What Clients Say
The most effective and compelling way to describe our pro bono client relationships is through the eyes of our clients. The following provide a glimpse into the meaningful work associated with:
All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response®.
On December 26, 2004, the world watched in horror as a 9.1 magnitude earthquake touched off the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami, bringing a massive tide of destruction that devastated millions of people. More than 250,000 lost their lives in that disaster, making it the most tragic natural event in our lifetime.
When the tsunami occurred, technology executive David Campbell was compelled to do something to help. He was on the verge of retirement and had no experience with disaster relief, but he had 40 years of business management and leadership experience, and a network of friends who could potentially provide significant monetary support. Armed with donations from his network, David traveled to Thailand, seeking to mobilize recruits who were equally determined to help in any way possible. The experience was life-changing and resulted in David creating and leading the nonprofit All Hands Volunteers, a natural-disaster response organization that now flies into disaster zones to help families and communities recover by re-building their schools, homes and other community infrastructures in a safer, more resilient way.
In 2007, David met international supermodel and philanthropist Petra Nemcova in Peru on an earthquake recovery mission. Petra, who had lost her fiancé in the tsunami, was working there with her group, The Happy Hearts Fund. After a while, David and Petra decided to merge their organizations, enabling more volunteers to provide greater hands-on assistance to survivors of natural disasters, both within the U.S. and abroad.
David credits Goulston & Storrs for supporting his mission just as enthusiastically as other volunteers. “We have grown six times in work volume and 10 times in staff size since [the firm] got involved early on,” he says, adding that “Goulston & Storrs treats us like a paying client, giving us incredibly responsive service and support.”
He laughs at the challenges his organization has presented to their legal counsel for years, explaining, “What we do is inherently risky. We work at the intersection of poverty and disaster. We parachute into communities that have been devastated with an army of volunteers, many of whom have little or no experience. There are problems with water, hygiene, sanitation, and germs. We also come early and stay late, so we are just fundamentally imprudent.” Against this backdrop, David says the last thing he needs is a law firm the complicates things. “There are lawyers who solve problems and lawyers who create problems – this firm solves them.”
Noting that Goulston & Storrs works on construction documents, asset loans, employment law issues, board governance, GDPR compliance, trademark issues, dealing with foreign entities, and whatever else is needed by his organization, David says that “the firm-wide support we get is incredible. It means more resources for more good works… [so] 96 cents of every dollar we get goes directly to field support for disaster relief.” He expounds that such generosity is a big reason why his organization has earned the highest possible 4 Star Rating by Charity Navigator for four straight years, along with a Top 5 Star-Rating from Greatnonprofits.org and GoOverseas.com.
David adds that members of the firm have also acted as individual volunteers with hammers and nails, working alongside 22-year-old poets, 70-year-old engineers, and residents who have responded to disasters in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Nepal,and Peru.
David jokes that the screening process for volunteers works by natural selection. “Anyone who volunteers to work for nothing in horrid conditions and pays their way is probably going to pass any kind of screen,” he says, adding that his organization does do some background checks now on local volunteers. He says that untrained volunteers learn from experienced volunteers, creating a system akin to medical school training. “It’s see one, do one and train one for everything we do,” David quips.
He adds that there is one other complication to what his organization does: “Sometimes the places we go to are plagued by inefficient or corrupt systems. Goulston & Storrs works with our local partners and NGOs to help us figure out how to cut through the red tape.” David also explains that disaster assistance is badly needed by many in our own country because “the average FEMA grant for home-building is just $4,000 and FEMA applications involve Department of Homeland Security oversight that can complicate and delay things.”
All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response® is still growing and still responding to a never-ending series of global emergencies, and the efforts of Goulston & Storrs are growing along with them.