Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Koplinka-Loehr

By Elena Flash, September 2023

Mike is a lifelong Ithacan with a passion for building community.  Mike, one of 8 children, grew up in a household committed to social justice and community service.  He followed his family heritage devoting his 40 year career to human service and nonprofit management.  Mike also served Tompkins County as a legislator from the Town of Ithaca for 12 years and now lives in Lansing.  

Mike passed on this passion for community and service to his own children, and it is thanks to his daughter, Irene, that he connected with FDN.  As a high school student, Irene was an FDN volunteer who helped at the Wegman’s dock – even before she could drive.  The gestalt of FDN – saving food from going to waste – was a perfect fit with Mike’s ethics.  

Mike served as an FDN board member for nine years from summer 2014 to July 2023.  During his tenure, Mike was instrumental in helping to build the board with other community leaders.   He also played a key role in development with writing grants and fundraising letters.  Mike sees his unique contribution to the board as seeing the bigger picture and expanding the powerful message of FDN to a broader community.  He sought and found opportunities to extend the vision of FDN’s founder, Sara Pines.  He elevated the position of FDN by inspiring others and spreading the word about the mission.  Mike also served as a volunteer – pitching in when needed, but, what he enjoyed most about his time with FDN was the company of fellow board members and volunteers. 

Bruce Estes, president of the FDN board, shares: “It’s difficult to turn down a request from Mike, something I learned when he asked me to join the FDN board. He shares a vision of social justice that is infectious and inspiring. When he asks for a grant to sustain FDN’s operations or a few hours from a volunteer to support FDN’s mission, he makes it easy to say: Yes.”

Outside of FDN, Mike now lives part-time in Vermont and enjoys the company of his grandchildren and open water swimming.  He still loves connecting people and building stronger communities that share a vision, mission and values.  Not surprisingly, Mike is redirecting his many passions to a new project with the Advocacy of Tompkins County, serving men who have been sexually abused as boys, called THRIVE (The Healing Resource institute for Victim Empowerment.). FDN was fortunate to have Mike on the board to help us grow our community connections. 

When asked for some inspiring words, Mike said “What is not inspiring about FDN?  It is amazing what 200 volunteers and one part-time coordinator accomplish. Who wouldn’t fall in love with FDN?”

Thank you, Mike, for sharing your talents and helping FDN build stronger community connections.  We will miss you.