PHOTO ABOVE COURTESY OF MORE SELF LESS, TAKEN BY TERPSTRA PHOTOGRAPHY
by Cynthia Price
One remarkable aspect of the “I Dream Beautiful” Christmas Party, held by the relatively new organization More-Self-Less for children who might not otherwise have the happiest of holidays, is visible right away: there are more adults than children in event photographs.
Though of course it is the organization’s goal to be sure children from economically-challenged families have the time of their lives, that is only one of its main goals.
The other is to make sure that those who give to and volunteer before and during the party feel the healing power of helping someone else.
The Young Lawyers Section (YLS) of the Grand Rapids Bar Association was able to get in on that wonderful feeling thanks to Community Outreach Director Kara Rozin’s knowing Brady Schmitz, founder of More-Self-Less
Rozin, who has been an attorney with Kluczynski, Girtz & Vogelsang since her graduation from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2008, focuses on employment and litigation defense. She has been the YLS Community Outreach Director for less than a year, but she was Social Chair prior to that.
“That year I worked closely with the Community Outreach Director too. We thought, we should pair some kind of community outreach with the Christmas social event,” Rozin says. “So we decided to pick a charity and collect donations, since the party is no-cost to our members.”
Last year the charity of choice was Kids’ Food Basket, but this year they wanted to try something new. Rozin suggested More-Self-Less, and she said once the YLS board saw the website (www.moreselfless.org), “They were excited about it.”
Schmitz excels at getting people excited about doing good, probably because it was doing good for others that pulled him out of a very dark place a few years back.
“I was going through a rough time in my life,” he says. When he made up his mind to leave behind a life of “sin and debauchery,” as he puts it, he thought that he could make it work if he could focus on helping others. He called a number of retirement homes to volunteer, and still remembers how it stung when most of them did not return his call.
Finally one did, and he went to serve the people living there, sharing his gifts and talents. When he left, the volunteer director thanked him from the bottom of her heart and told him, “People say that hurricanes are acts of God, but in reality it’s people like you who are acts of God.”
Schmitz felt on top of the world, and thought, this is what life is all about. The more he thought it over, the more he wanted to “bottle that feeling” and give others a chance to experience reaching beyond themselves.
More-Self-Less was born. Schmitz says he conceived of the organization and designed the logo in one night when he was unable to sleep. The first Christmas celebration took place when someone he knew fell on
hard times, and Schmitz and friends held a party for the man’s children and neighbors.
“We want the party to be like an oasis, a time when they can leave behind how difficult their lives are for one fantastic night,” says Schmitz. The children’s families attend as they are able, and volunteers sit at large tables with them, sharing the meal. “We want to provide the healing that comes from selfless acts, but also to help bind our community together forever, not for just one night.”
Remembering how hard it was to get a return call as a volunteer — but now understanding the difficulty of volunteer coordination from the agency’s point of view — Schmitz promises that people wanting to help will hear from More-Self-Less within a “businesslike” time frame.
The YLS was asked to give toilet paper for “I Dream Beautiful.” Crate after crate was filled with toys, backpacks, cleaning supplies, the toilet paper, and lots more, for participants.
Rozin said they were delighted to contribute. “Being an attorney is an act of service in itself; you serve your clients; but giving back like this is a great way to serve your whole community,” she says.
Of course Christmastime giving is not the only outreach activity YLS does.
Rozin says that they started out this year in September volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, and followed up with a stint at Kids’ Food Basket, packing sack suppers for schoolchildren.
Their largest event, Horn of Plenty, benefits Baxter Community Center every year at Thanksgiving. Representatives at over 25 law firms plus the Kent County courthouse, defenders’ office and some non-law businesses encourage donations, and the Young Lawyers pick them up and deliver to Baxter. “I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it feels to go into these places and see these massive amounts of donations,” Rozin says.
“We’re so excited to start the 2013 year, and we always welcome volunteers and ideas,” she says.