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February 1, 2008

Richard and Brigitte Cogswell: Parents with a Purpose

Richard and Brigitte Cogswell may not be the image that comes to mind when you think “soccer mom”, but that’s exactly what they are. Their children are the center of their lives. Shuttling daughters Agape and Destiny, ages 11 and age 8, to ballet, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, choir, and yes, soccer are what their days revolve around.

Brigitte originally came to United Way when she was Vice President of Nonprofit Strategies Group. She was hired as a consultant to transform the allocations process. Many years later she returned in volunteer capacities as the co-chair of the Community Impact Cabinet and a Board member. Said Brigitte, “I’ve seen what United Way is about from the inside out. First as a consultant carrying out the work of United Way; then as an Impact Cabinet and later a Board member setting the direction for United Way, to benefiting from agencies that are funded by UW, like the Girls Scouts, which my daughter's are now a part of.”

Richard became aware of United Way through workplace campaigns at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Hospital of St. Raphael’s where he was employed. He received first hand knowledge of United Way as a Loaned Executive for the 1997 campaign. “It was then that I learned how many organizations and people really are helped. And it was interesting to go and solicit companies for support. The Loaned Executive experience, the relationship and teambuilding training has been very useful in furthering my career. It allowed me to understand there are no barriers.”

In addition to their full-time jobs, both Richard and Brigitte are in school furthering their education. Brigitte, who is working towards her Master’s degree said, “I want my girls to know how important it is to never stop learning. Advancing your education is key to designing your own future. In our house, it’s God, family, community and education. Those are our priorities."

The Cogswell’s try to do as much as they can as a family. Although a great deal of their time is taken up by the many activities their daughters are involved in, they find time to give back by making their volunteerism family oriented. That way they are able to carve out the time to be involved in the community without taking time away from their family, while demonstrating first hand the kind of citizens they want their daughters to grow up to be.

Whether it’s through teaching at Children’s Church, serving pancakes at a fundraiser for their school, or as a volunteer soccer coach for New Haven Park & Recreation Youth Soccer, they are living examples of the virtues they want their daughters to embrace. Said Richard, “Coaching gives me an opportunity to be out in our community working with kids from all ethnic, social, and economic groups. The kids get to see a positive, African American, male, role model. It might sound hokey, but when I coach the girl’s soccer teams, I tell them there is no ‘I’ in team. We’re here to have fun and we’re here to work together. We win or lose together. Isn’t that what being a community is all about?”

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