DLA Piper has strong roots in Silicon Valley, where its predecessor firm Ware & Freidenrich was founded in the 1960s. Today, DLA Piper is one of the three largest law firms in the world with more than 80 offices across the United States and in more than 30 countries. Still, the firm continues its decades-long relationship with the Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP), which provides direct services to families and individuals in need in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and surrounding communities.
DLA Piper’s local offices in East Palo Alto are on University Avenue near the intersection of the 101 Freeway. The firm’s relationship with EHP began in the mid-1980s, when Nevida Butler, then executive director of EHP, recruited the help of Tom French, a former partner at DLA Piper in East Palo Alto. Tom and a then young real estate lawyer who had just joined the firm, Jim Anderson, are among many at DLA Piper who have helped EHP grow from a food pantry into the substantial nonprofit it is today. EHP is the largest direct food provider to families in need in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
Tom French was the first of many DLA Piper attorneys who have served on the EHP Board of Directors. Tom served two terms as Chair of the EHP Board of Directors and was instrumental in forming the Friends of EHP, an advisory board-like body comprised of former EHP board members, volunteers, donors and representatives of corporate sponsors like DLA Piper.
Jim Anderson, who has also served twice as Chair of the EHP Board of Directors, currently serves as Vice Chair in his fourth term on the board. He and the other board members help provide financial and operational oversight, ensure adequate resources and raise funds to enable EHP to fulfill its mission.
Jim’s experience in real estate law was also instrumental in helping EHP grow from its first offices in a church to a four-building campus on Pulgas Road in East Palo Alto that it owns (debt free) today.
DLA Piper, through its non-profit affiliate, New Perimeter, is at the forefront in the legal industry and business community in providing assistance to charitable organizations and academic institutions. Every lawyer across the firm is encouraged to make a serious and sustained effort to provide pro bono work and contribute to the community. In 2014, the firm devoted more than 200,000 hours to pro bono initiatives, which makes DLA Piper one of the world’s largest providers of pro bono services.
EHP has maintained its “grass roots” by continuing to provide personal and customized services to individuals and families in the region. Similarly, the lawyers and professionals at DLA Piper don’t just play an advisory role to EHP; they are involved at the grass-roots and the local level.
This year, the firm will have over 25 volunteers assisting with EHP’s holiday distributions and those who work at the firm have personally contributed more than $10,000 to the holiday drive. Their donations over the years have included hundreds of toys, gift cards, clothing, food items and even cars for families in need. The firm is also a leading fundraiser for EHP, sponsoring the annual Steppin’ Out Event.
Jim Anderson of DLA Piper summed up the firm’s commitment to the local nonprofit, “EHP provides both myself and our local office with the opportunity to connect with the broader community in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and surrounding areas. The firm’s volunteer opportunities at EHP help contribute to the local community – and to team building. We love supporting EHP with our food drives and fundraisers because we know the food, clothes, household goods and funds that we raise go directly to those in our community that need some help.”
Coldwell Banker in Palo Alto (630 Ramona St) joins our list of partners to be an EHP food collection site this holiday season. We are grateful to Realtor Jane Theresa Jones (CalBRE#1847801) for leading this project in her office. We invite you to visit their Coldwell location to donate non-perishable food items, and also speak to Jane about your real estate needs. For a complete list of food and gift items that EHP is seeking for holiday distribution please visit, www.ehpcares.org/holiday-and-special-programs .
EHP would like to give a sincere thank you to Grocery Outlet in Palo Alto (3445 Alma St) for responding to our call to action to help stock our Thanksgiving food boxes. Their donation of large quantities of mac & cheese, yams, and milk were much appreciated.
And thank you to everyone who donated and volunteered with EHP to feed families for Thanksgiving!
We have moved our Community Closet to the warehouse and expanded our Food Closet. Staff and Volunteers have had to make countless trips back and forth from the warehouse to the program building in order to serve our families in need. The overflow food, clothing and household items were all stored in the warehouse so when we ran out of an item, someone had to make a trip across the parking lot to bring more items to the program building where the services were being performed.
