North Texas GLBT Chamber honors Cooper Smith Koch — best known for appearing in J.C. Penney ad — for years of community service
In 2008, Cooper Smith Koch served as a Hillary Clinton delegate to the Texas Democratic Convention.
“I wanted to go into politics,” he says.
Or so he thought.
After months of notoriety surrounding his appearance with his partner and children in a J.C. Penney’s Father’s Day ad last year, he’s not so sure now. If that’s the type of scrutiny that comes with appearing in an ad, he said he can’t imagine what life is like for elected officials.
He said the supportive comments far outweighed the negative ones, but as recently as this week, the ad campaign — and, by extension, him — was blamed by Family Research Council for J.C. Penney’s billion dollar annual loss.
One of the more puzzling criticisms of the ad, he said, was from a hate group that described his children as “brown” but never mentioned their two gay dads. He wonders if that was some bizarre step forward in bigotry.
Responding to the Penney’s ad took two months out of his life.
The best part came when he happened to be in New York with his husband on business during Pride weekend and J.C. Penney’s LGBT resource group asked them to ride on their float.
On April 25, the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce will honor Koch with its 2012 Community Service Award.
Tori Hobbs, AIDS Arms director of development, nominated Koch after noticing how much he donated through his website and email service, Gay List Daily.
“I started seeing a pattern. He’s always promoting a group, an event,” she said. “He has promoted every community group and he does it because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.”
Koch owns Cooper Smith Agency, a public relations firm. He’s served on the Texas Ballet Theater board, is honorary co-chair of the Turtle Creek Ball and has done public relations work for AIDS Arms and Uptown Players for years.
Koch says since he became a parent, his volunteer work has evolved.
“I used to go from meeting to meeting,” he says, adding that now he does anything he can to avoid them. But that doesn’t mean his commitment to helping organizations has diminished. Just his approach has changed.
He says he opened his home for a Lambda Legal event, calling that the best type of volunteering, because it allows him to stay home with his kids.
“Now I try to do things where I don’t have to show up for meetings,” he says.
Gretchen Kelly has worked on special events for many organizations throughout the LGBT community. She says Koch has always been there when she’s needed him.
“There’s not an organization in this city he hasn’t done something for,” she says. “He’s touched everyone.”
She says DIFFA, Legal Hospice of Texas, Legacy Counseling and AIDS Interfaith Network have also benefited from his public relations expertise at no cost.
Koch said he’s been volunteering since he served on student council and admits he gets as much out of his volunteering as anyone he’s trying to help.
As one of the founding members of the HRC Family Project, Koch says the group has two main goals — community building and teaching LGBT couples options for becoming parents.
Once he became a parent and parenting took up most of his time, he said he drifted away from many of his single friends and couples without children. The HRC Family Project became a way to connect with other parents and share similar problems and issues.
A recent Family Project panel shared with prospective parents some of the options available to become parents through surrogacy or adoption. He spoke about his experience with private adoption.
From the time he and his partner began exploring parenting, through two failed adoption attempts, to bringing home their first newborn, the process took only 17 months.
But according to Kelly, it was worth it. She said the day Koch brought his daughter home was the happiest day of his life.
N. Texas GLBT Chamber Dinner
Business Excellence Awards Dinner:
A Tapestry of Business Equality, eM The Venue
1500 Dragon St.
April 25 from 5:30
to 9 p.m. $100.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 19, 2013.