Nicole Lee makes community service a priority in her new hometown
By Jenn McCulloch / Zip06.com • 06/10/2021 8:30 AM EST
Even though Nicole Lee has only been living in East Haven since late 2019, she is already finding ways to give back to her new hometown. The Texas native recently initiated and organized a cleanup at Tuttle School, located a short walk from her home.
“They have a great little space up front with a memorial bench, so we raked it, cleaned it up and planted moms,” says Nicole. “I was very involved in the community when I lived in Texas and ever since I moved it I’m always looking for ways to get more involved in the East Haven community so I figured the cleanup at Tuttle was a great opportunity. “
The idea for the Tuttle School clean-up didn’t just come from Nicole’s proximity to the school – she and her husband often walk past the school when they walk their three rescue dogs – but also from her job. Nicole works for Colliers Project Leaders, a construction project management company.
Colliers manages a variety of projects, overseeing new construction and renovations. Many of Collier’s projects are schools, and Nicole’s colleague Joe Luciano was overseeing the installation of the new playground at Tuttle. So he made the connections for Nicole. Colliers supports its employees in carrying out volunteer projects.
“They give us the opportunity to volunteer days around the idea of advancing the built environment,” says Nicole, who was director of marketing and communications for the local United Way in Texas for 10 years. “Having worked with a non-profit organization for 10 years, community involvement is important to me. “
Moving from the nonprofit sector to working in the construction industry was not the easiest transition for Nicole. After getting to know her role within the company and seeing the work of the company, things started to mesh for Nicole.
“I had a little trouble at first finding my passion there, but since most of what we do is schools, seeing the impact these facilities have on children really means a lot,” says Nicole. “At the start of the year, seeing them see their new building or their classroom has helped me connect emotionally to the work we do.”
Schools hold a special place in Nicole’s heart because she has “a lot of family history in education”. Her grandmother was the dean of education at a college in Texas, and her mother founded a school in the South Pacific Ocean, in the American Samoa Islands.
Nicole and her family moved to the island when she was 12 after her father bought a law firm there. As it is a very small island, there was no school, so Nicole’s mother opened one for her and her sister to continue their education.
While on the island, Nicole discovered her love for dogs. As there was no shelter or vet there were lots of stray dogs and Nicole and her family often rescued the dogs and helped find them a home. She remembers a time when they had five puppies from different litters in addition to their own dog.
Six years later, Nicole was ready to go to college and she returned to Texas, although her parents remained on the island for another 14 years. Nicole graduated with a liberal arts degree with a specialization in history and electronic media from the Christian University of Abilene. After working for the United Way in Abilene for a year, she returned to her hometown of Lubbock to work for the local United Way. There she met her husband.
Nicole’s sister had moved to North Haven, and after some time in Texas, the couple decided to move north to be closer to family, which includes Nicole’s niece and nephew. They also appreciate the New England climate and the changing seasons.
“We moved to East Haven because we like it to be a small community but still close to amenities,” says Nicole. “We love the tree-lined streets and our neighbors. Back home we never knew any of our neighbors, but when we moved here everyone showed up. We really love living here.
Nicole looks forward to meeting more people in the community. With a love for the outdoors and gardening – their home had many plantations and she has since started an herb garden – she plans to join the garden club.
As a self-proclaimed “history nerd,” one of the first things Nicole did after moving into her new home was to print out the East Haven Historical Society membership form. However, she did not have a chance to return it, as COVID shut things down. Nicole looks forward to connecting with the group in the future.
She has also always been interested in genealogy. Nicole spends a lot of time researching her family history. She also enjoys helping others with their projects. Through her research, she recently discovered that she was not the first in her family to live in Connecticut.
“My family has been from Texas for many generations, but it turns out we had an ancestor who moved to Texas in 1830 from Connecticut, so I focused on that,” says Nicole. “It’s interesting to learn about my family history. The name Pardee is in our family ancestry and now I live a block or two from Pardee Extension. It’s so interesting that even though we’re new to the area, we have these old ties to the city.