Updated: Apr 29
It is said that behind every good man is a good woman. 12 years ago Joe Manning, Founding Partner of Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP law firm, listened to his wife Jackie. Dave Thillen, Founder of Thillen Education Foundation, is very glad he did! On the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity in Greene County, Georgia, (GCHFH) Jackie noticed that fellow board member, Dave Thillen, was putting computers in all new Habitat homes. Says Dave, “She knew that Joe’s large law firm upgraded computers from time to time and made the connection for MMM to source used computers to Habitat”. You see, Dave believes that education is a way out of generational poverty. He is right! And he is passionate about this. Now 12 years later, over 200 MMM computers, refurbished and repurposed, feed our students minds with hope. With the recent donation of MMM laptops this spring for Greene College & Career Academy, (GCCA) graduates, MMM provided The Top Ten students in the 2022 graduating class with laptops and carrying cases. The HOPE grows.
The Back Story
Greene College & Career Academy (GCCA) is located inside Greene County High School (GCHS) with a student population that is 90% minority and 98% living below the poverty line (US News & World Report). When GCCA first opened its doors 4 years ago, they couldn’t order computers yet needed a 40-station computer lab. Thillen contacted Andres Ramirez in MMM’s IT department and a few days later picked up 40 computers. Students unloaded, helped clean, and loaded Windows 10 to have an operational computer lab in one week for no cost: Problem solved.
Coaching One-on-one: Intellectual Property
Part of the GCHFH Education Program involved creating formal career plans for all high school students living in the Habitat homes. The program was extremely successful to the point that James Peek (Principal of GCHS at the time) and John Ellenberg (GCCA CEO) asked Thillen if he could implement his plan for all 450 students in the high school. Today, over 130 community career coaches volunteer to work with their 3 assigned students for all 4 years of high school. A great deal of intellectual property was created which needed to be protected. Don Loft, a retired partner from MMM living in Greene County, connected with Daniel Sineway (Partner, IP Group). “Daniel got out a white board and took us through IP 101”, said Loft. Starting immediately, many things were copyrighted.
The biggest need in scaling the Habitat education program to the entire high school was the ability to deliver on the “Promise” for financial assistance. The promise in Habitat was for $1,000 to every student who continued their education but to give that promise to 450 students required something special. “It seemed like a crazy idea but the only way to get there was to form a foundation” remarked Thillen. He once again contacted his friend, Don Loft, who put him in contact with Jason Kornblatt (Associate, Corporate Group) and John Harden (Associate, Corporate Group) who undertook the long-involved process of developing a foundation completely Pro Bono. In the first 18 months, the Thillen Education Foundation raised over $1 million delivering on its promise for financial assistance to all 450 students.
In May of this year, a meeting was held at MMM to present a glass plaque from Thillen Education Foundation and Greene College & Career Academy in appreciation of the amazing support for the students in Greene County. Daniel Sineway, John Harden, Andres Ramirez, and Don Loft attended along with Elaine Thillen (TEF Co-Founder). Simon Malko (MMM Managing Partner) dropped by to join the occasion and remarked “This commitment to excellence and prominence in non-profit service starts with our leadership, but reflects the support, hard work and dedication of every member of the firm’.
Due to MMM’s exceptional ability to develop trusting relationships with their clients and fulfill its social responsibilities in the community, the firm is growing rapidly from around 200 lawyers to around 250. This required creative thinking on how to manage the growth in their physical space in the Atlanta headquarters location. Part of the solution was to convert some conference rooms to offices. This made beautiful granite top conference room tables available to be repurposed. Kaitlynn Wells (Attorney Recruiting & Development Coordinator) contacted Thillen with yet another opportunity for Greene College & Career Academy to benefit from MMM community awareness. Co-Founder, Elaine Thillen says “The tables were extremely heavy requiring ingenuity to make the move possible. The use of a U-Haul truck, with strong young men (mainly from MMM IT) to load the tables and many members of the GCHS football team to unload them at the school. This was an unexpected gift very much appreciated by staff, coaches & students.
The many students in Greene County, Georgia and the community organizations supporting them wish to pass along a great big THANK YOU to community minded Morris Manning and Martin, LLP.
More About Thillen Education Foundation
Based in Greensboro, GA, the 501(c)(3) Thillen Education Foundation is a distinguished community-based earned financial assistance program based on personal coaching and committed to honoring the achievements of 450+ students participating in Greene College & Career Academy at Greene County High School, a Title I school. Through corporate sponsorships and funding support, we strive to break the cycle of systemic poverty by financially enabling post-secondary education and skills training for hardworking students. Visit: www.thilleneducationfoundation.com for more information.
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