The winners have been selected! Fifteen of your neighbors in the community will be honored with a Beacon Award on Nov. 17 at WoodWinds. Join the celebration.
Person of the Week
Nicole Lee Makes Community Service a Priority in Her New Hometown
Nicole Lee recently volunteered to lead cleanup and beautification efforts in front of Tuttle School. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Lee)
Even though Nicole Lee has only lived 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, which is down the road from her home.
“They’ve got a great little area in the front with a memorial bench, so we raked it out, cleaned it up, and planted some mums,” says Nicole. “I was very involved in the community when I lived in Texas and since I moved her, I’m always looking for ways to get more involved in the East Haven community, so I thought the cleanup at Tuttle was a really great opportunity.”
The Tuttle School cleanup idea not only stemmed from Nicole’s proximity to the school—she and her husband often pass the school when they are walking their three rescue dogs—but through her job as well. Nicole works for Colliers Project Leaders, a construction project management firm.
Colliers manages a variety of projects, overseeing new construction and renovations. Many of Collier’s projects are schools and Nicole’s co-worker Joe Luciano was overseeing the installation of the new playground at Tuttle, so he made the connections for Nicole. Colliers supports its employees in completing volunteer projects.
“They give us the opportunity to do volunteer days around the idea of advancing the built environment,” says Nicole, who was the director of marketing and communications for the local United Way in Texas for 10 years. “Having worked with a non-profit for 10 years, community involvement is important to me.”
Switching from the non-profit sector to working in the construction industry was not the easiest transition for Nicole. After getting to know her role with the company and see the company’s work, though, things began to mesh for Nicole.
“I struggled a little in the beginning to find my passion in it, but as a lot of what we do are schools, seeing the impact that those facilities have on kids really means a lot,” says Nicole. “At the beginning of the year, seeing them see their new building or their classroom helped me connect on an emotional level to the work we do.”
Schools hold a special place in Nicole’s heart as 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 years old after her father purchased a law practice there. With it being a very small island, there wasn’t a school, so Nicole’s mother started one so that she and her sister could continue their education.
During her time on the island, Nicole discovered her love for dogs. As there was no shelter or veterinarian, there were many stray dogs and Nicole and her family were often rescuing dogs and helping to find them homes. She remembers one point when they had five puppies from different litters in addition to their own dog.
Six years later, Nicole was ready to head off to college and she moved back to Texas, though her parents remained on the island for another 14 years. Nicole earned a liberal arts degree with a focus in history and electronic media from Abilene Christian University. After working for the United Way in Abilene for one year, she moved back to her hometown of Lubbock to work for the local United Way. There she met her husband.
Nicole’s sister had settled in North Haven and, after some time in Texas, the couple decided to move north to be near family, which includes Nicole’s niece and nephew. They also enjoy the New England weather and the changing seasons.
“We settled on East Haven because we like that it’s 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 introduced themselves. We really love living up here.”
Nicole is looking forward to meeting even more people in the community. With a love for being outdoors and gardening—their home had many plantings and she has since started an herb garden—she plans to look into joining the garden club.
As a self-proclaimed “history nerd,” one of the first things Nicole did after getting settled in her new home was print the membership form for the East Haven Historical Society. She didn’t get a chance to turn it in, though, as COVID shut things down. Nicole is looking forward to connecting with the group going forward.
She has also always been interested in genealogy. Nicole spends a lot of her time researching her family history. She also enjoys helping other people with their projects. Through her research, she recently uncovered that she is not the first of her family to live in Connecticut.
“My family is from Texas for many generations, but it turns out that we had an ancestor that moved to Texas in 1830 from Connecticut, so I’ve been focusing on that,” says Nicole. “It’s been interesting learning my family history. The Pardee name is in our family ancestry and now I live a street or two away from Pardee Extension. It’s so interesting that even though we’re new to the area, we have these old links to town.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .