Edmonton law firm steps up to help non-profit during COVID-19 uncertain times

Edmonton law firm donates office space to Connect Society
Non-profit Connect Society didn't have a place to perform their speech and language assessments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is, until a law firm stepped up and offered them a free boardroom. Julia Wong has the story.

Children impacted by hearing loss have been able to undergo much-needed assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to an Edmonton law firm.

The Connect Society works with children and families impacted by hearing loss, whether it is themselves or a loved one in their life. The speech and language assessments are done every spring to ensure the children between the ages of three and six years old have a program to attend in the fall Marnee Cebula, program manager for early childhood services for Connect Society, said.

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However, the COVID-19 pandemic meant the non-profit did not have a place to conduct the assessments. The organization normally leases space inside the Alberta School for the Deaf but could not use the space due to COVID-19 restrictions placed on the facility.

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“I was panicking. I thought “Oh my goodness, what are we going to do if we can’t get these assessments completed?’” Cebula said.

“We were in a position, at a standstill, that we couldn’t plan for the fall because we weren’t sure if students were going to be qualifying for funding for school next year.”

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The organization started to explore other spaces, such as halls and hotels, but cost was a concern. Then, Nickerson Roberts Holinski & Mercer offered a boardroom to the non-profit to conduct the assessments.

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Managing partner Tony Holinski said the law firm has had a relationship with Connect Society for approximately 20 years.

“It just seemed like it was easy for us to donate a boardroom. We have four or five boardrooms in the office. Client usage of the boardroom is way down for us compared to before, so it was an easy fit,” Holinski said.

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Cebula said it was a relief to get the offer from the law firm.

“What a gift for us to be able to get the speech and language assessments completed. First and foremost, just for the families because a lot of them were really stressed and worrying about the possibility their child may or may not qualify or have a program to attend in the fall,” she said.

The firm is offering the space to Connect Society for the duration of the summer.

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Parent Tamara Taylor said the assessments are critical for her four-year-old daughter Lily, who has a blood disorder along with delays in her speech and motor skills.

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“Knowing she has funding going into kindergarten is huge. I think it would be very detrimental to her if she was going into this year and not having the supports she’s had,” Taylor said, adding Connect Society has provided Lily with speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

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She’s grateful that someone in the community stepped up during the uncertain times created by COVID-19.

“To give [Connect Society] a space where they can continue their work and not have that be part of the struggle and all the other struggles they’ve had this year, so, so grateful [the law firm was] willing to do that and offer up a space,” Taylor said.
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