August 15, 2021
Kim Cooper Wants to End Food Insecurity
Kim Cooper joined our business in 1999. She’s a customer sales associate in our Birmingham, Alabama, Trane Supply store, and her passion is giving back and serving others, especially when it comes to ending food insecurity.
Before the pandemic, Kim and her teenage daughters volunteered regularly at a homeless shelter, preparing and serving food. When COVID restrictions prevented them from volunteering, Kim began researching other options. Around that time, she discovered a new Trane Technologies benefit for salaried employees: Up to 8 hours of paid time off per calendar year to volunteer for a non-profit organization. The program aims to make it easier for employees to take small steps to challenge what’s possible for a sustainable world and contribute to our sustainability commitments in the same communities where they work, live and play.
“My daughters and I love giving back and helping others,” Kim said. “And when I discovered that our company allows paid time off for charity work, I wanted to find a food bank to partner with and help out however I can.”
Working today for a sustainable tomorrow
So she researched opportunities to volunteer near our Birmingham Trane Supply store and found the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama. Their mission statement stood out immediately – to feed people in need today and foster collaborative solutions to end hunger tomorrow.
“This aligns with the Trane Technologies leadership principle that resonates with me the most – work today for a sustainable tomorrow,” Kim said. “The food bank’s mission statement and what we’re trying to do at Trane Technologies go hand in hand. I decided this is the place to be hands on with.”
Kim scheduled her volunteer hours with the food bank and cleared the time off with her manager, then rolled her sleeves and got to work. She helped sort food, check the condition of fresh produce, and pack boxes for distribution at mobile food pantries in 12 counties in central Alabama. Each month the food bank feeds 60,000 children, seniors, veterans and others, and provides food for more than 260 agencies, such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
“I was very impressed with how well-run the food bank is and how many people they’re able to serve,” Kim said. “People think hunger only exists in other countries, but there are people in my own neighborhood who don’t have consistent access to enough food.”
Bring it to work with you
When Kim returned to work after volunteering, she shared her experience with her manager, Store Team Leader Chris Denney. He was moved by her passion and invited Kim to take her volunteerism to the next level by hosting a food drive right there in the Birmingham Trane Supply store.
“This became my sustainability goal for 2021 – to help end hunger right here in Birmingham,” Kim said. “We made another trip back to the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama to donate boxes and packaging tape and pick up two large bins for our customers to fill with nonperishable food and bottled water in June and July.”
Kim spearheaded the effort, communicating the food drive to Trane Supply customers and organizing a giveaway – one food item donated equals one entry – with Trane Supply hats and other branded items for prizes. Customers filled both bins by early July – well ahead of schedule – and the donations keep coming.
“It’s been fun for us and it brought my team together,” she said. “Even though I spearheaded the food drive, it was an opportunity for all of us to make a difference.
“I truly believe that the only way to make an impact in the lives of others is to work together.”
Where does Kim’s passion come from?
Kim says her passion comes from her childhood, when she was food insecure herself. Her mother passed away when Kim was just 7 years old, beginning a five-year stretch living with a family that Kim describes as “not the best situation.” It was far from it. Kim ate most of her meals at school and often went days without eating.
“I remember being hungry most days, and the programs I volunteer with now weren’t around back then – or I was too young to know about them,” Kim said. “I have a big heart when it comes to children in need because of what I went through. I want to help end food insecurity, especially for the children.”
Thankfully, Kim went to live with her grandmother at age 12, regaining stability and eating homecooked meals every day. But the food insecure part of her childhood had left its mark.
“Children have no control over their situation and food security, for whatever reason,” she said. “That’s why, once I became an adult, I started looking for ways to help people in need. I’m blessed to be able to give back and help others.”
Giving back runs in the family
Kim’s volunteerism doesn’t stop there. In 2007 she and her husband ToDannius started Wylam Youth Football Association, a football league and cheer program for more than 100 children in a less fortunate Birmingham neighborhood. Kim and ToDannius’ teenage children help run the league, which aims to keep children active and out of trouble while learning about sportsmanship and teamwork.
It’s also another opportunity for Kim to feed children who may not get enough to eat at home. With help from sponsors, the league provides children with fruit, healthy snacks, water and sports drinks. Donations and fundraisers cover the cost of equipment and registration fees; Kim and ToDannius organize all aspects of the league and serve as coaches and mentors.
Fortunate to serve others
Kim considers herself fortunate to be in a position to serve others and to see her sustainability goal come to fruition as Trane Supply customers quickly filled the donation bins.
“The food drive fulfilled my passion to serve the community, and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Kim said. “I’m so proud to work for a company that not only supports my passion, but is willing to stand behind me 100% in giving back, allowing me to partner with an organization and host a food drive right here in our Trane Supply store. It’s a pretty big deal.”