West Virginia Record

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Attorneys, firms step up to help others during Coronavirus pandemic

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By Chris Dickerson | Mar 18, 2020

Lafamiglia

PARKERSBURG – Attorneys are stepping up to help as more and more changes take place because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

One attorney with a Charleston firm already has donated more than $25,000 to organizations working to help those who need it.

Harry Deitzler of Hill Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler sent a check from the Deitzler Foundation to the United Way of Mid-Ohio Valley for $25,000 for a program to help with restaurant service worker who are being affected as eating establishments close dining rooms.


Deitzler

Stacy DeCicco, executive director of that United Way, praised Deitzler for his support to its COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

“We are so very thankful for the gift from the Deitzler Foundation," DeCicco said. "Harry and Kathe had been longtime and ardent supporters of the work our United Way delivers to the community. Their willingness to lead the charge and step up in this time of crisis is magnificent and we sincerely hope that it inspires others to do what they can. 

"In this incredibly dark and unknown time, it is absolutely essential that we all do what we can to make a difference."

DeCicco said the fund has just been set up. Deitzler contacted her because he wondered how he could help service workers affected by the pandemic.

She said the fund will provide community members with a safe, reliable, transparent way to make contributions that will have local impact during this crisis. It will be discretionary response to individuals and/or agencies that experience hardship, and it will target vulnerable populations as identified through our ongoing 211 communication and the evolving community needs reviews.

“This fund allows for determined giving or designated giving,” DeCicco said. “Harry didn’t restrict his money, but he did say he had this concern about restaurant and service workers. 

"We hope it will motivate the community to do more.”

Deitzler agreed, hoping others who can help out do so.

“I know I’m fortunate,” he said. “It just as easily could be me trying to figure out how I’m going to make it through this. So, I really feel for these people.

“I just love what the United Way does, and this program is already in place. They don’t just hand people money. For example, they might pay money directly to utilities to help those in need. They look at these cases one-on-one.”

Earlier this week, Deitzler helped with a school’s supplemental meal bag program. He sent a check from the Deitzler Foundation to Ruffner Elementary School in Charleston.

“We are prepared to assist further there as the need arises,” Deitzler said. “When school is canceled, the kids still need to eat.”

Deitzler said he and his wife Kathe created the fund 20 years ago to help primarily in the Charleston community. Most of the foundation’s donations now take place in the Parkersburg area where the couple lives. But, Deitzler said Ruffner was selected based on a specific immediate need.

In Huntington, the partners in an office of a large regional firm are feeding staff members during the crisis and helping locally owned restaurants as well.

Marc Williams, managing partner of Nelson Mullins’ Huntington office, said he and the other four partners in the location decided to reward the 20 or so staff members in the office by bringing in meals each day for lunch purchased at local restaurants.

“Our office, for the most part, is working as normal right now,” Williams said. “All 25 of our firm’s offices are open as of right now. Of course, that could change.

“We’re trying to maintain a sense of normalcy.”

But, he and the other partners came up with an idea to help in a few ways.

“First, some members of our staff might not feel comfortable going out to eat right now,” Williams said. “So, we found a way to bring in some really good meals for people who work really hard.”

And, Williams said the partners know there likely will be changes coming soon for restaurants and their employees.

“We’re in the middle of downtown Huntington,” he said. “We’re surrounded by locally owned small businesses that we know will be going through a tough time. We wanted to see what we could do to help that.

“The partners here met and decided that as long as we’re open and we’re dealing with this, we would just start bringing meals in.”

Williams said there are several benefits.

“It gives these local restaurants an opportunity to get some business when things are so up in the air,” he said. “And, it encourages other businesses to do the same thing we’re doing. We’re providing an economic bridge.”

Williams said the response has been great.

“It’s been very well received,” he said. “It’s a chance for all of us to spend some quality time together in an informal setting. It also, frankly, gives them an opportunity to enjoy lunches from some places they might not entirely go.”

Williams cited the planned March 18 menu featuring a variety of pasta dishes and breadsticks from La Famiglia, a locally owned Italian restaurant.

It’s a nice little treat for people working under some difficult circumstances,” he said.

Otherwise, Williams said the office is trying to remain as normal as possible.

“We’re trying to exercise reasonable precautions with CDC and WHO guidelines,” he said. “And a lot of courts are limiting hearings, trials, depositions and that sort of thing.

“It’s likely to be a little different because we’re not going to have opportunities in case handling with judge and opposing counsel in court for a while, but we still have responsibilities to proceed. And we’re going to do that.

“We might be doing it differently. We might be working some from home. But, we’re getting things done.”

Another Huntington law firm is doing the same thing for its staff.

Lee Murray Hall, a partner at Jenkins Fenstermaker, said nearly 60 employees work at their Huntington office. About half of them still are working in the office for now. So, the firm is bringing in food from local restaurants.

“It keeps our employees in, but more importantly it provides income and revenue to our downtown businesses and restaurant,’ she said. “We’ve been a part of this downtown community for 97 years. We’re going to be here when we emerge from this, and we want them to be here, too.”

She said being a good corporate citizen helps a community remain strong.

“This is going to be a short-term crisis,” Hall said. “Nobody is going to escape this unscathed, but we will get through it. We just have to remain positive.”

Another Huntington firm is donating a total of $2,500 to 10 area businesses.

"We're right here on Eighth Street. We're local," said Mike Woelfel of Woelfel & Woelful. "We've lived our whole lives here. I look over at Grindstone and see all the good things they do in the community. The same with Ralph Hagy at La Famiglia.

"This is how West Virginians react. We pull together. It's a small gesture to help some businesses we frequent. I hope others follow suit and replicate it with the businesses they frequent. 

"It would be nice if others picked up on this and did the same."

Woelfel said the 10 businesses each will get a check for $250 from the firm. They are Main Street on Central, Grindstone Coffeeology, 21 at The Frederick, Robert's Running and Walking Shop, The Peddler, Butter It Up at The Market, La Famiglia, Chrysten Lee Salon, Tortilla Factory and Rocco's Ristorante.

"This is an unprecedented time in our community, and the pandemic is taking a toll on our local businesses," Woelfel said. "The money is to be spent as the proprietor sees fit, perhaps to help staff. It’s up to them.

"This is a stressful and uncertain time, and we need to unite. The businesses we chose consistently support charitable causes of every nature, now, they deserve our support.

We challenge others to select 10 businesses of their own and meet our challenge."

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Organizations in this Story

Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLCWoelfel & Woelfel, LLPJenkins Fenstermaker, PLLCNelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP