She’s always been a woman of action: practical, efficient, and organized. As a busy, single mother working a full-time job, Perian Cooper still found a way to give back to her community – a gift that would later open doors of opportunity in her own life. Perian learned about Integrated Family Community Service (IFCS) nearly 40 years ago and has been employed as IFCS’ Accounting Clerk for the past nine. She brings a heart of compassion to her work every day, because “she’s been there.”
It was the 1980s when Perian learned of IFCS. She was a single mom with a 5-year-old daughter, living paycheck to paycheck. Working full time as a head teller for a local bank was a great job, but $8.25/hour wasn’t enough to cover rent, childcare expenses, and weekly groceries too. A customer at the bank told her about IFCS’ food support, and Perian visited when money was tight. The food – mostly canned and boxed items in those days – reduced her stress and helped her and her daughter make ends meet until the next paycheck. She remembers getting creative with her ingredients, combining items like canned tuna with mac and cheese, or making animal-shaped pancakes with a boxed mix from IFCS, doing all she could to make meals nutritious and fun for her daughter.
IFCS operated a preschool at the time and, thinking of ways to give back, Perian initiated a holiday event for the children at the bank where she worked. Knowing the IFCS children’s families couldn’t afford a photo with Santa at the mall, the bank created their own event. Four vanloads of IFCS preschoolers attended, each child returning home that day carrying their own Polaroid photo with Santa and a candy cane.
After 26 years working at the bank, Perian was laid off from her job as Banking Manager; again, she returned to IFCS for temporary food support. While job searching, she decided to volunteer at IFCS doing data entry for the holiday gift program and assisting with administrative tasks. She was helping with an organizational mailing the day she learned that IFCS had an open accounting clerk position. Perian went home that day, submitted her application, and was hired!
Nine years later, Perian has only positive things to say about IFCS. “I couldn’t ask for a more fulfilling position,” she says. “It’s gratifying to be able to help others in the community… When I was a child we didn’t have a lot, so I feel for these people that are coming in, knowing what they’re going through, because I’ve been there.” She knows what it’s like to not have enough, the courage it takes to ask for help, and the value of accepting assistance when needed. “Knowing that we’re doing something for the community, helping those in need, is very dear to my heart. I don’t take it for granted,” Perian says.
Over the past 9 years as an employee, Perian has seen a lot of internal changes in the organization. Perhaps most notably, the IFCS food pantry went from giving out boxes of food to creating a market of choice and rebranding as “the Market @ IFCS.” “I think this is a positive change because being able to [select their own groceries] will prevent waste,” says Perian.
From her perspective, IFCS is doing their due diligence for the community and the broader Denver metro area: “We’re helping a lot more people than we did 60 years ago.”
Applying her banking background to her work, Perian is inspired by how IFCS has sustained financial ups and down: being frugal has helped the organization remain open – and even grow -during challenging economic times. Her contribution to the IFCS team has certainly been a part of that growth. Paying bills, tracking grant funding, and applying donations to IFCS programs is how Perian supports the organization as a member of the team. She’s also a cheery presence in the office, and her comradery with the staff and volunteers is palpable. Perian has been an IFCS participant, volunteer, and now employee and donor, and there’s no doubt she loves her work, her team, and caring for others.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Perian Cooper for the practicality, compassion, and smiles she brings to her work at IFCS every day.