Since 2001, ACREL members have participated in annual Public Service Projects during selected meetings. These events have allowed members to give back to the community, while fostering cooperation and camaraderie within the organization. The ACREL Charitable Foundation was formally established in 2002.
Some reports from past events:
Austin - 2017
In true ACRELing spirit, despite the rain, ACREL volunteers worked in the Community First Village, which builds homes and a community for the formerly homeless community of Austin. The work of our Fellows included laying pathways, harvesting gardens, tending the chicken coop, prepping micro-homes for new neighbors and general beautification of the property.
San Diego - 2016
ACREL volunteers "painted the town red" - or at least the house! - as they worked with Habitat for Humanity's Neighborhood Revitalization program in Imperial Beach, assisting local residents with exterior painting, landscaping and repairs.
Baltimore - 2015
ACREL Fellows spent an afternoon working at Art With A Heart in Baltimore, creating large-scale mosaic murals to be installed in local neighborhoods as one-of-a-kind public art pieces. They also helped cutting mirror, breaking tiles, making class samples and preparing community art stations.
Phoenix - 2015
Under the blazing sun, volunteers planted a variety of milkweed plants to attract butterflies at the Phoenix Zoo, ran irrigation to the plants, pulled weeds, and moved mountains of rocks in an effort to help re-establish monarch butterfly and other butterfly populations.
Boston - 2014
Volunteers worked with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy to enhance a natural area of the Back Bay Fens, part of Frederick Law Olmsted's 1878 creation of a chain of parks comprising 1100 acres, 7 miles long, near Boston's Fenway Park, Commonwealth Avenue and Park Drive.
Kauai – 2014
Volunteers traveled to the native Hawaiian Ahupua’a, a 1600 acre land and natural resource area on the north shore of Kauai, and partnered with the Kamehamea Schools, the Waipa Foundation and the ABA One Million Trees program in planting 20 Pohinahina trees.
Vancouver – 2013
At the Vancouver Food Bank, ACREL volunteers spent an afternoon in the warehouse, processing donations.
Chicago – 2012
At the Chicago Food Depository, 30 participants packed over 9 tons of potatoes!
Las Vegas – 2012
Working with Habitat for Humanity, 26 participants worked on framing and rolling trusses for a home under construction.
New Orleans - 2007-8
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, ACREL members made a substantial contribution, matched by the ACREL Charitable Foundation, to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to construct a second ACREL House. The wall-raising was held in October 2007, and the dedication of the house is scheduled for June 2008.
Seattle – Fall 2006
Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
Real Estate Lawyers Build For Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh, My!
Well, actually, for raccoons, birds and somewhat smaller wildlife, but as part of an ongoing community service initiative, 50-plus members of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL) and their spouses or guests spent a day at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Seattle, constructing cages for raccoons, building recovery pools for oiled birds and painting the Wildlife Center building.
Although ACREL members usually work with pen and paper – or, more accurately, PCs and PDAs – they are also handy with a hammer and saw, as past ACREL projects have demonstrated.
ACREL members have tackled building a home in New Orleanswith Habitat for Humanity and painted classrooms and murals in a Chicago elementary school. This, however, was ACREL's first community service project focused on wildlife, and ACREL's members enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to help their furry and feathered friends. ACREL President Phillip Horowitz commented, "We are delighted to help PAWS upgrade its facilities, continuing ACREL's tradition of combining its annual meeting and legal education programs with a hands on activity that assists a deserving non-profit organization."
Mark Senn of ACREL's Public Service Working Group, who led this project, noted that "ACREL members love to pick up some tools and dig into a project.The projects are not only a "give back", but also a fun way for members to do a little of the REAL real estate work."
PAWS jumped at the chance to work with the ACREL volunteers.“We welcome members of our community to assist us with the improvement of our facilities,” expressed PAWS Wildlife Director Jennifer Convy. “With their help, we are better able to provide quality care for the injured and orphaned animals in our Wildlife Center.”
(adapted from an ACREL press release)
New Orleans – Fall 2003
25th Anniversary Habitat for Humanity House
Although we best all keep our day jobs, ACREL members really can hammer, saw, wrap insulation, raise a roof , safely operate power tools and have fun at the same time.As many of you know, in celebration of ACREL's 25th anniversary, for the New Orleans meeting, ACREL took on the job of funding and working on a Habitat for Humanity house. In shifts spread out over Friday and Saturday, ACREL members, spouses and guests joined with prospective homeowners "JT" and Laverne Thompson and the Habitat for Humanity New Orleans crew to "blitz build" JT and Laverne's new home in the St. Roch neighborhood of New Orleans.
