A Parkite finds the joys in giving back
It was more than 20 years ago that a pair of representatives from Lions Club International walked into Craig Cooper’s office and asked if he’d be interested in starting a Park City chapter.
Cooper smiles as he remembers.
He had just opened an Allstate Insurance agency and was doing all he could to keep it afloat. He had little time for anything else. The Lions, though, were persistent. And since Cooper’s father had been a member, he eventually relented. “I guess,” he told them, “you can mark me down as interested.”
A week later and without his knowledge, he said, his name and phone number were published in The Park Record, listing him as the primary contact for people who wanted to join the club. The calls began flooding in. Whether he wanted to be or not, he had become a co-founder of the Park City Lions Club.
“Within a month or two, we had probably 30 people who wanted to join,” he said. “I had a soft spot for (the club) because my father was a member. As I’ve learned more about the organization and the good things they do, on an international level and also a local level, I’ve become passionate about it.”
More than two decades later, Cooper continues to find joy in public service. He recently helped secure $1,000 grants for three nonprofit organizations through the Allstate Foundation. The process worked like this: the organizations — the Peace House, Utah Lions Foundation and KPCW — nominated Cooper, detailing in applications the volunteer work he does for them and why he would be a good candidate to be awarded the grants.
The Allstate Foundation ultimately approved the nominations. In essence, Cooper was the vessel for the insurance company to provide the organizations with funding.
“In the end, it’s all about them,” he said.
Cooper has special connections with each organization. He has been involved in the Lions Club for more than two decades, and he has been a volunteer DJ at KPCW for nearly just as long, hosting a weekly show dedicated to alternative music.
It all started when someone with KPCW approached him about doing underwriting for the station. He asked instead about getting on the airwaves. Parkites have been jamming out to his playlists ever since.
“It’s one of the more fun things I do,” he said.
And while the fruits of his efforts at KPCW are less tangible than those at the Peace House and the Lions Club, Cooper knows the radio station plays an important role in town. He recalled an incident in the early 2000s when a fire was burning through the Summit Park area during a power outage. People were able to turn on their radios and learn that residents nearby should evacuate the area.
“There aren’t always specifically people in need like there are with the Lions Club and the Peace House,” he said, “but we do have a need here for community radio.”
His volunteer work for the Peace House stems from empathy. The organization provides a safe haven for women victimized by domestic violence and their children. Cooper donates food nearly every week and pitches in in other ways when he can.
“I really feel for those people, in particularly the children,” he said. “Especially around the holidays — Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter, Mother’s Day. All those are special occasions and I try to do a little something extra for them where I can.”
Cooper, who also volunteers at a number of other organizations, said he enjoys giving back to the community because of the way it makes him feel. There is nothing, he said, like watching your efforts make a difference — one of the perks of serving the community you live in. He added that living in Park City is inspiring because of how many others are also giving their time and money to good causes.
“I wouldn’t be here without the support of the local community,” said Cooper, who moved to Park City in 1985. “So I feel privileged to be able to give back where I can. It feels good. I end my radio show every week by saying, ‘Try to do something nice for somebody. Get involved, make a difference. They’ll feel better and so will you.’ And I really believe that’s true. I do feel better when I’m able to help somebody else.”
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