Values

How a V&E Lawyer is Building Ties to His Community, One House at a Time

“This kind of work is a necessary part of being a member of the world and of your community.”

There’s no denying it: V&E finance partner Mike Bielby is no star when it comes to swinging a hammer.

“I’m good at hammering my own thumbs,” Bielby said.

But what he lacks in hammering technique, he more than makes up for with fundraising skills, hard work and a commitment to helping others. Bielby brings those things and more to his role as co-chair of the Dallas Bar Association (DBA) Home Project, a partnership with Habitat for Humanity that coordinates the efforts of lawyers in the Dallas area.

Bielby, along with his co-chair, David Fisk of the law firm Kane Russell Coleman Logan, are responsible for soliciting the necessary funds to sponsor the construction of one house a year for a Dallas family in need. Bielby and Fisk are also charged with planning events to raise awareness and attract a continuing flow of sponsors and volunteers.

Last year the Dallas legal community contributed more than $80,000, as well as more than a thousand volunteer hours, to build a family’s new home. This year, the 28-year-old DBA Home Project is building its 29th house.

Bielby originally connected with DBA Home Project six years ago. After moving from Chicago to Dallas in 2011 to take a job at V&E, he had been looking for ways to get involved in his new community. When V&E sought participants for a Habitat for Humanity “build day,” during which volunteers spend a day working on a home-building project, he signed up.

Mike working on the roof of a Habitat for Humanity home.

Over the years Bielby continued to spend days off at construction sites doing everything from building walls on bare foundations to framing and shingling roofs. At the same time, he spread the word at V&E, encouraging his colleagues to get involved. As a result, in 2016 he was asked to co-chair the DBA Home Project.

Bielby said he was attracted to Habitat for Humanity’s approach to giving and investing in the community. Habitat families are required to contribute 250 hours of “sweat equity” by helping build their own homes alongside volunteers. The future homeowners also receive financial education to help them manage the costs and responsibilities of home ownership.

“We’re not only helping people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to own a home, we’re helping them become responsible homeowners,” Bielby said.

V&E shares those sentiments. Thanks to Bielby’s efforts, the firm increased its financial contributions and it regularly involves clients in V&E-sponsored build days. In recognition of V&E’s commitment, last year the DBA Home Project gave the firm its 2018 Judge Merrill Hartman Support Award.

V&E-ers at a Habitat for Humanity build day.

One of the perks of Bielby’s job is getting to know the families who will own Habitat for Humanity houses. He has worked alongside them at construction sites and also participates in ceremonies where they are handed keys and other symbolic gifts to celebrate their new homeownership.

“One thing is uniformly true about all of these families: They are extremely grateful,” Bielby said. “They understand how home ownership can change their lives and allow them to focus on achieving other goals, such as saving for education.”

What would he tell a busy lawyer who might not have much time to spare for volunteer work, let alone construction skills?

“This kind of work is a necessary part of being a member of the world and of your community,” he said. “It might add a little bit of stress to your plate, but it will be tremendously rewarding.”