HfH New Orleans paired ACREL with JT and Laverne because of JT's history. In 1985, JT was arrested and ultimately convicted in murder and carjacking cases in New Orleans.He was sentenced to death and spent many years on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana (also known as "the Farm").The two cases were linked by prosecutorial abuse and blood evidence.The Center for Equal Justice in New Orleans and several pro bono lawyers took on JT's case.The convictions were overturned on appeal and, as a result of newer DNA testing techniques, JT was exonerated.JT subsequently went to work as a clerk for the Center for Equal Justice and met and married Laverne, who has children of her own.
As many as 90 members, spouses and guests lent their talents and hard work to the project.Friday afternoon, roughly 60 members of the ACREL team were on the site. This hearty crew withstood unseasonable New Orleans heat and a bit of light rain and still kept working.In fact, Jim Pate, the executive director of HfH New Orleans dubbed us the "Accrelians".Perhaps, he was trying to transform us into a carnival krewe.
By the topping out ceremony at the end of the day Saturday, the floor deck was down, the house was completely framed and wrapped with insulation, the roof trusses were all up, a good bit of the roof deck was complete and prefab windows and doors were installed and caulked.Over the course of subsequent weekends, groups comprised of local lawyers contributed to the finish work.Because of a $25,000 donation from gifts to the ACREL Foundation and a matching grant from a foundation supporting Habitat, all of the "hard money" costs of the home were covered.The house has been named The ACREL House.
Consistent with HfH policies, HfH is conveying the home to JT and Laverne in return for a long-term interest-free loan.
During the holiday season and new year, we ACREL members have much for which to be grateful in our personal and professional lives. Through your sweat, good humor and financial resources, we have now made it possible for a family, who might not otherwise have been able to do so, to own a home. (adapted from an article in the ACREL News by Susan Talley)
Postscript: In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the house remained in good shape. Contributions to the ACREL Foundation in excess of $43,000 allowed for the building of a second ACREL House in New Orleans (see above).
It is with great sorrow that we acknowledge the passing of JT, who was such an influential voice and leader in this project. JT passed at 55 years old and left a great legacy behind. To read more on this, click here.
Chicago – Fall 2001
First Project – Chicago Cares
On Saturday, October 13, 70 ACREL members and their spouses or guests proved conclusively that they cared and were willing to work.The scene was Henson Elementary School in the North Lawndale community of Chicago's inner city and ACREL's first public service project.Considered one of the nation's most impoverished neighborhoods,North Lawndale has some staggering statistics: 72% of children 5 and under and 64% of those 17 and under live below the poverty line.Only 42% of those over 25 have completed high school, and 42% of the population is under 21.
But these statistics do not deter the folks at Henson, where 100% of the students are African American, from doing their best.The school provides its students both breakfast and lunch, and it has a most impressive attendance rate of 92% with an even more impressive 100% parent contact rate.Students and faculty have tremendous pride in their school, but often budgets and the costs of maintenance can cut into the pride in place.That is where ACREL came into the picture.
Other volunteer groups had painted the first two floors of the school, but the third floor was all ours and it did need work.Clearly the students and teachers did a good job of caring for their spaces, but those spaces were really ready for a paint job and a brightening up. The caring ACREL workers cleaned, scraped, taped, and painted all 9 classrooms on that third floor.Then we cleaned up our mess.
There were very accomplished artists among us: three spouses were art teachers, one was a professional artist, and several ACREL members were just really good lawyers who happen to be really good artists on the side.This group painted wall murals depicting Chicago scenes, such as the Planetarium and the Art Institute, in the hall.Chicago Cares had transparencies and an overhead projector to throw the image on the wall.The ACREL Art Department took it from there.
As we all climbed back on to the buses and found the ice chest of cold beer waiting, everyone was happy, excited, and aware that we can and did do good and do well at the same time. Henson Elementary School benefited from our Saturday work session, but ACREL and the 70 of us just may have benefited more.There was a great deal of cooperation and smiling all around. (adapted from an article in the ACREL News by Wayne Hyatt)