Harness Dickey staff brings cheer to the needy


Staff members at Harness Dickey participate in food drives, charity fund-raisers and Adopt-A-Family programs year-round but especially during the holidays.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Lighthouse of Oakland County is a beacon of hope for families in need — and staff members at the law firm of Harness Dickey (HDP) in Troy help keep that light aflame by participating in the Holiday Adopt-a-Family Program, now in its 23rd year.  The firm joins about 1,000 individual donors, businesses, schools and churches, in “adopting” more than 400 families, 1,500 children and 150 seniors. Lighthouse continues to help year-round, thanks to contributions to its Good Neighbor Fund.

Matthew Szalach, a principal at HDP, is a member of the Board of Trustees for Lighthouse Emergency Services.

“I know first-hand how much donations from businesses mean and I’m proud of my firm for continuing to support and encourage people to participate in these events,” he says. “I’m fortunate to work with people who think of others both at the holidays and throughout the year.”

Harness Dickey staff also adopts families through HAVEN of Oakland County, a nonprofit organization for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; and other families are chosen for “adoption” by the Troy Police Department with input from local schools and churches.

“Our firm has been adopting families for the holidays since 2007,” says HR Director Janet Shackelton. “We’ve also had food drives for Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest each year during the holiday season. This year, volunteers went to Forgotten Harvest to assist with packing the food into boxes. And for the past two years, we’ve participated in dressing dolls for the Goodfellows program.”

HDP staff members Diane Toma and Cindy McCarthy organize and coordinate the gifts provided for families at Christmas. A committee not only finds worthy charities to support, including Guardians for Animals, but also seeks out volunteer opportunities — such as workdays at Habitat for Humanity.

The firm’s “Casual Day” donations raise money year-round.

“Our Casual Day Committee chooses where we donate,” says legal assistant Patty Reynolds. “We try to have a variety — nonprofits for kids, animals, local charities, or something that relate to an illness or situation an HDP employee may be going through, as we feel employees have a connection and may be sparked to donate. I really love volunteering because we’re given so much and are very fortunate, and I believe we should pay it forward and help as we are able.”

Legal assistant Christine Trinh is pleased at the level of participation.

“The commitment to supporting our community and generally thinking of others is one of the things that makes HDP a great place to work,” she says. “Most of us who sign up to buy something for a holiday family end up going over our budget because we don’t want to just do the bare minimum — we really want to make it special. I’m the kind of person who’s inclined to stick stuff in a bag with some tissue paper and call it good, but for the holiday families, I put a real effort into making the wrapped presents look nice because I think the festivity and excitement of a pretty package is part of what we’re giving the families.”

For Trinh, the motivation to volunteer comes easily.

“I feel a little like it’s my turn,” she says. “My family needed help when I was growing up and someone always stepped in at the right time. I wouldn’t be able to help anyone else now if someone — really, a whole series of ‘someones’ — hadn’t done the same for me when I needed it.”

Helping others is infectious, Trinh notes.

“When one person sets an example by volunteering or contributing, others follow,” she says. “I think most people are basically good-hearted and want to help others, but just aren’t specifically looking for opportunities to do so because they get bogged down in the daily grind. But if an opportunity presents itself, they are more than willing to jump in.” 

Since HDP is committed to creating opportunities to help others, it fosters a community-oriented mindset among the employees, she adds. 

“A number of friends and co-workers have come with me on various volunteer adventures — including HDP-sponsored events — and now we always sign up for the HDP volunteer days and often participate in other volunteer events I hear about in the community.”

Volunteer efforts will continue to be an important aspect of the firm’s mission, says Steve Olson, a managing principal with HDP. 

“We’ve been blessed with an outstanding group of people,” he says. “Our charitable efforts have clearly made a difference not only in the community, but to also strengthen relationships between our employees.”