Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Person of the Week

Kimberly Coppola Finds Sense of Community by Giving Back

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Ever since she was young, Kimberly Coppola has made giving back to the community a priority. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Coppola

Ever since she was young, Kimberly Coppola has made giving back to the community a priority. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Coppola )

Growing up, Kimberly Coppola has seen her mother and godmother give back by volunteering with the East Haven Food Pantry (EHFP). When EHFP started, volunteers needed to pick up items from the Connecticut Food Bank and bring them back to the EHFP.

As a teenager, Kim had a pickup truck and she was called upon when they needed help transporting food. Kim volunteered in that capacity for years until the Food Bank moved to Wallingford when she became the liaison between Stop & Shop and the EHFP.

“When I started, it was about me having a truck and having the time as I worked nights,” says Kim. “We’ve always been involved in the community.”

Kim has been involved in the community in many ways over the years, not only giving back to the EHFP, but a variety of other fundraisers and organizations as well. She has served as a dispatcher for more than three decades and is a lifetime member of the East Haven Volunteer Fire Department.

Recently, Kim received word that she would be honored for her service. She received a Shore Publishing Beacon Award, which “recognizes a few of the outstanding individuals who selflessly step up to help fulfill the Shoreline community’s promise as a place of opportunity, well-being, and safety for all.” While the in-person gala was canceled, the recipients were honored with an online ceremony.

“It’s quite humbling considering volunteering is just an every day thing for me,” says Kim. “There are a lot of people in the community doing good even in this tough time and so many people who have stepped up.”

Kim has continued to step up for the community since those first days volunteering her time and her truck for transporting food. She has not only given back through her volunteer work, but in her career as well.

She was hired by the East Haven Fire Department in 1995 as one of four dispatchers, continuing to serve the community in that capacity until she retired East Haven in 2018. She now works as a dispatcher for the Town of Madison.

Early in her career, Kim decided to pursue becoming an EMT and a volunteer firefighter. She is now a lifetime member, having volunteered for more than 20 years. Though Kim no longer responds to calls, she still gives back by volunteering when needed at community events.

“I always knew I wanted to be involved with something that helped people so working at the 911 center and being an EMT and volunteer firefighter is very important to me,” says Kim. “I still hold my EMT and firefighter certification, but I’m not jumping into the fire anymore. I’m falling back a bit and letting the younger generation take over.”

Working in emergency services definitely had its challenges for Kim as she was often presented with “the worst day of people’s lives.” To combat the stress, she relied on helping the community.

Over the years, Kim has been involved with the Wounded Warriors, photographing flag football games for the amputee team all over the country. Pre-COVID, she also worked on the organization’s golf fundraiser.

In honor of her nephew, who has Down syndrome, Kim fundraises for Easter Seals each year by participating in the Penguin Plunge. She has also been involved with Walter Camp, helping to transport players for different events.

While she enjoys giving back to the community, one of her favorite ways to give back is to help animals in need. She has been involved in various rescues over the years and she now has six acres of land where she lives with her family, horses, pigs, rabbits, and dogs.

“I just love animals,” says Kim, who has hosted pony rides for children’s birthday parties since she was 19. “Riding horses is the therapeutic for me helps to offset the crazy world I deal with at work.”

Kim has two children, who are both remote learning. Her 19-year-old daughter, Sophia, is enrolled in UConn’s chemical engineering program and her 16-year-old son David attends the Sound School. Both are taking after their mom when it comes to community service.

“They’re with me carrying boxes and seeing what it is to serve the community,” says Kim. “It shows them how blessed their life really is. Giving back fills you with a sense of purpose and helps fill the human spirit.”

After all of these years, Kim is still very involved with the EHFP. She now acts as the liaison between Stop & Shop in East Haven and the pantry. The store calls Kim when it has items for her to pick up, which can be anywhere from three to five times in a week.

“I have good rapport with the managers there,” says Kim. “It’s wonderful to be able to get the food that the staff takes the time to scan and gather. The meat, baked goods, and more complement the food pantry’s offerings.”

Because some items are perishable and the EHFP is only open on certain days—Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon—she has found other ways to make sure the donations are going to people in need. Over the years, Kim has made connections with other organizations such as the Senior Center, the City of New Haven, the men’s shelter, and New Reach Women’s Shelter.

“I’ve tried to be very resourceful in picking out agencies and finding out what parts of the public can use the food,” says Kim. “Everybody eats and is trying to make the best of things, especially with COVID. The need touches every demographic. To be able to help people put an extra meal on table every week helps the community. Once we get that stigma that it’s just for underprivileged, it sets things at a different standard.”

Kim is quick to point out that she only plays a small role in the EHFP. There are many other volunteers who take part in different parts of the process of getting food to those in need. She encourages others to give back as well, as it is not only meaningful but a great way to make new friends as well.

“The Food Pantry involves many people who play different roles—it’s a well-oiled engine with a lot of hands involved,” says Kim. “I don’t have the cash to give, but giving my time is valuable. There’s a million things you could do with your time, but to put it toward a mission is something meaningful.

“I’ve made wonderful friends who are involved in aspects of all things in the community,” adds Kim. “When you’re around good people, it breeds good. It just gives everyone a sense of community spirit.”


Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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