Her deep - okay - maniacal passion for downhill skiing is a convenient metaphor for Keye (pronounced Key) Hollister's voluminous record of volunteer work. Pro bono for this veteran Pittsfield attorney is a lot like a powdery slope: There are irrepressible forces at work - in one case, gravity, in the other, Hollister's giving soul - that simply makes things happen.
The fact is, she's been this way for years - even a quarter-century ago, when Hollister was still a law student. The ultimate local, born and practicing in Pittsfield and now living across the street from where she hangs her shingle, Hollister has always possessed a knack for nudging folks in an upwardly mobile direction.
"When I was in law school, I bought a house in Pittsfield and I rented out three rooms to Berkshire Community College students," recalls Hollister, who shares her family-law practice with legal and life partner John R. Gobel. "One of the gals who lived there [Debra Clark], who now owns her own advertising agency in Florida, tells me I ran (an informal) 'Grooming for Greatness' program out of that house. There was another woman, who kept books for us, who I finally convinced to go back to school. She's now an accountant. So she's part of the G-for-G program, too."
Not only does Hollister give back, she gives of herself for the long haul. Once this 63-year-old attorney signs on, she doesn't come with an overnight bag.
Hollister has been involved in the Berkshire Community College Foundation since 1981. She's given nearby Girls, Inc. - a national, nonprofit young women's empowerment organization - informal and arranged pro bono assistance since 1991. And she's served as an outspoken board member of Pittsfield's Teenage Parent Program since 1993.
Inside the office of … Attorney: Keye Hollister
Years in practice:
Gobel and HollisterLaw School:
Western New England School of Law (J.D., 1978)
UMass-Amherst (BA, 1978)<<br />Diploma:
Miss Hall's School
Life partner, John R. Gobel; no children
"She's done a huge body of pro bono work, but she's also someone you can call up and talk to about a case and she'll offer you her experience," says Berkshire Bar Association President Glynis MacVeety, who operates her own multi-service practice in Pittsfield. "She's been in the field a long time. She'll let you know what she thinks, and that kind of mentoring behavior is
Hollister's other longstanding commitments include serving as a Mass. IOLTA Committee chairwoman (1992-2001), on the Berkshire Bar Association Executive Committee (1993-present), as a member of Zonta, Inc., a women's business empowerment organization, (1996-present) and on various Mass. Bar Association committees (1987-'95).
What's more, Hollister conceived and organized a Take-Our-Daughters-to-Work program among women lawyers in Berkshire County throughout the '90s, along with additional volunteer efforts ranging even farther afield.
"I don't know if there's any particular reason for it," says Hollister. "I'm just a person who enjoys volunteer work and I find it very rewarding. I think part of is that I don't have a family, so I do have a lot more time than other lawyers. I'm also in the western part of the state and not a lot of people like to go to Boston regularly. I get the opportunity because I have that interest."
Though she's never had any children of her own, Hollister does attribute part of her pioneering, proactive spirit to her parents. Heartily encouraged to broaden
her horizons, Hollister chose to study at Paris' Sorbonne at 19.
"I think my mother always wanted to travel when she was younger, but you just didn't do those things in her day," explains Hollister, now an avid skier who regularly jets to Canada or western U.S. slopes. "But she encouraged me and off I went. I've had the urge to travel ever since."
So is any of this giving back, so much of it of a nurturing nature, part of a deeper motivation to impart the independent spirit Hollister found in herself?
"I wouldn't mind if that were true," she parries.
One of the best (and least predictable) perks of volunteering time, effort and expertise, explains Hollister, is how contagious and symbiotic the whole
process can be.
"The teen-parent program, for example, is essentially a school for pregnant teens," says Hollister. "I've continually encouraged an enrichment component to the program and we've had some success taking these girls to places in Berkshire County they might not otherwise go - the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Clark Art Institute. It's times like that when you see this stuff snowball. I contacted the Red Lion Inn [an 18th century historic landmark in Stockbridge] to see if they'd offer hot chocolate and cookies after a museum trip. The Inn ends up offering them lunch and providing a discussion group about employment opportunities led by single mothers who work at the Inn. Isn't that terrific?"
In fact, it's Keye.