Would-be business executive Bill Loveland switched to law to assist people. Three decades later, he remains motivated to help others.

Would-be business executive Bill Loveland switched to law to assist people. Three decades later, he remains motivated to help others.

A "call to service" led Loveland, an Upper Arlington resident who grew up in Clintonville before graduating in 1973 from Dublin Coffman High School, to practice law and represent numerous clients who couldn't afford a lawyer.

Recently, those efforts were recognized by President Barack Obama, who selected Loveland for a President's Volunteer Service Award for "helping to address the most pressing needs in (Loveland's) community and our country."

"Your volunteer service demonstrates the kind of commitment to your community that moves America a step closer to its great promise," Obama wrote in a letter to Loveland.

Unbeknown to Loveland, he was nominated for the award by past client Arthur "The Bread Man" Willhite.

In June 2001, Willhite received a court order to stop operating his nonprofit bread ministry from the backyard of his Clime Road home in southwest Columbus because it violated Franklin County zoning laws. He and his late wife, Mary, appealed the decision, saying their ministry constituted a legal, religious use of the property.

The government's case eventually fizzled, but for approximately five years and through what Willhite said were 26 court appearances and "well over $100,000 in billable hours," he was represented by Loveland at no cost.

As a result, Willhite said, his ministry survived, allowing it to provide $20 million in food aid to people in central Ohio, as well as at disaster sites throughout the nation.

"If it wasn't for his work, we would've lost the case," Willhite said. "The first day in court, with our finances, would've bankrupted us.

"He's been an absolute godsend."

Recently, Willhite surprised Loveland with the award, letter and associated lapel pin over lunch.

"It doesn't seem like that much could hinge on just one person, but this ministry would not have excelled and succeeded if not for (Loveland)," Willhite said. "He's a wonderful man.

"Bill is deserving of the award, absolutely, and I wish there was more I could possibly do. Through all this, he became a tremendous friend and he's gone the extra mile one thousand times over."

Loveland, an attorney whose pro bono clients include artists facing eviction from the Milo Arts Center, and Anita Barney, a senior citizen who lost more than $2 million and two homes after being scammed by former Ohio State football All-American Art Schlichter, said the award was "very humbling."

The 58-year-old attorney also noted it was the second time he's received a letter from a U.S. president. The first was from Richard Nixon, who recognized Loveland for becoming an Eagle Scout.

"It's just very reaffirming," Loveland said. "It leads me to think I'm doing things I ought to be doing and it motivates me to do more."

Loveland is a partner at Loveland & Brosius, a Columbus law firm his father, Richard Loveland -- who at 82, still practices -- helped establish.

Bill Loveland represents local governments in real estate, development and zoning matters, but he's just as likely to take on clients who can't afford to fight City Hall or who've been harmed through no fault of their own.

"I need to do that kind of thing," he said. "I represent a lot of folks who have a problem I feel real strongly about or who can't afford legal representation.

"I think it's important we all focus on helping people while we're here on Earth. We don't have that much time here."

He said those ideals were instilled by his grandparents on both sides, Lyle and Eleanor Loveland and Bill and Ginger Ross, as well as his father and mother, Catherine, who at 82 remains active in the Ross Foundation, a nonprofit charity started by her father that provides college scholarships to high school students for community service work.

Although Bill was just four classes away from earning a master's degree in business administration, he said the law beckoned because he thought he could assist people through it.

"I just feel the reason we're here is to help each other," he said. "It's the highest calling that exists."

In addition to his law practice, Loveland is heavily involved in providing approximately 120 scholarships each year through the Ross Foundation, and he referees youth and high school hockey.

He's quick to mention his son, Matt, who was a member of Upper Arlington High School's 2006 Final Four hockey team, as well as his daughter, whom he notes with pride, is "Dr." Megan Loveland.

In addition to his parents and grandparents, Loveland said his "wonderful wife of 35 years," Susan, and his friends and legal partners have been integral to his personal and professional successes.

And he said the recognition from President Obama, as well as his parents' continued, tireless work ethic, are reminders to stay committed to community service.

"I'm focused on what I can do tomorrow," Loveland said. "I think I can always do better.

"I hope we can convince others to take on some of these crazy causes. Everybody has the ability to help other folks."