With the changes, all of the food will be in the program building (and Jan. our new freezer will be on the program side as well!!) and all of the clothing and houseware will be in the warehouse where they are received as donations. This enables the volunteers and staff to unload and sort donations and then filter them to the correct departments in the warehouse instead of across the parking lot.
The time we are saving from having to make trips back and forth is going directly to our families so that we can better tend to their needs.
Petra, mother of 4, is currently enrolled in the EHP Women’s Support Group. This is her story.
I came to EHP in 2003 after my husband was incarcerated and I was left with no way to support my children. My life has not been an easy one and it just seems like it is one problem followed by another. Not only have I been dealing with constant financial problems but recently, I have also had to deal with death and illness in my family. I became the guardian of my niece’s child who tragically passed away from SIDS on May 5, 2014. My father, whom I took care of after he suffered 2 strokes, passed on August 7, 2014. And my beloved mother was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma. In addition to all of this, I am a diabetic, suffer with depression and have to take medication for both.
I am no stranger to the stress that illness can bring. My 9 year old son, Joshua, was diagnosed with a genetically based disease at a young age. On his worst days, he can suffer over 13 seizures and the doctors can only do so much for him. He has suffered brain damage that continues to get worse with each seizure. He isn’t expected to live past his next birthday. I am devastated by life but I am trying to hold myself together for the sake of my other children.
Although it saddens me to know that I don’t have the support of my brothers, I do have amazing friends which include the staff at EHP. I call EHP whenever I feel lost and speak to a Case Manager or Lesia, the Executive Director. They always have the door open for me and I don’t know what I would do without their support. My family’s income is limited as I receive Social Security Disability and my husband’s part-time income when he can find work. EHP is a lifesaver providing the things that we need to live. My kids were only able to get their back to school supplies and clothes because of EHP’s help. I truly don’t know what I would do if EHP wasn’t in my life.
My son is now at the Stanford Children’s hospital. It is only a matter of time before he passes. I come to EHP often these days because seeing my son at the hospital is very painful for me. In October of 2014, doctors found a tumor in my brain. I have undergone chemo therapy and I just received news that there is a tumor spreading in my throat. I feel as though I am going to break down any day now, but with the constant support from my friends and EHP I know I can survive this.
Some people know Sandy Barker as a past EHP Board Member, but for many, he will always be the “people’s architect”. In 1999, Bob Cool, a past Board Member, reached out to Sandy Barker who was his office neighbor at the time, to request assistance with finding a new location that will house the programs and operations. Sandy’s company, Barker Wagoner Architects (formally Barker Associates, Architects), had experience working with nonprofits and believed working closely with clients to understand their needs and desires in order to design a space to fit the needs. Over 80% of Sandy Barker and Barker Wagoner Architects projects include projects with senior communities, health clinics, environmental agencies and social service agencies like the Ecumenical Hunger Program.
Barker Wagoner Architects became an integral part in EHP’s growth. Sandy worked closely with the past Executive Director, Nevida Butler, to understand the needs of EHP and ensured that EHP was able to utilize the space to accomplish its goals and mission. Once EHP was ready to move from Whiskey Gulch, currently known as University Circle, Sandy and Barker Wagoner Architects assisted with design of the new spaces on Bay Road and University. Sandy continued to reevaluate the space and develop space designs that would sustain during EHP’s growth; however, the buildings became more difficult to renovate and the program quickly outgrown the new spaces.
Bob Russell, a past Board Member called on Sandy Barker again in 2002 to assist EHP evaluating and designing the space to fit EHP at Pulgas Avenue. EHP moved to Pulgas Avenue, the current campus, formerly a social club, Barbeque Shack and drilling company. Sandy, along with Staff and Board Members worked diligently to transform the campus into a space that was usable for program operations including upgrading the warehouse. Initially, the services were housed in the Program Building and focused primarily on food and clothing. As the programs were grew the warehouse filled up with donated furniture and was used by clients, staff and volunteers.
After serving as the Architect, EHP asked Sandy Barker to join the Board in 2002 because his understanding of the program and operations and his work with building and EPA planning. Sandy came to the Board with a profound understanding of EHP’s program and needs because of his previous work with EHP and the strong rapport he built with staff. He served for 7 years providing insight on facilities and aided Nevida in nonprofit relations. Barker Wagoner Architects donated over $35, 000 worth of service time while on the Board including assisted Rebuilding Together with a Warehouse remodel and Habitat for Humanity with re-building the Sunset house.
