Over the course of 70 years, the CBF has gone through quite an evolution to become the organization it is today one focused on improving access to justice through grants, community leadership, and policy advocacy in the courts and legislative process. For nearly half of the CBF’s existence, there was no need for staff offices because there was no staff board members and other volunteer leaders built the organization on their own in those early years. Then, in 1980, the CBF board hired Doris Burnstein as the first Executive Director (part-time, of course).
Elizabeth Densmore followed in her footsteps in 1989, though by that time the role had expanded to a full-time position. Linda Rio made the CBF a two-person operation for the first time when she joined as Director of Community Services in a position shared with the CBA in 1995. And in 1999, Bob Glaves became the third CBF Executive Director, now leading a staff of 11 other CBFers and coming up on two decades of growing the organization and its impact.
Most have come from the legal community. Dina Merrell came from the ABA, after years of public service. Cortney Redman, Samira Nazem and Angela Inzano were at CBF-supported pro bono and legal aid organizations. Bob Glaves was a litigator in private practice.
Others found their way to the CBF more by happy accident. Boasting a creative office, at least three former CBFers have backgrounds in theater, dance and acting, former Director of Development David Gee among them. And Justice Entrepreneurs Project Director Trevor Clarke was a participant in the very first class of the JEP.
When staff members have moved on from the CBF, many have stayed nearby in Chicago’s access to justice scene. Danielle Hirsch left in 2013 to become Assistant Director of the Access to Justice Division at the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts. Leslie Corbett and Linda Rio Reichmann today head the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation and Pro Bono Network, respectively. Karina Ayala-Bermejo moved on to become the first full-time director of the Lawyers-Lend-A-Hand To Youth program.
Some have gone in entirely new career directions. Taylor Hammond owns and runs The StopAlong, a great pizza joint in Bucktown. Angelika Labno left the CBF to teach in South America. And some, like Barbara Chasnoff and Joe Dailing, are living the good life and enjoying retirement.
We miss CBFers that have moved away from Chicago. Ryanne Easley now calls Connecticut home, Gerry Mamaril has been in Seattle for years, and Kelly Tautges is back in her hometown in the Twin Cities as Pro Bono Counsel and Director at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.
And some CBFers just missed this place too much. Karen Hamilton and Jessica Bednarz moved to North Carolina and Denver, respectively, but were enthusiastically welcomed back to the CBF family when they returned to Chicago.
But no matter what their backgrounds or where CBFers may have gone since, the one thing CBF staff members share is a strong belief that the justice system can and should be fair and accessible for everyone, and a dedication to making that a reality.