Before Navy SEAL Jonas B. Kelsall was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011 at age 32, he told his parents John and Teri that he wanted to give back to his fellow servicemen and women after he left the military. So they felt it was fitting to honor his memory by founding a nonprofit to help veterans start small businesses. They call it the Jonas Project
When Paul L. Freese, vice president with the pro bono law firm Public Counsel, heard their plan, he hooked them up with lawyers in the Los Angeles office of Detroit-based Dykema. John Kelsall says it "all got easier from there."
Harvey H. Rosen, Vivian S. Lee, and other Dykema attorneys knew that while most people associate pro bono work with litigation, it's just as important to donate transactional support. Dykema lawyers helped the Jonas Project set up as a 501(c)(3) and file paperwork with the IRS. "They took over and made sure I did what I needed to do," says Kelsall of southern Los Angeles County. "I loved it."
"We fell in love with this project," says Rosen, "and that attachment took this work way beyond lawyering."
The program got off the ground in 2012 and now helps 15 veterans across the country line up funding, mentoring, legal and financial counseling, and other services. The burgeoning businesses it has benefitted include a publishing house, a small law firm, and a brewery - and the project
is always taking new applications.
"I'm glad we can do this to honor Jonas's passion for what he did," says his father. "He made us incredibly proud."