There was a lot to celebrate on the evening of June 1, when nearly 200 members of the legal, nonprofit, and business communities gathered at the Boston office of Nixon Peabody to help Lawyers Clearinghouse honor Mike Fish, President and CEO of Dellbrook | JKS and recipient of the Clearinghouse’s Leadership Award.
The event marked the culmination of the most successful fundraising period in the Clearinghouse’s 28-year history. The organization raised $220,000 thanks to a dedicated Leadership Committee and the generosity of over 100 event sponsors, breezing past the previous record of $137,000 set in 2013.
This strong showing of support for Mike is a testament to his effective leadership in the affordable housing industry. Under his direction, Dellbrook | JKS has overseen the construction of numerous affordable housing properties throughout the Commonwealth.
Record-breaking fundraising wasn’t the only big news of the night. In his opening remarks, Board President George Mykulak announced that the Clearinghouse had also received a $100,000 grant from Cummings Foundation to support the expansion of the Massachusetts Legal Clinic for the Homeless, which connects pro bono attorneys with homeless and low-income individuals and families.
Legal services organizations continue to grapple with decreased funding, leaving them unable to assist everyone in need. Because the private bar is often called upon to fill the gaps, George ended with an appeal to the younger attorneys in attendance.
“As the next generation, I urge you to make a concerted effort to integrate pro bono and community service activities into your careers,” he said. “Your training and experience provides you with the unique ability to empower those who may be lost in the overwhelming legal and regulatory system.”
George’s remarks on pro bono service made for a fitting introduction to the next set of speakers: Martha Koster, co-founder of the Clearinghouse’s Access to Justice Fellows Program, which engages retired lawyers and judges in pro bono projects, and Aasif*, a client she met while volunteering with the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR).
Martha is currently working with a team of lawyers to help Aasif’s family obtain asylum and stay in the U.S. after they were terrorized by the Taliban in their home country of Afghanistan. Aasif initially tried to complete all of the necessary asylum paperwork on his own, but struggled to navigate the complex application process.
“I’m really thankful to [the lawyers] for fighting to help me,” Aasif said. “By myself I couldn’t do anything.”
Attendees then heard remarks from Guest Speaker Timothy Sullivan, Executive Director of MassHousing, who was introduced by event Co-chair Gilbert Winn, CEO of WinnCompanies.
Timothy spoke about MassHousing’s active role in creating and maintaining affordable housing in Massachusetts. He said that in partnership with Mike Fish and Dellbrook, MassHousing has built 2500 affordable housing units, and noted that Fish is following in the footsteps of his late father, construction icon Ed Fish.
“His father has left in him and his siblings a legacy of hard work and a real commitment to the value of doing something well,” Timothy said. “He’s building an impressive legacy as an essential player in the next generation of housers.”
Brief remarks were also given by event Co-chair Melissa Fish-Crane, Principle & COO of Peabody Properties, and by longtime friend of the Fish family and Mike’s godfather, William “Biff” MacClean.
Biff then presented Fish with the Clearinghouse’s Leadership Award, created to recognize key figures in the affordable housing, nonprofit, and legal communities.
In his acceptance speech, Mike remarked on the power of collaboration between these three communities.
“The people in this room, and the fact that it’s filled to the brim, is a tremendous example of what passionate, smart people coming together for a greater cause and a sense of community can really accomplish,” he said.
He concluded his speech by pointing out that, while those in attendance would go home at the end of the night, having a place of one’s own is a privilege still denied to many in the Commonwealth.
“The work will never end. The work will continue, and I’d like to thank you all for being a part of it,” he said.
Event Co-chair Matt Mittelstadt, Managing Director of EA Fish Development, provided the final remarks of the evening, thanking attendees, sponsors, and the Leadership Committee for their contributions to such a successful event.
The Clearinghouse would like to thank our sponsors and guests for supporting us and contributing to another successful event. Funds raised through the annual meeting will support our pro bono legal services and educational seminars for nonprofits, the Massachusetts Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and the Access to Justice Fellows Program.
*Client’s name has been changed.