Al Smith’s ties to Greater New Haven go back to his early childhood. Now, he has chosen to remain in Greater New Haven as a partner in a well-known law firm, where he has been employed for twenty-one years. In 1996, the Smiths decided to adopt a child from China and worked closely with Catholic Family Services, an organization that United Way supports, to make it happen. Al says that all of his volunteer work is dedicated to his daughter, his gift, who he received through a long and vigorous process.
After the adoption, Al realized that he wanted others to feel as blessed as he did, so he became involved with United Way. Al chooses to focus his volunteer efforts with United Way because of its widespread impact in the community. “The people who are recipients of United Way’s efforts have a place to sleep at night, a meal when they are hungry, and assistance to deal with difficult situations. United Way does it all, and at the end of the day, we all depend on each other.”
The law firm’s annual United Way workplace campaign familiarized Al with United Way’s priorities and its effect on the community. Just four years later, Al took on the title of Campaign Chair for the United Way of Greater New Haven Annual Campaign and worked to motivate the community to recognize where help was needed and to make a donation.
“When I served as Campaign Chair, we were only a few weeks into the Campaign when Hurricane Katrina hit. With the outpouring of support for the Gulf Coast, we thought that the amount donated to the Campaign would be significantly less. It sounds self-involved, but we do have problems in our own community that need assistance and funding. Surprisingly, we managed to exceed our original expectations because people dug even deeper into their pockets. It was extremely gratifying to be a part of a giving experience that touched the lives of so many.”
Al’s experience was so gratifying, in fact, that he then joined United Way’s Board of Directors in 2005. A year later, he decided to become even more involved as a member of the Executive Board of Directors. Al has taken a great deal from giving, and during his term as Campaign Chair he learned how to grab an audience’s attention and engage the community to give as he has given.
“You give because you are fearful that someday you or someone you love is going to need help. You give because you are thankful, and you give because you are hopeful that you can make a difference in the lives of others.”
Partner in Murtha Cullina LLP
How long have you lived and/or worked in Greater New Haven?
I have lived in Greater New Haven my whole life and have worked at Murtha Cullina for 21 years.
What specific United Way programs/committees have you been involved with? When?
I have been involved with Campaign here at Murtha Cullina since 2001. In 2005 I was the Campaign Chair. I have also been on the Board of Directors at the United Way since 2005 and have been on the Executive Board of Directors since 2006.
What made you want to be involved?
My interest began when we decided to adopt my youngest daughter from China. I wanted to give back for the gift that I have received. We worked closely with the Catholic Family Services, funded by United Way. I also became involved in the legal community and attempting to engage lawyers.
How have you benefited (from helping others)?
It is very rewarding and allows you to connect with the community and understand what it is to be part of a community and of course it feels good to help.
How do you think the community has benefited from United Way?
The people who are the recipients have a place to sleep at night, a meal when they are hungry, and assistance to deal with different situations. Donors have a reinforced identity as a community. At the end of the day, we all depend on each other. Sometimes it is more important for individuals and organizations to step in and do what other governments do or what our government used to do.
In what other ways are you involved in the community (outside United Way)?
Active member of the Regional Leadership Council and the Bar Association.
Do you have a favorite story or experience you would like to share?
It all comes back to when we adopted Olivia. It was a gift and the United Way agency helped us through a long and vigorous process.
When I served as Campaign Chair, we were only a few weeks in when Hurricane Katrina hit. With the outpouring of support for the Gulf Coast, we thought that the amount donated to the campaign would be significantly less. Instead, we managed to exceed our original expectations. People just dug deeper and it was extremely gratifying.
Why should others become more involved in the community and with United Way?
This is part of my speech that I gave while I was Campaign Chair. You give because you are thankful. You give because you are hopeful that you can make a difference in the lives of others. You give because you are fearful that someday you or someone you love is going to need help.
We Have Moved.
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