IN THE SPOTLIGHT: ROBERTS & STEVENS
Roberts & Stevens’ Attorneys Assist Area Nonprofits
With more than 4,500 nonprofits across the Western North Carolina region, it’s safe to assume this sector makes a big impact on our local community. In fact, according to the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, these organizations funnel more than $42 billion into the state’s economy each year, collectively paying North Carolinians more than $15 billion in annual wages.
And nonprofits, much like the Wortham Center, would be lost without the generous support of their patrons — from individuals to foundations, government agencies to corporate sponsors. But not all support starts with a checkbook.
Asheville law firm Roberts & Stevens has long been a shining example of the symbiotic relationship between businesses and nonprofits. Not only does the firm support nonprofits financially — sponsoring community events and fundraisers for a variety of causes — it also provides critical legal work and guidance to many charitable organizations across the region.
Attorney John Noor, for example, helped guide an organization through zoning ordinances in order to build affordable housing units. With another nonprofit, he helped stop illegal timbering in the mountains — and, in yet another, he fought to keep a local needle exchange program running.
“If the exchange had shut down, people would have died,” Noor explained. Drug abuse in Asheville is a serious and actionable issue and “the lack of clean injection supplies would have increased the spread of communicable diseases like AIDS and hepatitis across the area, as well as increased needle litter across the city.”
Roberts & Stevens is “a great place to practice law,” he continued, because many of its attorneys are willing and able to provide pro bono service to those in need.
Attorney Susan Russo Klein spent much of the pandemic assisting nonprofits with COVID-related issues, providing guidance for staff reductions and remote work situations, and assisting employers with solid plans for the eventual return to work. Many organizations faced immense pressure and strain from circumstances of the last year, and Russo Klein helped ease much of the stress of these transitions, addressing and mitigating any potential legal repercussions to keep these critical pillars of the community running, despite big changes and challenges.
“Because nonprofits must stay mission-centered and actively in service to their constituents, you often advise them differently with that in mind,” Russo Klein said. “Nonprofits may not have the same resources to solve legal issues that corporations do, so creative problem-solving and mindfulness of a nonprofit’s role in the community come into play when addressing pressing legal matters.”
Russo Klein finds working with nonprofit community partners to be an especially rewarding part of her practice. Recently, she assisted an early childhood education organization with planning the construction of a new facility, expanding the business’ footprint to impact even more children and families in the area. While expansion and construction contracts often require extensive review, Russo Klein said she loves knowing that there will be a tangible, positive, community-boosting result to her legal work.
Roberts & Stevens Attorney Kate Madison has also had a big, behind-the-scenes impact on the local community. Working at a reduced rate to support the organization, Madison assists Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity with closings for its new homeowners.
“During the pandemic, it’s been more important than ever to make sure that we have these Habitat home-buyers keep their scheduled closings,” she explained. “We had to get creative. We had socially distanced closings, even some on the hoods of cars, but we were able to meet all of our timelines and goals and get those families into homes. Affordable housing is a real issue in Asheville, and Roberts & Stevens is thrilled to be able to assist Habitat and its partner families.”
Additionally, attorneys Noor and Madison, along with attorney Carolyn Snipes, all provide legal counsel to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, which protects the forests, mountains, rivers and farms of the region in perpetuity.
“SAHC permanently protects the places you love in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee — from forested wildlife habitat to scenic vistas, public lands to productive local farms,” reads a statement from SAHC. “We have to ensure that these conserved lands remain protected forever, and Roberts & Stevens helps us accomplish this by ensuring clear title and access at the beginning of projects, and then later by defending established conservation easements and preserves against theft of resources.”
There are many ways to help local nonprofits weather the COVID-19 pandemic, and support from the community — whether through funding or donations of time, skills and expertise — can make a huge difference, causing a ripple effect across the entire region. From performing arts centers to environmental organizations, food pantries to youth shelters, someone out there needs a helping hand — and, much like the attorneys at Roberts & Stevens, you might be just the person to help.