Legal Aid Society plans to relocate to this Ellis Street building that began as an Elks Club lodge. (John Disney/Daily Report)
The Atlanta Legal Aid Society has reached the halfway point in an ambitious capital campaign to pay for its future home at 54 Ellis St. N.E., thanks to significant contributions from several Atlanta firms.
The nonprofit had raised $2.67 million of its $5.35 million target by year-end, said Philip Holladay Jr., a partner at King & Spalding who is co-chairing the campaign with Mark Wasserman, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan’s managing partner.
The funds will cover the $3 million purchase price and renovation costs for the historic red-brick building, built in 1910 as an Elks Club lodge.
Eleven firms have contributed almost $1 million on top of initial pledges announced in October from King & Spalding ($250,000), Sutherland ($150,000), Barnes Law Group ($150,000) and retired Sutherland partner Randolph Thrower and his family ($100,000).
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton has pledged $225,000, and Alston & Bird is giving $170,000. Four other Atlanta firms are contributing $100,000 each: Arnall Golden Gregory, Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, McKenna Long & Aldridge and Smith Gambrell & Russell. Taylor English Duma is giving $60,000.
Atlanta boutique Strickland Brockington & Lewis along with Hunton & Williams and Stites & Harbison, which have significant Atlanta offices, have pledged $25,000 apiece. Another firm with a large local office, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, donated $20,000.
Holladay said he was gratified by the contributions. “We are hopeful that we are not done raising money in the Atlanta legal community,” he added. “There are still lawyers and firms who’ve been very supportive of Legal Aid in the past whom we have not heard from.”
Holladay said strong support from the local legal community is crucial for winning additional funds from general-interest foundations and philanthropies to cover the building’s purchase and renovation cost.
“Every gift is important to us because it gets us closer to our ultimate goal—and because the broader the support we can show across the legal community, the better off we’ll be when we talk to foundations and other potential funding sources,” he said.
Atlanta Legal Aid bought the property last spring after several years of searching because it has outgrown its building at 151 Spring St. N.W., its home for 34 years, which would have needed extensive renovation. It plans to move in at the end of 2014.
The new headquarters will double Atlanta Legal Aid’s space, to 35,600 usable square feet, giving it room to expand programming, use more volunteers, and add legal clinics and “know your rights” programs for the public. There is neither room nor on-site parking for these at the current location.
The sizeable contributions from these firms to Legal Aid’s building campaign did not cut into contributions to the nonprofit’s annual campaign, even though Legal Aid is drawing from the same pool for each.
“I was concerned that I would be the first annual campaign co-chair to lead an annual campaign that did not make goal, because we were fishing in the same pond,” said Robbie Dokson of Ellis Funk, who co-chaired the annual fundraising effort with Thomas McNeill of Bryan Cave.
But that did not happen. The 2013 annual campaign, which just concluded, raised $1.7 million toward the group’s operating budget, which was $8.9 million last year. That exceeded the goal of $1.65 million.
The original version of this story online did not include Taylor English Duma among the firms donating money for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s new headquarters. It also said Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz has pledged $10,000, which has been corrected to $20,000.