In 2014, EHP called on Sandy once again. EHP was looking to remodel the Activity Room to include a bathroom, kitchenette and storage space to meet the needs of our community collaborators who utilized the space as well as come up with new Master Plan for the campus. Sandy Barker designed the addition and with the assistance of Vance Brown Builders and donors funding, the Activity Room is now finished. However, there is still work to be done with warehouse and space.
Sandy Barker has a historical perspective of EHP and EHP’s growth as well as being able to understand the new direction of the city planning department is taking. As East Palo Alto is looking to improve the image of the city, modernizing the area, Sandy is planning on assisting EHP with doing the same. Sandy believes that by creating a unified space, EHP will be an important space to build community and to build upon the services. EHP has currently outgrown the space as it is today, but like Sandy, everyone is envisioning a new campus with services that will not only help families sustain, but to educate them and help them to create a better future.
I have been for volunteering for almost 4 years. Initially, I began volunteering in the appointment closet with a fellow volunteer and friend, and more recently switched to working in the warehouse in the donation organization and distribution for the appointment closet.
When I began in the early days, I wanted to do something that would mean something to me in a way I felt that I could give back to my community. What I didn't expect is how deeply my work affected so many different communities and how much my heart would fill with joy doing such work. I have also been able to buff up on a bit of Spanish along the way.
EHP does a wonderful job of servicing so many people be it with food, clothing, kitchen items, bedding, furniture and even wedding dresses! It’s all due to the wonderfully generous donors in our community offering their time and talents, and their donated items for distribution.
I look very forward to the upcoming improvements to the warehouse and appointment closet to make our work run more efficiently and smoothly. We have outgrown our current space and desperately need our new building that is soon to break ground.
The full-time staff works harder than I have seen anywhere else I have worked. We all just cannot work fast enough to keep up with the demand. I am happy that we can do the little we can to make a difference in so many lives, which include our own.
As an experiment, I started in the Fall of 2014 to offer pro bono legal services to EHP clients. I knew there were already two very fine (and very busy) nonprofit legal groups with offices in East Palo Alto. But I often heard concerns expressed by EHP staff that clients sometimes reported difficulty in getting appointments, that the agencies didn’t handle the types of problems that required attention, or that there was sometimes little or no follow-up action. So, I decided to hang out my shingle at EHP one day a month to see what happened.
And guess what? Clients came. And they have kept on coming. Their legal needs fall into almost every conceivable category of life itself: landlord-tenant issues, credit problems, insurance claims, worker’s compensation, immigration, inheritance, conservatorships, child custody, pension rights, employment terminations, DMV issues, neighbor disputes and criminal matters.
I knew immediately that, despite having practiced law in California since 1971, I was in no way qualified to do immigration work. So I got to know Ilyce Shugall, the senior immigration lawyer at Community Legal Services, and arranged to refer all immigration cases directly to her. Ilyce and CLS have been great partners to EHP. Ilyce even volunteered to come to EHP and give programs for clients that are focused just on immigration issues. This has proved to be extremely useful to our clients.
I felt the same about criminal law matters: not a place for an amateur like me to be practicing law. And besides, the Public Defender system that California offers is one of the best in the country.
I’ve enjoyed my work at EHP immensely. I’ve been impressed how well-prepared the clients have been, and well they have kept records and documented their situation carefully.
In some cases, I am able to steer a client to a specialist by immediately calling and setting up an appointment. An example: a client who had permanently lost vision in one eye two years earlier from a job-related injury. The client had never been told by his employer, a well-known and long-established tree service on the Peninsula, that employee injuries on the job are covered by workers compensation laws that guarantee injury compensation, regardless of whether an employee might have been partly at fault. He had worked there five years. I was able to set up an appointment for the next day with a workers compensation lawyer who is now pursuing the case. I suspect that the employer, who offered cash payments of a few hundred dollars for a few months and then stopped, did not want to have a claim made against its workers compensation insurance, which could trigger an increase in premiums. What a terrible outrage, though, that the employee was not even told by his employer that workers compensation exists, is not fault-based, and that good lawyers are available to take cases on a contingent fee basis (i.e., no payment for fees out-of-pocket).
