June 2019 Bar Bulletin
By Andrew Prazuch
Due to the vision and connections of a single King County Bar Association member, last December the Seattle Mariners announced a $3-million gift that will significantly improve the successful outcome of eviction cases negotiated by the pro bono volunteer lawyers in our Housing Justice Project. To recognize this tremendous act to advance pro bono, KCBA’s 2019 Pro Bono Award is presented to Frederick B. Rivera.
When the bar’s new eviction study with the Seattle Women’s Commission was presented at KCBA and King County Bar Foundation board meetings in September, trustees were very supportive of the bar considering recommendations to address the study’s findings. Rivera, a member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, quickly realized that he might have a more immediate opportunity to address one specific recommendation: the lack of funds to help tenants pay their rent in emergency situations.
Fred, who is general counsel and senior vice president for the Mariners, knew that the team had been searching for a philanthropic leadership opportunity, especially in the area of homelessness prevention. As a King County bar board member, he also was well aware of the expertise and services available through HJP. In addition, as the incoming board chair for United Way of King County, Fred was equally aware of the significant successes that United Way has achieved in its social service and homelessness prevention programs.
At Fred’s invitation, KCBA and United Way staff developed the outline for an expansion of HJP’s capacity to handle potentially twice its current workload and most importantly make available through United Way a tenant rent emergency fund. Fred then presented the proposal to the Mariners’ owners and secured their commitment to fund the first year of the initiative, to be named Home Base.
In announcing the $3-million pledge, Seattle Mariners Chairman and Managing Partner John Stanton said, “In a community as vibrant and successful as ours, it’s heartbreaking that so many people don’t have the most basic necessity of a warm, dry, safe place to live. Home Base can make an important and lasting difference in the lives of thousands of people and the Seattle Mariners are proud to be a part of this innovative, collaborative solution.”
Since the public announcement in December, a second company, Microsoft, has pledged an additional $5 million to this effort. All of this is happening based on the foundation that Fred built.
Over two-thirds of Home Base funding will go directly into renter assistance, based on screening criteria to be developed. Funds will be authorized to be paid directly to landlords as part of negotiations by KCBA volunteer attorneys. The remaining third of the gift is planned to increase the support network for additional volunteer attorneys and United Way case management services.
The King County Bar Association bestows this year’s Pro Bono Award to Frederick B. Rivera as public recognition for his vision and leadership in hitting a home run for pro bono services and the clients our attorney volunteers serve.