By KAITLYN NAPLES
Every year, the United Way of West Central Connecticut honors several individuals and organizations that are advocates for their community and truly “Live United,” the organization’s slogan.
Last week, the United Way held its 11th annual Community Builders Reception, which focused on “Change. Not Charity: The Power of Philanthropy Through The Generations.”
The people the United Way honored “are people who make philanthropy a priority in their lives,” said Donna Osuch, president and CPO of the United Way of West Central Connecticut, at the Aqua Turf last week.
The Spirit of Caring Award is given to an outstanding volunteer, and John-David Scarritt was chosen as this year’s recipient for volunteering a large amount of his time to the United Way causes, while never asking for anything in return. Scarritt is one of the founding members of the Young Professionals for United Way and is the group’s president, Colleen Bolingbroke, the United Way’s marketing and communications director, said.
She said Scarritt, who is assistant vice president and Thomaston Savings Bank, is always lending a hand, and volunteers as a tax preparer. She said he is “one of the most humble people I’ve ever met,” and is thoughtful and always wants others to have the spotlight.
This year’s Award for Excellence was given to the Plainville Community Schools, and also Tracy-Driscoll Insurance and Financial Services, Inc.
Plainville Town Manager Robert Lee said the Plainville schools have always been supportive of the United Way’s campaign, and increased employee giving and participation in the last year by 34 percent, while it has had less than a 1 percent increase on its budget in the last few years.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Maureen Brummett said the district has enjoyed its long-standing partnership with the United Way of West Central Connecticut, and has collaborated with the organization to put on events like Career Day, where over 600 students attended.
“We look forward to this partnership for many years to come,” Brummett said.
Tracy-Driscoll Insurance and Financial Services has been a supporter of the United Way for over 25 years, and its employees always participate in the annual Adopt-A-Child back to school campaign, and also the holiday campaign Joy of Sharing.
Mike Rivers, senior vice president at Tracy Driscoll, said the Award of Excellence is “truly for our dedicated employees.”
“Tracy Driscoll has a long history of being dedicated to this community and its needs,” and will continue to do so in the future, Rivers said. “Our employees truly do live united.”
ESPN Anchor Jay Harris was last week’s guest speaker, and entertained the crowd with his stories about when he first started in the media business. Aside from his comical references to his past and present, he shared with the crowd how he and his family practice philanthropy.
He said he and his wife and two children pack lunches for a soup kitchen at a church in Hartford on Saturdays. He has also taught his children about giving away toys to others who were less fortunate, before getting new ones. He told the crowd that to be philanthropic, you don’t always have to give money away.
“We can substitute money with our time,” Harris said. “We all have time, even when we’re busy.”
He said it is important for everyone to work as a team, something he has learned from his time spent at ESPN.
“This is a team tonight,” he said. “We all work for the big ‘U’ and the big ‘W’.”
Bristol Early Childhood Alliance (BECA) is a mixed group of individuals from all different sections of the working world. It focuses on making sure the city’s youngest generation are ready to start learning, and are prepared for their future. The Bristol Early Childhood Alliance was one of the recipients of the Special Initiative Award last week, and has been able to focus on making sure every child is ready for school by 5-years-old.
Co-Chair Kim Carmelich said the group looks at a strategic plan that was created several years ago, and updates it frequently to make sure it is still working for the community.
One initiative BECA is working on is to encourage families to grow their own produce and cook healthy.
“We found out that 42 percent of our children in our schools were obese,” Carmelich said.
After BECA discovered this, it formed a healthy committee with individuals who put their heads together to come up with initiatives to lower that number. BECA is putting garden boxes at local schools so students can learn how to garden and grow their own vegetables. These garden boxes are also being given to families within the Bristol Housing Authority. The group is also organizing cooking classes for families to learn how to prepare healthy meals that their children will eat, and also holds Zumba classes for families.
“Bristol schools is making tremendous strides in narrowing the race and poverty gaps, but they will never be able to close those gaps because of the preparation gap,” Carmelich said.
The Plymouth Early Childhood Council was also a recipient of the Special Initiative Award.
The Lou Bachman Award is given to an individual who demonstrates he or she cares for their community through their work and volunteer efforts. This year, Elizabeth Nadeau of Associated Spring-Barnes Group Inc., was the recipient of the Lou Bachman Award, for her constant efforts in the workplace and volunteering that benefit the United Way. She always comes up with innovative ways to encourage her co-workers to make donations, and volunteer for causes the United Way campaigns for.
“I always deliver a message to the employees,” Nadeau said, “to dig a little deeper, and always remember that we have to give back to our community.”
Nadeau has been her company’s Employee Campaign Manager for the last 27 years, and has served on the board of directors for six years and organizes her company’s Day of Caring every year.
The United Way of West Central Connecticut serves Bristol, Burlington, Plymouth, Plainville.