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Varnum Partner David Rhem Receives Award for Promoting Diversity in the Lakeshore Community

May 1, 2010

Holland, MI – Varnum partner David Rhem was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance (LEDA) in May 2010 at the Summit on Racism held at Hope College.

LEDA was started in 1996 with the mission to promote racial justice in the lakeshore community by creating equal opportunity for people of all ethnicities to fully participate in all aspects of community life.

As a founding board member, Rhem was key to LEDA's growth. His work has included securing LEDA's nonprofit legal status, and serving as the first president, a position he held for three years. In addition, Rhem served many years on LEDA’s board of directors, and was instrumental in the planning and presentation of the first five Lakeshore Region Summits on Racism, a day-long conference focused on addressing the effects of racism in the lakeshore community.

"The hours David has invested in advancing our organization and the quality of our work was critical to our success," said Gail Harrison, executive director of LEDA. "The award recognizes him as a founding board member whose dedication moved us from a group of concerned citizens to a viable nonprofit organization."

Rhem's involvement in LEDA started in 1996 after a burning cross was planted in the lawn of the only African American pastor in the Spring Lake area.

"I was outraged," Rhem said. "A burning cross? In 1996? In my community? This became a personal call to action. I sought an outlet to address this act of racial hatred. I found a group of like-minded persons and we formed what is now the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance."

Fourteen years later, LEDA has grown to offer a series of programs including diversity training, migrant mentoring, and advocacy services; and recently received a prestigious grant from the Kellogg Foundation to fund its programs. The programs are implemented by hundreds of volunteers and reach thousands of people in the lakeshore community each year.

At Varnum, Rhem chaired the Diversity Team for 14 years, and has been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion both within the firm and in western Michigan. In 2010, Rhem moved into an Of Counsel position in order to focus on his campaign for Ottawa County Circuit Court Judge.

Varnum is a leading Michigan law firm providing a broad range of legal services to meet the complex needs of its clients. With more than 150 attorneys in five offices, Varnum serves as counsel to growing businesses and institutions throughout Michigan and the Midwest. Varnum's website address is www.varnumlaw.com.

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