Person of the Week
Cheryl Criscuolo Serves Community as President of EHFD Ladies Auxiliary
Over the past 10 years, Cheryl Criscuolo has become more and more involved in the East Haven Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, serving as president for the past four years. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Criscuolo )
For the past decade, Cheryl Criscuolo has volunteered with the East Haven Fire Department (EHFD) Co. 1 Ladies Auxiliary. She joined at the urging of her husband’s cousin, who was then serving as the president.
“Growing up, I had always been on the mindset that you had to be related to a member of the fire department to be involved,” says Cheryl, who grew up in New Haven. “If I could do anything as a career, it would be a philanthropist. The Ladies Auxiliary is micro-philanthropy.”
Cheryl’s initial thoughts about the Ladies Auxiliary weren’t unfounded. When the group began in 1978, most of the members were the wives or relatives of firefighters. The group originally focused on supporting the firefighters and victims of fires, which it still does.
“Though it’s the Co. 1 Ladies Auxiliary, we serve the entire fire department,” says Cheryl. “We have a great collaboration with the fire department and an excellent chief who’s supportive of our work.”
Cheryl has been president of the group for the past four year, serving as vice president in the preceding term. Though this is her last term as president, she will continue to be involved as she is enjoying the increased community outreach.
There was a brief time that the EHFD Ladies Auxiliary was dissolved, but when it was reinstated, it came back with more of a community focus. While the group still supports the fire department and does still offer water, coffee, and refreshments to firefighters at large-scale emergencies and assistance to fire victims, it puts an equal effort into supporting the community.
“The Ladies Auxiliary goes way beyond what most people think,” says Cheryl. “In the past few years, we’ve changed to have a presence at community events, amping up our outreach, and finding ways to connect.”
Now the Ladies Auxiliary can be found at various town event. The group volunteers at the annual Fall Festival where it hosts a children’s activity. At the tree lighting, the Ladies Auxiliary has a s’mores station. It also helps with the EHFD’s fundraisers, including the holiday toy drive and it’s St. Baldrick’s event.
The Ladies Auxiliary gives back to the community in other ways as well. It created a scholarship fund four years ago. Cheryl’s favorite part about the scholarship program is that it often benefits students who may not otherwise qualify for a scholarship based on academics.
“Our scholarships are geared toward those who face challenges,” says Cheryl. “We don’t have very much to give, but it’s important to give to people who might not qualify for a scholarship otherwise. We want to be sure to embrace the entire community.”
In order to support its scholarship program and other community outreach efforts, the Ladies Auxiliary hosts several fundraisers throughout the year. It has held a Bowl-a-Thon to raise money for the scholarships and hosts a Oktoberfest event in order to donate to the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation.
Due to COVID, the Ladies Auxiliary has not been able to host its in-person fundraisers and has created an online Vendor Fair hosted through the group’s Facebook page. During the month of April, local companies will be featured that have agreed to donate a portion of sales to the Ladies Auxiliary. The event will conclude with a giveaway on Saturday, May 1.
The Ladies Auxiliary normally hosts monthly meetings, though during the past year, they have been held via Zoom. During the meetings, the group discusses upcoming events or other projects with which it can get involved.
“We have great crew and membership and so many members who do other things in the community as well,” says Cheryl. “Our own members are very generous, giving of their time and resources. Everybody brings their own skillset to the table. The Ladies Auxiliary has really fulfilled my need to get into the community and serve the underserved members of the community.”
While Cheryl loves volunteering, she has worked at Yale University for more than three decades. She is the assistant to James P. Comer, M.D., the associate dean of Yale School of Medicine. Comer is also working on writing a book.
Cheryl enjoys her job and Yale’s annual day of service. She has volunteered time through her department, supporting Newborns in Need, a program that provides a bag of supplies to new mothers facing poverty, homelessness, or other challenges.
Cheryl also enjoys exploring Connecticut, the beach, taking care of her home, salsa dancing, spending time with friends, and hosting get-togethers, carrying on her families Italian traditions passed down from her mother and grandmother. Though she cannot continue all of these activities due to COVID, she is thankful to have been able to continue her volunteer work.
“During this difficult year with the pandemic, we have not able to fundraise very much, but we are continuing doing what we can to support the community and embrace the entire East Haven community,” says Cheryl. “In all volunteer groups, you can’t do it alone and if people didn’t have it in them to pay it forward, we wouldn’t be able to achieve all that we do.”
Cheryl is thankful for the support of her 24-year-old son Louis, who often helps out behind the scenes, as well as her husband Louis, who helps Cheryl collect donations, run events, bake, and more.
“My husband is my co-conspirator and I couldn’t do this without him,” says Cheryl. “My son helps with whatever he can help with. It’s really, truly family involvement.”
The Ladies Auxiliary always welcomes new members. Those interested can send a message through the group’s Facebook page.
“We’ve been trying to get out there and reach everybody in the community,” says Cheryl. “We want representation from entire community. We see ourselves not only as a fire department organization but a community-based organization. We’re open to everybody and we wan to be there for the community. We’d like you to join us and keep it going, keep it growing, and continue to be reflective of the entire East Haven community.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .