We had the good fortune of connecting with Jill Cooper and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jill, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am a second generation native of Scottsdale, AZ, making my children third generation natives. Born in PHX in 1934, my dad grew up in the valley when my grandparents, Paul & Helen Duffy, came to Arizona from Alabama in the late 1920s. My grandfather was on his way by train to CA for a job in radiology but stopped at the train station on Van Buren Street. He wondered around town and into St Josephs Hospital, where he unexpectedly was offered an interview and they hired him on the spot. The Duffy family hasn’t moved since that move! To say I have Arizona and Scottsdale pride is an understatement. My dad especially has this pride in his home state, and the place he raised his family. My three sisters (the oldest born in 66) and I all went to Scottsdale Unified School district, then off to Arizona State University where both my parents attended. We have watched Scottsdale grow from a somewhat “small” horse ranch property town to the bustling and evolving city it is today. While growing up here in Scottsdale 40+ years ago, it seemed more effortless for people to connect within their community and opportunities for building relationships with ones neighbor was more organic. Perhaps it felt smaller because this town was smaller. Even though Scottsdale and the valley continue to grow rapidly, I want to intentionally preserve that same community connection. That’s one reason why our family started our grassroots nonprofit, The Hope Packed Project. The Hope Packed Project (HPP) helps children and their families going through chronic and terminal health challenges. The HPP encourages community members to come together and get involved in our outreach efforts, with the reminder that we ALL have time, talent and gifts to offer others to do goodwill. We have had churches, schools, small businesses and individual families partner with us, each doing their part on a “project” for a child in need.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
There’s a decal on my wall that reads “Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, a victim into a victory”. It was my anthem when I dealt with my own illness and clawed my way back to health. I felt hopeless. But God kept saying, “It’s only the beginning…hold onto HOPE”. He was where I found HOPE, and I clung onto it like a life line…because it was my only life line. When my health returned, God had my full and undivided attention. I felt He was asking me if I was ready to go to work for Him, like a cowboy wanting to break a wild horse for a great partnership. Don’t get me wrong, I wrestled and pouted, because as humans, we tend to want to do our own thing – it serves US well. Problem is, it doesn’t always serve Him. It was time to pivot and truly surrender to His will in my life. Easy? NOT AT ALL. Scary? Yes! Worth it? Absolutely! Days I get overwhelmed and want to give up, I’m reminded this charity is His and I “Let go and let God”. To my surprise, He delivers and shows the way as if to say “I got you, keep going”. One example is the blessing of being sponsored by BNI (Business Networking International) as a nonprofit of the N Scottsdale Titan’s group. Nonprofit sponsorship is something new with BNI and I am extremely thankful our grassroots charity was chosen for this opportunity. In a short time, BNI has brought community business owners into the tapestry of the HPP. By offering their time, talent, gift and craft, we continue to grow and each BNI member can actually see where they made an impact in our outreach efforts. It’s awesome to donate monetarily, it’s another to step back and say “thats me, I did that and made that mark to keep the chain reaction of HOPE going in the lives of others”. So that all said….HOPE. It’s pretty powerful, and our charity is powered by it. And we encourage and offer a platform for many to keep it going!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Nothing beats the energy of small historic AZ towns, some that pass through the iconic Route 66. I would highly recommend a trip up to Williams, AZ in Coconino County and a stay at the Grand Canyon Railroad Hotel where you can arrange to take a 2 hour train ride through woodsy Northern AZ to see the Grand Canyon. Don’t forget to attend the shoot out with the Cataract Creek Gang before your departure to the Grand Canyon. Those gang members find a way onto the train on the way back to Williams, so be sure to have some pocket change to keep them happy. You’ll be dropped back off at the Grand Canyon Railroad Hotel where you can have a drink in their bar area. It has the most beautiful handmade wood bar that has fascinating history. Ask your waiter to bring you a description of the bars life before it found it’s permanent home in the hotel. It’s a really neat story. The town of Williams has some great shops and restaurants that Route 66 passes through. One shop in particular is the old site of the “Duffy Brothers Grocery Store”, built in 1912 – the same year AZ became an official state. My maiden name is Duffy, so of course I’m particular to this old building which now sells an abundance of souvenirs. Head east from that historical landmark and you’ll run into “South Rims Wine & Beer”. The Irish Nachos are a must and you have your pick of several Arizona beers from local breweries. Take a road trip back into the valley by stopping in beautiful Sedona and seeing Oak Creek Canyon, with a possible Pink Jeep Tour to see the red rocks. From there, a visit to Prescott’s Whiskey Row will be another walk down Arizona’s memory lane where small shops that surround the square will support local businesses. The Sharlot Hall museum off Gurley Street is worth the visit. Lots of history on Prescott, like how it was suppose to be Arizona’s capitol but Phoenix took the title. Granite View Lodge is an AirB&B (find on FB) owned by a dear friend of mine. It’s so close to the square but also tucked away enough from the town to get some privacy. Park Plaza Liquor and Deli is a close by place to the lodge to get a bite to eat and a drink. The roast beef sandwich can’t be beat. Once you’re done eating, shop for some liquor to take home with you or a friend. Those are just a few little towns of my beloved home state that are wroth a visit while in Arizona.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My faith is extremely important to me and my family. Simply, the Word of God is our anchor and directs us in our journey of life. So “Shoutout” to God first and foremost, as our charity doesn’t belong to us, it’s His. In our family’s eyes, we are doing His work and that’s to help others and connect them for positive growth and experiences. Piggy backing on that thought, my father in law is a retired Chaplain in the US Army and Presbyterian Minister, he likes to remind others, “It’s important to turn down the volume of the world, so you can hear Him speak to you and direct you to His will”. The charity is the result of me tuning in and being obedient to that calling. To that point, one of my new favorite books aligning to this principal of putting God first and not getting lost in the noise of the world is “The Lost Anchor” by Kent Welch. The anchor is significant to our charity and is part of one of our logos, as our nonprofit is anchored in Him, just as our lives are as well. If our anchor is lost, we are too!!! Second “Shoutout” is to my husband, Aaron Cooper, for being my hugest cheerleader and champion. He understands first hand how starting and building a charity isn’t an easy task. Since I am the charity’s founder, a lot falls on my shoulders and I find myself juggling a lot of balls in the air at once. But, he always offers me grace, his insight and his shoulder to lean on when I most need it. He helps dust me of and reminds me to keep persevering. This encouragement also comes from our charity’s board members, full time committed volunteers, Hope Helpers and “Hopesters” (children we support & their families). Circling back to the value of community, it’s these community members that inspire me to keep going and “water” the Hope Packed Projects seed to help it to continue to bloom and be fruitful!

Website: www.thehopepackedproject.org

Instagram: Pack_Hope

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/jill-cooper-3a4b7617

Facebook: The Hope Packed Project

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