'Nothing More Rewarding' Than Volunteering, Plainville Woman Says Laura LaCombe


Special to The Courant

May 24, 2015

If there were a contest for extreme volunteering, anyone in it would have a hard time competing against Laura LaCombe.

Since 1999, LaCombe has assumed various roles as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, Junior Achievement and the United Way of West Central Connecticut. More recent additions to the list are Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center in Bristol and the Petit Family Foundation, which is based in Plainville, her hometown.

"That's just who I am," said LaCombe, 52, modestly. "That's how I was raised."

LaCombe works as a special assets manager at Farmington Bank in Farmington. In her spare time, that is when she is not working or volunteering, she juggles being a wife, mother, grandmother and friend.

LaCombe credits her father, Joseph Stofko Jr. who died in 2005 at age 84, for instilling the spirit of volunteerism in her.

Hometown Heroes: Family

Hometown Heroes: Family

"My father was very involved and giving of his time and talents," LaCombe said. "It makes me who I am."

Stofko, who also lived in Plainville, had volunteer positions with the United Way of Bristol and the United Way of Connecticut. A pianist, he would often play for the residents of Jerome Home, a skilled-nursing and assisted living community in New Britain.

LaCombe graduated from Plainville High School in 1981. She had fallen in love with Marshall G. LaCombe and the two were married in December 1982. Their children, Joshua and Erin, are 30 and 28, respectively. Along the way, she found time to earn an associate's degree in business administration from Tunxis Community College and is a graduate of the Connecticut School of Finance and Management of the Connecticut Bankers Association.

LaCombe has served both on the front lines of volunteer work and in the background helping to direct strategies and campaigns that support the overall missions of the civic and charitable organizations she chooses to support. Her first big commitment as a volunteer happened in 1991 when she became a Girl Scout leader as her daughter, Erin, was growing up.

In 2000, having earlier lost a good friend to lymphoma, then watching as breast cancer, despite chemotherapy and radiation treatment, took the life of the mother of a girl who had been in her daughter's troop, LaCombe channeled her grief and sadness into action as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life, a fundraiser that supports cancer research and services for those with cancer.

As a Relay-For-Life volunteer since 2000, she has held various roles, from finance chairman to team captain, in the campaigns in Southington, Farmington and Plainville. This year she is captain of a team organized by Farmington Bank.

She has also been a volunteer with the Petit Family Foundation that was begun in 2007 to honor the memories of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Haley Elizabeth Petit and Michaela Rose Petit, who were killed in July that year during a home invasion at their residence in Cheshire. They were the wife and children of Dr. William Petit, who had been severely injured by the family's two attackers but survived.

"That is an organization near and dear to my heart," LaCombe said of the foundation that is based in Plainville, the town where William Petit's father ran a general store and the doctor maintained his medical practice. Years ago she worked in a video store owned by the Petits. LaCombe said she knew Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters and thinks about them often.

"They are a wonderful family," LaCombe said.

She and Marshall were among the 1,428 runners in the 2013 GE Petit Foundation 5K Road Race held at the GE complex in Plainville. They didn't come close to winning but both finished.

"I volunteer him for all kinds of things," LaCombe said when asked if her husband is as ardent as she is about volunteering, even if that means running. "That was just walking," LaCombe said trying to put their effort in perspective. "That really wasn't running."

This year, the race happens on July 19. LaCombe said that if she participates this year it will be as a walker.

As part of her efforts on behalf of the foundation, LaCombe is on the 15-member volunteer committee organizing the ninth annual Petit Family Foundation Golf Tournament, which will be held June 15 at the Country Club of Farmington.

As a volunteer and events coordinator for Junior Achievement of Southwest New England she organized the JA Bowl-a-Thon of 2014, which raised $140 for the organization. LaCombe kicked in $20 herself.

She is also on the board of Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center in Bristol that offers equine-assisted therapies and activities, including therapeutic horseback riding, for people with physical, emotional and learning disabilities.

The center's executive director, Petra Shearer, said she first met LaCombe when joined the board several years ago.

"She is dedicated to causes that influence people's lives," Shearer said of LaCombe who also has volunteered as a "sidewalker," a person whose job is to help ensure a rider's safety by keeping their attention focused on the riding instructor giving the lesson.

"She serves with enthusiasm and an attitude of taking total responsibility for whatever she gets into," Shearer said. "She always has a smile on her face."

When asked about her hobbies, LaCombe said she likes to read and bake — cakes in particular that have become popular with her office mates.

Katrina Pasani, a marketing and communications specialist with Farmington Bank who is personally familiar with LaCombe's talents as a baker, said LaCombe brings cakes to the bank sometimes for an event and sometimes "just because."

"They are quite good," Pisani said.

LaCombe said she likely wouldn't be able to volunteer as much as she does if she were working someplace other than Farmington Bank, which has been a major sponsor of the Petit Family Foundation from the start.

"I am very lucky to work for a company that allows me to do the things I do," LaCombe said.

LaCombe said she could not foresee a time in her life that she would not be a volunteer.

"As long as I am able," LaCombe said when asked how long she expected to carry on as a volunteer. "I really can't imagine not volunteering for something.

"It's in your blood," LaCombe said. "There is nothing more rewarding."