When Jim Devine, Director of Business Services for Weil, Gotshal & Manges, was asked to find out more about Fountain House with an eye toward jobs for members, he set up a tour to see what it was about. “I was impressed by the activity and how engaged the staff and members seemed to be. I was also impressed that one of the members was our tour guide as opposed to someone from the staff. The gentleman was very informative and clearly took pride in being our guide.”
Shortly after, Jim approached Canon - the company that handles Weil’s mailroom - to discuss employment for Fountain House members.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” Jim says. “I respected how members were asking for a chance at the interview process and then it was up to them to succeed just as any other candidate. From a business perspective, Fountain House is a great resource for any company looking for a ready pool of candidates. We hope Canon will fill more openings with Fountain House members in the future.”
The request to find out more about Fountain House came from one of Weil, Gotshal’s partners, Carl Lobell. Carl’s connection was through his dear friend Frank Maresca – a faithful supporter of Fountain House Gallery and the owner of Ricco Maresca Gallery. “I was at his gallery and he was talking about being honored at some charity event,” Carl recalls. “I asked him about it because I wanted to support him. Frank introduced me to the world of self-taught and outsider art. Thanks to him, I’m an avid collector. Beyond that, he is one of the kindest, gentlest, most considerate and thoughtful people I know.”
Carl remembers being hired by Weil, Gotshal in the 1960’s as the firm’s 24th lawyer. Today there are, by conservative estimates, 1,200 - and offices around the world. Before joining Weil, he served as an attorney in the United States Department of Justice in Washington, DC. As he looks back on his career, he says he particularly enjoys the pro-bono cases he has tackled. Currently, he is part of a team from Weil and the Legal Aid Society defending a man on death row. “You meet real people and you help real people.”
One of the “real people” Carl has helped over the years is Fountain House member, Nick.
Nick at work in the mailroom
Growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico with what he generously describes as an “intense” mother, Nick remembers wanting his independence as early as age five. “I was ready to move out.” That had to wait until he was 17 when he relocated to Virginia and then New York City.
Shortly after, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “That’s where I heard about Fountain House.”
Nick credits Fountain House with helping him achieve his life plan. “I wanted to build a resume and get a job. I took a few Transitional Employment positions at different law firms throughout the city. The experience I acquired was what got me hired by Canon. They took one look at my resume and were impressed. I work part time now, but my supervisor recently offered me a permanent position.”
Working has given Nick stability, consistency and, best of all, his long desired independence. Fountain House has given Nick much more than a job. He used the fitness and diet programming to lose weight and give up unhealthy habits. He joined Fountain House Gallery to display and sell his artwork. He obtained housing through Fountain House’s housing program and his GED through the education program. His goal is to go back to school to obtain his BA.
“Fountain House is a place with a lot of opportunities. If you come and want employment, housing, education, to use the gym and be part of the community, this is the best stepping stone to plug back in. They help in a way that no one else can,”Nick explains.
Carl thinks most of the credit for hiring Fountain House members belongs to Jim Devine and Canon. “I am deeply indebted to Jim and Canon who worked hard to make this happen. We hope Canon will continue to be as generous as they have been.”
Fountain House is deeply indebted to Carl for taking the first step in establishing this extraordinary relationship. If it is up to Carl, this may only be the beginning. “I still want to do more for Fountain House - especially in the jobs area,” he says. “We know the importance these opportunities represent.”