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Fairfax lawyer helps fund restaurants during COVID-19

John Harrity and employees from his firm at a charitable race for the American Heart Association organized by Harrity 4 Charity

John Harrity and employees from his firm at a charitable race for the American Heart Association organized by Harrity 4 Charity

A Fairfax attorney is using his charity organization to help community members suffering from the financial impacts of COVID-19.

In 2016, John Harrity, managing partner of Harrity & Harrity, nearly died at 49 from a “widowmaker” — a heart attack resulting in the complete closure of the left anterior coronary artery that often results in instant death. Given a million-to-one odds of survival, Harrity decided to turn such a negative experience into something good.

Soon after, Harrity 4 Charity, or H4C, was born.

“I thought, if I just get through this process and eventually go back to work and just go back as if nothing happened, then I will have wasted this entire experience,” Harrity said.

In the four years since its founding, H4C has worked as a tangential organization of Harrity’s firm to donate 5% of its profits to multiple causes, including the American Heart Association and Zero – the End of Prostate Cancer.

“Every employee of my firm gives a portion of their paycheck to our partner charities,” Harrity said. “We wouldn’t hire someone that wouldn’t be willing to make that commitment. That’s how important it is for us.”

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, H4C, now independent from Harrity’s firm, has “redesigned” its priorities to create a fund for individuals that are struggling financially during these times. In the past few months, Harrity has used his organization to create grants for struggling local restaurants — including Glory Days Grill in Fairfax.

“We thought, OK, we’ve been giving to charities, and that’s good, but I think we need to pivot and help people who have been financially impacted,” Harrity said.

Therefore last month, Harrity teamed up with the Glory Days Grill owners to create a system in which the restaurant provided 157 meal vouchers to local food banks that could be brought to the restaurant and exchanged for a meal for a family of four.

“The [community] response has been overwhelming. People are so grateful that we are helping them,” said Sandra Maxey, controller for H4C.

Sandra Maxey, controller for Harrity 4 Charity, at a charitable race for the American Heart Association

Sandra Maxey, controller for Harrity 4 Charity, at a charitable race for the American Heart Association

One Fairfax resident that benefited from a meal voucher is Elsa, who asked not to have her last name published. Last month, the youngest of Elsa’s four sons tested positive for COVID-19. Because her family has to stay home for at least two weeks following his diagnosis, they were unable to work and struggled to afford groceries.

“The Glory Days donation came to us at the best time where we could sit down as a family and enjoy a meal together,” Elsa said.

Harrity said he wanted to make a charitable contribution directly connected to his firm, as well. Therefore, he had his 55 employees compile a list of all the individuals they knew of that are struggling financially during this time.

The firm has since sent a first round of checks to those individuals to help alleviate financial stress, with a second round being sent in the upcoming weeks.

“Our intention with that is that we will continue to do it for as long as there’s an issue,” Harrity said.

Maxey said that the organization is currently in the process of creating an additional program to help feed first responders.

Harrity said he wants to help those outside of Virginia, as well. Therefore, with two employees working remotely in Alabama, H4C has begun giving to food banks there.

“We’re going to continue to do this through the end of the year,” Harrity said.

Have you or your firm been doing good work and spreading kindness lately? If so, VLW would love to hear from you. Send in your good news to mmazurowski@valawyersmedia.com.