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Every week, Mark Venardi takes an hour away from his practice in the San Francisco office of Holland & Knight to run lines for a school play with a class of fifth-graders at Yik Wo Elementary School. A father of four, this is how Venardi gets his weekly kid-fix away from home. “I make it kind of my lunch hour,” he says. “I always feel good after doing it.” The Points of Light Foundation recently honored Holland & Knight with an Award for Excellence in Corporate Community Service for supporting the approximately 1,500 firm employees like Venardi who donate their time each week through the firm’s volunteer program, Opening Doors for Children. The firm allots each employee one hour of paid time each week to devote to the program. The program involves associates, who Venardi says may bill in the area of $200 an hour, to Tampa, Fla.-based firm-wide managing partner Bill McBride, who volunteers as a mentor. Since the program started in 1995, Holland employees have donated more than 35,000 hours through the program. Venardi says the San Francisco office’s involvement with the school began about two years ago when partner Charles Coleman III wrote a play for the school about the landmark Supreme Court case it’s named after. Coleman wanted to teach the students about the Yik Wo case in which the San Francisco Board of Supervisors turned down a Chinese immigrant for a permit to operate his laundromat. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ultimately reversed the board’s decision. Venardi said he makes the weekly trek to the school on the edge of Chinatown as do associates Stacey Goeddel and Caroline Hall. The class is practicing to put the play on for the entire school in May. The office is also a corporate partner in Reading Is Fundamental, a book drive that comes to Yik Wo three times a year. “[It] has been really neat because some kids don’t have books at home,” Venardi says. This year, Venardi says the office is starting up a tutoring program at its adopted school. So far he has a mix of senior counsel, associates and legal assistants signed up. “You know the firm stands behind its words,” says the associate, “when they could have attorneys at their desks billing time.”

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