In honor of Family Volunteer Day, Nov. 22, Points of Light and Disney are recognizing the exceptional work of volunteer families with the Daily Point of Light Award. Meet today’s family, the D’Ambra-Coplan Family of Scarsdale, NY, and nominate someone in your community.
When Susi Coplan and Scott D’Ambra got married, they claimed Thanksgiving as their holiday to host, bringing parents, in-laws and friends together for the big meal. The Thanksgiving table became the anchor for their family tradition. But when the couple and their two children, 11-year-old Daniel and 8-year-old Rachel found an incredible opportunity to give back to those in need in New York City, their holiday tradition took on a new meaning.
Many families who struggle to make ends meet every day cannot afford to take on the additional expenses that surface during the holiday season. According to the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, as many as one in five of the city’s children battle food insecurity.
To help mitigate this hardship, the D’Ambra-Coplan family volunteers with the Salvation Army at a special event in Harlem that provides food baskets – filled with all the trimmings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner – for 250 families to prepare and enjoy together in their own homes.
Members of the D’Ambra-Coplan family have been involved with the Salvation Army Food Basket giveaway since the activity began six years ago. They pitch in everywhere at the all-day event, greeting families, placing frozen turkeys in baskets, even manning the Salvation Army food truck.
Susi first learned about this service opportunity through the VoluntEARS initiative at her employer, ABC, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. Disney officially marks the Saturday before Thanksgiving as Family VoluntEAR Day, encouraging employees and their families to give back to their communities through service. The family is involved in other volunteer activities throughout the year supporting causes for advancing music, science and art.
Through their steadfast participation every year in this special Thanksgiving event, Susi, Scott and their children have created a family tradition of service they can call their own. According to Susi, “Since this activity takes place right at the start of the holidays, it helps ‘set the table’ for gratitude, and helps get us involved with other ways to donate as a family.”
Susi sees how the world has become bigger for Daniel, as her son has learned about cultural, societal and economic differences through service. “When he started helping, Daniel was the youngest VoluntEAR they’d ever had,” Susi recalls. Over the years Daniel has become so invested in the annual Salvation Army event that when a family vacation once competed on the calendar with the food basket giveaway, he insisted that his mother reschedule their trip for a different week.
The impact of the D’Ambra-Coplan family’s volunteer work touches the lives of hundreds of families in need each year. Distributing food baskets keeps the joy of a truly iconic family experience – the reunion of loved ones around a table to give thanks – within reach for those less fortunate.
“When I tell the kids and my husband it is time to sign up for the Salvation Army event, there is great excitement to be able to help others have that experience,” Susi explains. “It’s just a remarkable day.”