t know about,” he said. “What drew me to it is the fact it was on the North Side, but also their outreach. They do a lot for the inner-city schools, showing career choices to the kids who would not have the opportunity otherwise.”

In addition to its array of preservation resources, the aviary provides educational opportunities for kids in the area. “There is something therapeutic for kids about having these interactions with the animals,” Brantley said. “That’s a main draw for me and I think it is a very important institution to continue to support.”

Brantley also volunteers at other organizations that support underprivileged children in the Pittsburgh area. He has been involved with the Sarah Heinz House Boys & Girls Club since 2013. The Heinz House, also on Pittsburgh’s North Side, provides after-school care and summer activities that promote education and fitness for youth development.

And Brantley supports the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh’s “Y Achievers” program, which aims to “expose youth to career and college knowledge through the lens of professionals who look like them.”

Noted Brantley: “These kids are really special and these programs offer a safe place for them to be off the streets in a place where people care about them. We’re trying to make sure that everything we expose them to helps them toward their future. That’s the biggest thing.”

McGuireWoods’ Jen Stearman Has a Lot of Heart

Inspired by a loved one who suffered a heart attack, McGuireWoods Baltimore partner Jen Stearman has long worked to promote cardiac health. “Being touched personally really inspired me to focus on making a difference by promoting heart health,” she explained.

Stearman is a longtime volunteer with the American Heart Association’s Mid-Atlantic affiliate, which hosts marquee annual events including the Heart Walk fundraiser and the Go Red for Women campaign. She has served on the executive leadership team for the Heart Walk fundraiser and currently serves on the executive leadership team for the Go Red for Women campaign, which raises money for women’s heart health awareness, and Stearman chaired its 2016 campaign.

“The symptoms for heart health in women are different than men, so in addition to raising money, the events provide a huge education component,” she said, noting McGuireWoods also has been involved with the cause. “I was amazed by the support from McGuireWoods, not just from the Baltimore office but firmwide. Many people reached out who had been affected by heart disease in some way and shared their personal stories.”

Stearman also serves on the board of visitors of the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. She chaired the board for several years and she led several successful fundraising initiatives focused on pediatric cardiology, including a campaign to support a new pediatric cardiac catheterization hybrid lab and, most recently, a new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the hospital.

“It’s heart-warming to see the children who benefit from the new NICU,” Stearman said. “To hear the stories of the beneficiaries of your work is priceless.”

Just the Beginning Pipeline Programs Support Local and Legal Communities

McGuireWoods Richmond partner Jackie Stone is a champion for diversity and inclusion and a peerless mentor. As a D&I advocate in the legal profession for decades, she promotes increased representation of lawyers of color, women and LGBTQ lawyers as a key component to delivering exceptional client service. She created and chaired the firm’s D&I Committee and was instrumental in developing family leave and flex-time initiatives.

Stone’s contributions also make a difference in local communities. For years, she has worked with, and is a board member of, Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization, which develops pipeline programs to inspire and foster careers in the law among students of color and other underrepresented groups.

The long-term mission of Just the Beginning is to build a legal environment that includes minorities in legal positions that reflect the diverse population. “It’s important for the judiciary and the legal representatives to be more reflective of the people who are going through the system,” Stone explained. “The way to do that is to get more diversity in law schools and law firms and create that whole pipeline process.”

Just the Beginning provides a range of resources and development for students — from middle school to law school — to build a foundation of skills needed for successful careers in the legal field. One of the organization’s most successful initiatives is the Share the Wealth Judicial Law Clerk Program, a referral program run by federal judges that provides law students and graduates opportunities to interview with multiple judges at one time for federal judicial clerkships. Many of the law students who have benefited from this program have gone on to work at McGuireWoods.

It Takes a Village to Help the Homeless

McGuireWoods Jacksonville partner and pro bono coordinator Chris Thanner has left an indelible imprint on his community through his work with the Sulzbacher Center, Northeast Florida’s largest provider of comprehensive services for homeless men, women and children.

Thanner led a team providing pro bono real estate counsel to assist the center in building Sulzbacher Village, a new community for disadvantaged women and families in Jacksonville. The Village, which opened in May 2018, houses 350 family members and provides free health services to residents of the Village and members of the surrounding community. Under Thanner’s leadership, the McGuireWoods team formed new entities and arranged public financing under a complex tax credit structure, among other initiatives.

Thanner credits those who assist with the day-to-day operations of the center for its success. “The people involved with the Sulzbacher Center are wholly invested in helping the community and they have made significant headway over the years serving the homeless population in Jacksonville,” he said.

“Serving folks who, through no particular fault of their own, have found themselves in dire circumstances is heartening to see,” he said. “The Village serves an important purpose by helping people to get the ground back underneath them and stabilize their lives.”