LCLD Fellows across the nation will gather together and give back to their communities the entire month of November. Led by Fellows Regional Committee Chair and 2012 Fellow, Aja Sae-Kung, members of the Fellows Regional Committee have been charged with organizing a local toy or canned food drive in each of the seven LCLD Fellows regions. A healthy competition will take place among the Fellows as each region tries to collect the most food and toys. Regional Committee members have their work cut out for them, but the end result will be worth it. Families across the nation will have more food and toys this holiday season thanks to the efforts of the LCLD Fellows.

The masterminds behind the LCLD Fellows Community Service Month idea are Vanessa Allen Sutherland and Catalina Vergara, both LCLD Fellows.

Allen Sutherland, a 2011 LCLD Fellow, and Chief Counsel at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, DC, came up with the idea as a possible ongoing initiative for Fellows Alumni. The size of the Fellows classes, and the Fellows' ability to make impactful, motivational change in their communities, led her to propose a community service day throughout the nation as the precursor to an ongoing initiative. In sum, it was a way to give the Fellows at least one commonality, one shared experience annually, which could be one of the consistent threads uniting them as the Alumni pool grows.

Vergara, a 2012 LCLD Fellow, and Partner at O'Melveny & Myers LLP in Los Angeles, CA, has been a great supporter of the idea. Vergara and Allen Sutherland met during a Fellows Alumni conference call, which evolved into email exchanges. Then they decided to co-chair a Fellows Monthly Alumni committee both to link their respective classes and to assure that there would always be coverage to host the call. During a prep call for an upcoming meeting, they decided to present the community service idea as a way to bond the Fellows and to increase awareness of LCLD while contributing to their communities. The nationwide, single-day or weekend of service was modeled from events that Allen Sutherland had participated in throughout Virginia. This inaugural event is meant to be the kick-off of a long-term initiative, the results of which would propel the LCLD brand and dramatically increase the Fellows’ impact in the communities that they already serve. The Fellows on the Alumni conference call were receptive to the idea. And away it went!

Due to many scheduling conflicts and the short planning period, Fellows Alumni moved from a one-day or weekend service model to a one-month service model, to give all Fellows the opportunity to make their contributions to the effort.

With several different Fellow Alumni committees dedicated to different strategic goals, but all with the same mindset of networking, as well as bettering each other and the legal community, there was a natural bridge and collaboration for planning this community service month. After several planning meetings, it was decided that Fellows should be encouraged to give back to their communities by participating in a toy drive or a canned food drive during the upcoming holiday season. A toy and food drive can be conducted in any city in the country, even with the busiest of schedules.

Ron Sia, a 2012 LCLD Fellow, and Senior Counsel at The Procter & Gamble Company in Boston, has also been instrumental in the planning process. Sia chairs the Outreach Committee, a Fellows Alumni committee devoted to the betterment of the community in general. Sia’s committee helped the toy and canned food drive organizers hone in on the details and recognize the need to focus on one or two community service ideas. Sia’s committee came up with the canned food drive and toy drive idea.

When asked about the Outreach Committee and Fellows Community Service Month, Sia said, “Each of us has a unique opportunity to make meaningful contributions to our communities. The LCLD Outreach Committee’s mission is to energize and enable LCLD Fellows to become visible positive role models, actively working in their local communities to advance diversity. Winston Churchill said it well, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’”

Stay tuned and please be sure to check the Fellows website for updates and progress on this nationwide event!


Courtney Nolde works on special projects with LCLD and Vanessa Allen Sutherland is a 2011 LCLD Fellow and Chief Counsel of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation.