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VIP in Action Published May 11, 2022

40 Years of Community Empowerment

We Celebrated 40 Years of Pro Bono Service

We celebrated our 40th Anniversary at the National Constitution Center on May 7th with a large gathering of sponsors, volunteer attorneys, clients, and guests. The evening was full of exciting competition at an auction and raffle, dining, dancing, connecting, and more. The event kicked off with drinks and remarks from Board Chair and volunteer, Lee Zimmerman of TE Connectivity.

We would like to extend a special thank you to two of our clients, Alonzo Shands and Robert Blanton, for sharing their stories during the event. Alonzo Shands of Shands Cleaning Company LLC spoke of his time working with VIP during the pandemic, when volunteer attorneys ensured that his company’s legal questions were answered during such a financially difficult time.

A man and a woman share a

Client Robert Blanton had lived in his home for 40 years before he decided it was time to get title to the property in his name. With the help of VIP, he had representation from a qualified volunteer lawyer for his adverse possession claim. Robert got a judgment in his favor, and he owned his home for the first time.

Robert finished his remarks by saying, “I want to thank Ms. Schoonmaker, my volunteer lawyers, and VIP. Thanks to them, you know where I’m going after this Gala – H-O-M-E, because I own my home.”

Get Involved

Since 1981, VIP has inspired and supported volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono representation to Philadelphians who face legal challenges threatening their basic human needs: housing, family, income, and community. Are you interested in becoming a part of this community? Then click the links below to learn more through our volunteering and donation opportunities.

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Auction and Raffle

Our auction and raffle items were a big hit!

Thank you to everyone who donated items and those who participated before and during the event. We had some big ticket items up for bids, including:

  • A Namibian Safari: Trip for Four to Ongava Game Reserve
  • Phillies Tickets: A Diamond Club Game for Four
  • A Tuscan Retreat: Trip for Ten to Villa Regnalla, Italy
  • A Boozy History Tour with Senior Staff Attorney Mike Jones
  • A Mountain Vacation: One Week in Aspen, Colorado

Staff Attorney Mike stands in front of Philadelphia Poster


Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon

We want to extend a thank you to Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon for speaking during our Gala.

A staunch believer that everyone is entitled to equal protection under law, Congresswoman Scanlon previously worked as national pro bono counsel at a Philadelphia firm, where she directed over 600 lawyers in providing more than 50,000 pro bono hours annually. In that capacity, she was instrumental in serving hundreds of small business and nonprofit clients by organizing VIP legal clinics at her firm. In addition, she carried her own VIP guardianship caseload.

“On a personal note – thank you everyone involved at VIP for helping me to become a better advocate – whether as a lawyer or in Congress. To VIP.”


Champion Award Winners

We are grateful for the volunteer attorneys who have dedicated their time and energy to represent Philadelphians who face legal challenges threatening their basic human needs. During the event, we honored four of these attorneys.


Steve T. Park

Partner at Ballard Spahr LLP

Promoting Community Economic Development Award


Luz Denise Negron-Bennett

Managing Attorney at Fight 4 Families Law

Supporting Family Stability Award



Steve Heimann

Retired Corporate Lawyer

Preventing Homelessness Award


Bethany R. Nikitenko

Partner at Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig LLP

Preserving Income Award

Thank you to our sponsors

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible, with a special thanks to our Anniversary and Presenting Sponsors.

For a full list of event supporters, download our program here: 40th Gala Program

Anniversary Sponsors


TE Connectivity


Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP


Morgan Lewis & Bockius


Dechert LLP


Bob and Didi Scott


Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C

Presenting Sponsors


Reed Smith, LLP


Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP


Ballard Spahr LLP


Armstrong Teasdale LLP


Karen Degerberg