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10/11/2023 09:43 AM

Christine Picklo: Staying Aware

When she’s not raising awareness of local environmental issues, Chris Picklo sits as chairperson of the board of directors for Vista Life Innovations. Photo courtesy of Christine Picklo

Between raising awareness of environmental issues and assisting people with disabilities, Christine Picklo has made helping her community a key part of her life over the last five years.

In 2018, Chris decided to retire after a lengthy career and was unsure of what to do next.

“I was sort of at loose ends of what to do. I wanted to get more involved in the community since I didn’t really have time when I was working,” Chris says.

Soon after, Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna told her about an opening on the Conservation Commission.

“With my science background, he thought it might be a good fit,” Chris recalls.

Five years later, Chris is not only still on the commission, she’s also the chairperson of it.

Chris describes the commission as having very broad goals.

“Its primary goal is to educate the public on different topics we pick,” she explains.

For example, the commission undertook recent initiatives including educating people on the importance of reducing plastic and planting a pollinator garden.

“We pay attention to things going on in town and react off that. Right now, we’re prioritizing raising more awareness of composting after the waste incinerator in Hartford was recently closed,” says Chris.

As an example of another program the commission is interested in promoting, Chris pointed to the new group in town called Save Our Shade.

“It’s a grassroots group with a message we support,” she says. The group’s main goal is to encourage people in town to think twice before removing trees.

“They want to raise awareness on being mindful of the trees in town. If you need to cut them down, then you replace one and with the right kind of tree,” Chris says.

According to Chris, tree loss has been a problem in some points of town but not others, so any awareness helps. “We’re supporting that group; we think they’re doing a great job,” she adds.

Asked her favorite part of being on the commission, she responds, “I’ve learned a tremendous amount. My background was not in this kind of science.”

While she describes herself as a “sponge” for information and was in the ecology club in college, Chris admits that since she’s gotten involved with the commission, her knowledge of environmental issues has expanded. “There are so many people in town that are so passionate about these things. It’s great,” she says.

As for the hard part of working on the commission, Chris says sometimes it can be hard to get every idea done.

“The challenging part is we’re a small group and all volunteers. We have great ideas, but we don’t always have the bandwidth to do all of them, so we need to pick and choose which ones we do,” Chris says.

The Conservation Commission is not the only way Chris helps her community. Since 2019, Chris has been a board member with Madison-based Vista Life Innovations. According to its website, “Vista Life Innovations is a full-service organization supporting individuals with disabilities throughout the various stages of life.” The organization was founded in 1989.

Chris currently serves as the chair of the board of directors for Vista.

“It’s really a wonderful program. A former colleague was a board member, and they recruited me to it when I retired,” Chris says.

Since the organization is a nonprofit, fundraising is always important. Vista is holding a walk on Sunday, Oct. 29, to raise money for the organization. The walk starts at 9 a.m. at 107 Bradley Road in Madison. The walk will last for three miles.

“Coming from the corporate world, it’s been so refreshing and amazing to be involved in a nonprofit,” Chris says of her involvement with Vista.

Chris originally grew up in western Pennsylvania but has lived in Old Saybrook since 2009. “My husband and I were looking for something by the water, and since we were both working back then, Old Saybrook was conducive to both our commutes,” she says.

Prior to her retirement, Chris had a long career in the pharmaceutical industry and then in healthcare. As a former triathlon athlete, she likes to keep active in her spare time, swimming and biking.

“I’ve also picked up golf in retirement,” she says.

As for her favorite aspect of Old Saybrook, Chris points to the scenery of the town.

“I love the beauty of the shoreline. You don’t have to go far to see the water here. It’s such a nice, friendly community,” Chris says.