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In her office at ShopRite’s East Haven location, Anna Marie Luzzi keeps collages of photos from the many events she’s helped to plan during her last four years as the organization’s event coordinator. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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When Anna Marie Luzzi took a part-time job at ShopRite upon retiring from a long career in the medical field, it wasn’t long before she made a new position for herself as ShopRite’s event coordinator where she works to make the store a community resource.
Her next big event will be the store’s third annual Dog Adoption Fair at which customers can find out about adopting animals from the East Haven Animal Shelter as well as two other groups in Branford. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Friday, May 3 to Sunday, May 5 for National Pet Month.
Anna Marie says the event has had great turnouts in the past.
Last year, they invited Girl Scout Troop 60066 to participate in the event. The troop had been raising money to install a sound system for the pets at the East Haven Animal Shelter.
“This year, we invited them back,” Anna Marie says. “They’ll be making homemade treats for the dogs and cat toys.”
The girl scouts also provided decorated bins for the store to accept shelter donations. As part of the Dog Adoption Fair, Anna Marie says she is seeking donors and vendors to donate their time and money to the shelters.
As the event coordinator not only for ShopRite’s East Haven location but for other area ShopRites owned and operated by the Garafalo family, Anna Marie works to bring programs to their stores to make them more community-oriented.
“I feel that reaching out to the community and letting them feel part of a community store that is family owned [is important],” she says. “A way to give back is to also help doing things with their children.”
For Easter, she organizes an egg hunt throughout the store. St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day often see drastic transformations of the store as she organizes appropriate decorations.
But it’s not just window dressing—she also runs fundraisers for groups like the Fisher House Foundation, which maintains comfort homes for families of hospitalized veterans, and the Connecticut Food Bank.
“Everybody works very hard to reach out to the community and ask for donations,” Anna Marie says.
Those donations actually helped to build the Fisher House location in West Haven. Anna Marie also sells flags or candles outside the store to honor a list of veterans.
“I’ll do something where…we have a ceremony where we read aloud the names of these veterans,” she says.
They also support the Get in Touch Foundation, which kids in grades 5 to 12 them to check their bodies for signs of health problems, namely cancer.
Health care has long been a focus for Anna Marie, who first started as a certified nursing assistant at St. Raphael Hospital working in the MRI and X-ray departments before she moved up.
“I was in the medical field because I have a passion for patients who are very sick. It was giving thing. I had to give and understand and work with them,” Anna Marie says.
Six years ago, Anna Marie lost her husband to leukemia. At the end of that difficult process, she was left to think about her own retirement.
Anna Marie says she wanted to keep busy even after she left the hospital.
“I can’t stay home. I’m a very active person,” she says.
ShopRite opened up its East Haven location just in time for Anna Marie, who thought that part-time work there would offer a more lighthearted job for her retirement. It’s has proven challenging, she says, but rewarding—and lighthearted.
“I tried to learn all the aspects of the store,” Anna Marie says. “I love my job...I work with a lot of kids here.”
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