Other cases may require a little telephone follow-up, or even occasionally a letter. It’s amazing how differently a party reacts when a lawyer calls or writes. The client’s interests become suddenly important. That’s unfortunate, but, sadly, this is the raw truth of life, especially for the destitute poor, the working poor, the elderly and those whose first language is not English. Lawyers can be a catalyst for problem-solving, and surprisingly often it doesn’t require threatening action.
A few cases that will always get to me that, although involving a legal issue or two, more importantly involve a need to help the client build self-confidence, and a collaboration with the client about a little creativity in devising ways to deal effectively with difficult people. And sometimes, it just using common sense that is required, not legal muscle or knowledge, to help find a solution. I’ve found that all clients have common sense, but I also find that fear of the uncertainty takes over, and their common sense shuts down. It happens to all of us.
My shingle is usually out at EHP on the first Wednesday of each month, first-come, first-served. I’m in the building which has a nice conference room and was once home to the legendary Uncle Frank’s BBQ, one of my favorite eateries in East Palo Alto (sadly, Uncle Frank’s moved to Mountain View briefly, but shortly thereafter it closed).
Two lawyer-friends of mine have expressed interest in coming to volunteer, too, so I’m going to explore whether there is sufficient demand for more lawyers. We’ll see.
Editor’s note: Tom started volunteering with EHP in 1985. He eventually joined our Board of Directors and served two terms. Then he was instrumental in forming the Friends of EHP, an advisory board-like body that is comprised of former EHP Board members, EHP volunteers, EHP donors and representatives of EHP corporate sponsors like Facebook, DLA Piper LLC and Google. Tom is a business lawyer in the Menlo Park law firm of Seubert French Frimel & Warner LLP, and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellen Miller Chang was born in Pomona, CA on March 12, 1920 and passed away peacefully at her home in Lewiston, Idaho on January 31, 2015.
Wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, teacher, Ellen made a positive impact on many lives. Throughout her childhood, she and her family often helped newcomers to California who were struggling for food and lodging. She was always very active in her churches and their charity work. She also worked tirelessly for the Ecumenical Hunger Project for East Palo Alto, CA. Her favorite exercise was always tennis and she made many friends on the court.
Ellen married her college sweetheart, Alvin Chang, in 1944. The couple raised three children. The young family spent the early years in Hawaii, near Alvin’s family. They moved to California in 1959 where they made many lifelong friendships before retiring to Lewiston, Idaho in 1985.
She is survived and will be greatly missed by her sons, Curtis and Kenneth; daughter, Joyce; grandchildren, Jennifer, Robin, Aaron, Randall and Kyle; great-grandchildren, Ariana, Myra and George; many cousins, nieces, nephews and wonderful friends in Hawaii, California, Idaho and the far-reaches. Ellen was preceded in death by her husband Alvin, her parents Pearl & Simeon, her brothers SB and Clark, her sister Alice and her daughter-in-law Paula.
Ellen’s family would like to thank her many caregivers for their warmth and loving care. We are so grateful for their thoughtful efforts.
Her funeral service was celebrated Saturday, February 7th. Donations will be made in Ellen’s honor to EHP.
EHP Volunteers will be Honored at the Volunteer Recognition Luncheon Hosted by the Junior League of San Jose
Congratulations to our volunteers Mary Bourquin and Opal Harper! They have been chosen as an outstanding community volunteer, and will be recognized with a Certificate of Appreciation the 46th Annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon (VRL) hosted by the Junior League of San Jose.
We are grateful for their dedication to EHP. They have been committed to EHP for many years and are still very active on campus.
The VRL Luncheon will be held on Friday, April 24, 2015 at Villa Ragusa in downtown Campbell. This event, attended by more than 500 community members and dignitaries, promotes voluntarism and recognizes individuals who have generously given their time, energy and skills to help others. At the luncheon they will receive a Certificate of Appreciation and be recognized alongside other outstanding community volunteers.
EHP CARES and so do our volunteers!
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