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Acts of Kindness Part 3: Compassion, Resourcefulness, Generosity and Commitment

06.03.20 | Susan Duncan

This is our third Acts of Kindness blog post. It is both impressive and uplifting to hear from and share stories about professionals in our legal community who are making a difference during this challenging pandemic. We hope you find the stories inspiring. If you or others you know are involved in acts of kindness specific to the coronavirus pandemic or if COVID is changing the nature of the work you are doing for charitable causes, please get in touch with me at [email protected].

If you missed our previous Acts of Kindness blogs, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Jan Anne Dubin, Founder and CEO of Jan Anne Dubin Consulting

The “Milk Made” project was created by Jan Anne Dubin out of necessity and in response to a need families in the communities of Evanston and Chicago Illinois have to access fresh milk during the pandemic.  From the onset of the pandemic, Jan had been involved in smaller and larger random acts of kindness and some strategic acts of kindness including sending dinner to her local police station, making dinner and grocery shopping for a friend with a compromised immune system.  Jan has long worked with nonprofits and in 2019 was recognized by Streetwise with their 20 Most Inspiring Chicagoans award.

In mid-March, Jan learned from a Facebook posting that friends and caterers D’Andre Carter and Heather Bublick owners of Feast & Imbibe and Soul and Smoke had created a program called “For A Neighbor in Need” whereby charitable meal packages could be purchased to feed those in need.  Dubin purchased two meal packages which provided a total of 110 meals.  As of late May, D’Andre and Heather and their amazing team are local heroes without capes. They have partnered with The Trotter Project, I Grow Chicago and Jose Andreas’ World Central Kitchen.  Together, their efforts in Evanston and Chicago have provided more than 20,000 meals to families, essential workers and healthcare providers in need.

As the magnitude and the duration of the pandemic continued, Jan reached back out to Heather to learn what else needed to be done to assist their efforts beyond writing a check.  Jan learned of the gaps in accessing supplies like pre-packaged utensils, small bottles to transport bulk hand-sanitizer and lack of access to bulk quantities of whole and 2% milk.  Jan began to call local Illinois dairy farms only to learn that few have on-site bottling facilities.  She made separate calls to local bottlers but to no avail.  As a small business owner herself also impacted by the pandemic, Jan knew her objective in appealing to a dairy farmer was to make a milk connection at a cost that would be profitable for the dairy farmer while providing desperately needed milk in a large quantity to the community.

Finally, Jan connected with Matt and Jenna Kilgus of Kilgus Farmstead in Fairbury, Illinois, which was approximately 106 miles Southwest of Chicago.  Jan was also able to confirm from the Kilgus website that the Farmstead had on-site bottling facility.  Jan’s call was productive and resulted in the purchase of 200 gallons of milk in week one of project Milk Made.  Since April 22, the Milk Made effort has delivered over 1,400 gallons of milk which were distributed to over 500 families in need.  Milk Made has requests from community organizations for milk orders through mid-June.

Jan titled the project Milk Made and thanks to her friend and graphic designer Jon Heinger of Heinger Design, the two created a logo for Milk Made which will soon be available on printed masks whose purchase will continue to support these efforts. The Milk Made project was initially self-funded by Jan and today has received support from those in the community including individuals, a local financial institution, and a charitable trust.

The success of Milk Made is its ability fill a void with a community need by connecting the dots with the right people and resources to make the project viable representing a replicable model across many different needs and gaps.  For more information contact: Jan Anne Dubin, 312.399.3116 or [email protected]

Despina Kartson, Chief Business Development Officer, BakerHostetler

Despina has a long history of kindness, generosity and philanthropy. An active member of Holy Trinity Church in New Rochelle, she has been part of a group of church members who once a month for the last 13 years has made a “Soup Run.” She and her team have driven into 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in Manhattan to deliver 125 meals, hot beverages, clothing, and toiletries to the those experiencing homelessness and hunger. She published a memoir full of stories of monthly interactions with their “guests” in a book called Last Night’s Soup Run, available on Amazon (all proceeds go to Philoxenia, a nonprofit Despina set up to channel the book proceeds back into the homeless initiative.)

When the COVID pandemic forced social distancing, the group could no longer make their monthly runs into New York City for the first time in 13 years. Disappointed but not deterred, they quickly shifted gears to those in need closer to home. New Rochelle was the epicenter of coronavirus early on and was declared a quarantine zone. (You may recall that 50 members of the National Guard were sent to New Rochelle to help sterilize facilities and provide other support.) This meant a lot of people had no access to social services, meals, restaurants, etc.

Despina is the co-leader of her church’s homeless outreach program, under the women’s philanthropic organization Philoptochos, which began providing support to a homeless shelter in New Rochelle called the Oasis Men’s Shelter. Whereas before COVID, “residents” had to leave by 8 a.m., the pandemic prevents them from leaving the shelter during the day or night. This means 60 people are living together 24/7, ten people to a bedroom and needing three meals a day.  The group is proving 60 hot meals twice a week, as well as toiletries, towels, socks and board games (being shut in 24 hours/day means residents are bored.)  As a Board member of Lifting Up Westchester, Despina is involved in providing 120 sandwiches to a soup kitchen and weekly breakfasts to ER and ICU medical staff at three hospitals. The group is also helping to stock the food pantry, which instead of serving 300 families per week is now receiving requests from 2,000.

It seems particularly fitting that the non-profit that Despina founded is called Philoxenia which in Greek means being a friend to a stranger. Philoxenia has provided a few hundred masks to a men’s homeless shelter and to the Navajo Nation. Despina purchased the masks from a friend who was employing single mothers on limited incomes who sew the masks. Philoxenia’s purchase of masks provided much needed income to the women and necessary masks for those who are homeless. They also provided hundreds of Bombas socks to the shelter. Finally, Philoxenia made financial donations to City Meals on Wheels and to FOCUS for a homeless shelter they run in Cleveland (Despina’s hometown).

Despina lives the meaning of Philoxenia through her compassion and dedication which has inspired so many others. Her favorite quote is from Mother Teresa: “If you cannot feed 100 people, then feed just one.”

Savannah Alden, Senior Specialist, Client Development, Wilmer Hale

In mid-April, Savannah started making face masks and her first donation of 125 masks was delivered to Boston Area Mask Initiative #BAMI in mid-May. When the CDC recommended wearing a face covering when out in public, she didn’t have one herself and struggled with the “no sew”/handkerchief option. She decided to buy a few supplies and make a few for friends and family. Armed with her sewing machine and a little help from friends, Google and YouTube, she was ready to go.

When Savannah first posted on social media about her efforts, she received numerous requests for masks and quickly learned that everyone has someone they love and want to keep safe, from parents in nursing homes, kids going to doctors’ appointments, husbands working double shifts in essential jobs and family members working as nurses. She kept writing down the names and sewing as quickly as she could.

To date, Savannah has made over 550 masks. The Boston Mask Initiative is working to get masks to underserved populations and those who may not have access to internet or otherwise unable to purchase masks themselves. “We all deserve to be safe and feel loved. And boy, do I feel loved. I have received more photos, thank you’s and generous donations towards my efforts that I never expected. This has filled up my heart so much, and it reminds me of all the good in times like this,” says Savannah.


RainMaking Oasis provides consulting, training and coaching services to law firms and lawyers in the areas of business development and growth strategy, innovation, client retention and expansion, succession planning and leadership and personal effectiveness skills. Please contact Susan Duncan at [email protected].