By Leyla Shokoohe
Sara Cooperrider’s commitment to volunteer service has deep roots, stretching back to childhood.
A transactional lawyer with The Kroger Co., Cooperrider was recently honored by the Ohio State Bar Foundation with its districtwide community service award for attorneys 40 and under.
“My parents sent me down this path,” said Cooperrider, who is 33. “My dad worked as an electrician and taught electrician school in the evenings, and my mom was a kindergarten teacher, and you can still find her working in a school in Price Hill and regularly volunteering in the community.”
“Whether it was visiting my grandpa in the nursing home with my dad or seeing his genuine response to homeless persons walking alongside, my parents have taught me by example that while we vary in circumstance, strengths and weaknesses, we are all equal in our humanity.”
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Cooperrider attended St. William and then Seton High School. Volunteer experiences while at Seton informed her understanding of poverty and social determinants of health, as framed in Elizabeth Ann Seton’s keen guidance, “Hazard yet forward.”
“Seton also taught me the value of a nurturing school environment. It motivates me in the volunteer work I do today,” said Cooperrider.
She graduated from Miami University, then earned a law degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., along with a master’s in public health.
“I went to law school intending to pursue a career in public service or the judiciary,” said Cooperrider. Her experiences down other avenues were initiated by her public health degree, which took her into health care law.
She is currently corporate counsel for health care at Kroger, where “we are working to feed the human spirit, help people live healthier lives, and simplify health care by creating solutions that combine health, wellness and nutrition.”
Cooperrider became familiar with the Junior League of Cincinnati through other lawyers at her previous firm, Porter Wright.
“I was looking for a volunteer opportunity,” said Cooperrider, “(and) it was a natural fit, given I had served as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) during college and ProKids was a project of the JLC. I soon learned of the JLC’s many other impressive and impactful projects – MindPeace, Baby’s Milk Fund and Fernside, to name a few.”
She joined the Junior League’s program development committee, helping to develop projects focused on pediatric oral health and refugee resettlement. She also served as vice president of community impact, an endowment trustee, and now sits on the organization’s board of directors.
“I started my work with refugees in a JLC community-needs interview at the Academy of World Languages in January of 2012,” said Cooperrider. Around the table, she said, were individuals with ties to the refugee community, including the Community Learning Center Institute resource coordinator, the Catholic Charities director of refugee resettlement and a refugee mother of a student at the Academy of World Languages.
“I soon learned the strength of the entire JLC organization would mold it into a beautiful project of advocacy and assistance.”
She discovered how the long hours refugees work at low-paying jobs often make it difficult for them to attend weekly English as a second language classes.
“On many occasions, in warehouse positions, they are asked to work into the evening in order to provide for themselves and their families, (and) then aren’t able to attend the classes,” said Cooperrider. “We worked with them to provide classes at their churches, close to where they live, and understand that it doesn’t always work out, but it’s worth the effort. I’ve never regretted attending, even if just one refugee woman and her children attend, as I often have a child of mine in tow, as well. That’s life, and it makes it more fun!”
A mother of two, Cooperrider credits husband Tony, whom she met in college, with helping keep the balance among family, work and volunteering.
“(He) helps make all of this work,” she said.
In addition to her involvement with the Junior League, Cooperrider serves on the board of directors and as incoming chair of the operations committee for Beech Acres Parenting Center, which works to inspire and equip parents, families and communities to raise capable, caring, contributing children.
Cooperrider wants to pass that legacy on to her children.
“I hope to instill in them the same values my parents instilled in me – hard work, kindness, generosity, resilience and humility.”