Law firm gives $50,000 to Bridgeport agency that helps the homeless

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by Brad Durrell
Bridgeport News

December 29, 2008

Attorney Richard Bieder of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder chats with a guest of the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, with attorney James Horwitz in the background. The law firm donated $50,000 to help the nonprofit organization.

A Bridgeport law firm has donated $50,000 to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, which works to turn around the lives of people who are homeless or very poor.

Attorney Richard Bieder of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder said the need for the mission’s services are increasing with the economic slowdown.

“The organization serves food, provides shelter and, equally important, offers hope to underprivileged and often neglected members of our society,” said Bieder, a principal at the law firm.

Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder has 17 lawyers and about 35 other employees at offices in Bridgeport, Danbury and New Haven.

This year the firm’s partners decided to give a large contribution to one charity in particular need. The firm also donates to other nonprofit organizations

“This is the biggest one we’ve given out,” Bieder said. “As long as the bad times continue and we’re able to give, we’ll pick one organization that serves a need no one else does.”

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission provides shelter to as many as 110 people every night and meals to as many as 1,200 individuals daily.

Bieder said the donation also symbolizes the firm’s commitment to Bridgeport, where it was founded in 1936. “We’re not giving up on the city, and we think it’s finally turning around,” he said.

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission does not receive state or federal funding, often using a religious message to help troubled individuals to rebuild their lives. Many of the people it helps have substance abuse problems.

The Rev. Terry Wilcox, mission executive director, said the funds are needed to meet a budget shortfall during a time of record demand for its services.

Wilcox said the organization expects to be $200,000 short of required revenues by mid-January. The need to assist homeless persons increases in the winter due to cold weather.

Paul Hiller Jr., the mission’s board chairman, said the meals being provided daily by the organization have gone from 450 at the start of the year to 1,200 at year’s end. In November the mission provided 32,000 meals.

James Horwitz, another principal at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, said the mission’s New Life program for people with substance abuse problems has graduated 136 men and women in the past six years.

“They are free from drugs and other addictions, back with their families and working in the community, and that is a gift beyond measure,” Horwitz said.

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission on Fairfield Avenue operates out of the former Fanny Crosby Home, a residence for older poor people. Bieder’s mother-in-law used to work at the home, but he didn’t realize the mission was in the same building until he want there to present the check.

Fanny Crosby was a well-known blind hymn singer who died in 1915 in Bridgeport.

Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder specializes in civil litigation, including personal injury and civil rights cases.

The Bridgeport law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder has donated $50,000 to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. Pictured from left to right during the donation ceremony are attorney Richard Bieder; Paul Hiller Jr., Bridgeport Rescue Mission board chairman; Mayor Bill Finch; Terry Wilcox, Bridgeport Rescue Mission executive director; and attorney James Horwitz. Finch called the donation an example of a local business recognizing an urgent community need.