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VLP honors four at annual Volunteer Recognition Awards ceremony

February 3, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) held its annual Volunteer Recognition Event in Brooklyn Heights on Wednesday featuring a reception for all of its volunteers, with four of them receiving awards for their efforts.

The event also was a kickoff of VLP’s 30th anniversary. The group expects to take time during each of its events this year to commemorate the occasion.

After sharing snacks and drinks, the organization’s President and CEO Heidi Lee Henderson formally welcomed everyone and began the presentation.

Heidi Lee Henderson (left), president and CEO of the VLP, and Hon. Elizabeth Stong, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, EDNY.

“Our volunteer recognition night is very special because it gives us a chance to say thank you to our dedicated and talented volunteers,” said Henderson. “When pro bono lawyers get involved, the justice system becomes accessible to the most vulnerable New Yorkers. With your help and expertise, you give a voice and access to justice to vulnerable clients and make a positive difference in their lives.”

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The four honorees were James Slattery, who received the Terri and Nick Letica Award; Kamille Stewart, who received the Christopher Slattery Young Professional Award; Jesus Zeno, who received the Public Service Award and Dana Rosenbaum, who received the Pro Bono Leadership Award.

“Last year, our volunteers provided over 15,000 hours of high-quality legal representation, advice, counsel, legal services and community education, valued at over $5.7 million and benefiting more than 26,000 people,” Henderson said.

From left: Vincent Gentile, Special Counsel at OATH; Peter White; Ilya Shipilov; Jesus Zeno; Daniele Wilson and Chowdhury Faria.

“We couldn’t achieve that with our staff of 10,” she continued. “Think about that. Our volunteers give their time, expertise and compassion to help our clients, from conducting intakes in our office to staffing courthouse clinics to teaching CLEs and mentoring new attorneys to providing representation.”

Slattery was presented with his award by its namesakes, Terri and Nick Letica. The award, which is not given out every year, is meant to recognize great leadership within the VLP. Slattery joined the VLP in 1992 and served as the board president from 1997 until he retired in 2019 and was elected to the emeritus board.

“Presenting this award to Jim is especially meaningful to me because of the years we spent working together at VLP and the friendship we developed as a result,” Terri Letica said. “Many of you know Jim because he has been the face of VLP for so many years. For many years, VLP was essentially Jim’s second fulltime job. He was involved in every aspect of the project, in every decision, large and small.”

From left: Melissa Starr, Joanne Reece, Sidney Cherubin, Kamille Stewart, Dana Rosenbaum, Anne O’Grady, Jesus Zeno, Eloy Ruiz, Peter White, James Slattery, Heidi Lee Henderson, Daniele Wilson and Jennifer Cook.
From left: Ashaki Nehisi, Dresilla Leben, Shaquille George, Kamille Stewart, Maya Lobban and Alyssa Ford.

Slattery then presented the next award, named in memory of his son, who died during the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, to Stewart, a Howard University School of Law graduate and judicial law clerk. Slattery cited her work with VLP’s Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office (CLARO), which she joined after attending a training session in 2018.

“She has become one of the volunteers the CLARO program heavily relies on and values,” Slattery said.

After Sidney Cherubin presented Zeno with his award, Zeno talked about joining VLP in 2015 and getting involved with its Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings program. He said that while he appreciates the award, he finds his work representing Brooklynites in cases brought by the Department of Buildings rewarding in itself.

Anne O’Grady (left) presents Dana Rosenbaum with the Leadership Award.
From left: Nick Letica, James Slattery and Terri Letica.

Finally, Anne O’Grady, the pro bono director, presented Rosenbaum with her award. When she did, O’Grady mentioned how Rosenbaum recruited 12 attorneys from her firm to participate in a VLP legal clinic for domestic violence victims.

Kamille Stewart (left) and Hon. Verna Saunders.

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