¸By LISA CAPOBIANCO
For the past 13 years, the United Way of West Central Connecticut has honored individuals who share their time and resources to help improve the lives of others during the annual Community Builders’ Reception.
Last Thursday, the United Way recognized local groups and individuals who truly “Live United” through giving, advocating, and volunteering. Held at the DoubleTree Hotel, the event brought communities from the Bristol area together to celebrate the theme, “That’s What It Take to Live United.” From kindness and compassion to communication to community, guests from all walks of life shared what “Living United” means to them on a chalkboard.
For Bryan Ricci making his community the best place it could be served as something he has done by working with others. The owner of two local businesses, Ricci received the Spirit of Caring Award, which is given to an outstanding United Way volunteer who shows his or her capacity to care for people in the community. Currently serving as the treasurer for United Way’s Board of Directors and the chair of United Way’s Investment Committee, Ricci also is the director of finance at St. Paul Catholic High School as well as a board member of the Office of Catholic Schools Finance Committee and the Bristol Business Education Foundation.
“To me the spirit of caring is about working together to create a better community,” said Ricci. “Although volunteering one’s time is an important part of the spirit of caring, everything we can do cannot be done without philanthropy.”
For Patricia Marin, the operations manager of First Bristol Federal Credit Union, passion is one way an individual can make a difference in the community. During the reception, Marin received the Lou Bachman Award, which is given in memory of Lou Bachman, a managing editor of the Bristol Press who cared for his community through his profession and volunteer work. The award is given to those who have excelled in a particular area of the United Way campaign.
A campaign volunteer on Team United since 2006, Marin was recognized for her continuous work in helping the United Way campaign succeed. For the past nine years, Marin has been the employee campaign manager for the credit union, and that campaign has continued to grow at a steady pace under her leadership.
“To make a difference in our community, you have to be passionate,” said Marin, who has served on United Way’s Board of Directors for several years. “People will listen if you have passion for something you do.”
During this past campaign season alone for United Way of West Central Connecticut, all employees of the Bristol Board of Education raised $40,000. The campaign is led by Susan Everett and Jeanine Audette from the Board of Education office, and an employee campaign manager is assigned to each school.
The Board of Education is one of the top five workplace campaigns for United Way, and is involved with other aspects of United Way’s work, including the Early Childhood Initiative, which ensures that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn. The Board of Education also is involved with the “Kids in the Middle” (KIM) initiative, which helps middle school students transition successfully to high school and young adulthood. It also is involved with the Youth Board, which is a leadership and service program for local high school students.
During the reception, the Bristol Board of Education received the Award for Excellence, which recognizes an organization’s strong commitment and support of United Way. Recipients of the award are honored for conducting a successful campaign and serving as a model of excellence for others in the community.
“If there’s one word I could use to describe the value that United Way has brought to best of Bristol Public Schools is the word…healing,” said Bristol Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ellen Solek. “In so many ways, the service, the caring and the love this organization provides to the children and families in Bristol does just that.”
Every year during the reception, the United Way also recognizes the collaborative impact of a special initiative in the community. Receiving the Special Initiative Award, the Plainville Coalition for Positive Youth Development was honored this year for demonstrating exemplary partnership and collaboration.
Formed in 2004, the coalition is comprised of members who represent a variety of local community organizations and aims to “promote a community environment that empowers children to positively shape their lives.”
“Our coalition is comprised of a number of individuals who represent every sector of the community from parents and youth to the business community and a number of nonprofit organizations,” said Lynn Davis, co-chair of the coalition. “Each brings their own unique strengths and diversified backgrounds to the table.”
The coalition leverages support for youth in two focus areas: opportunities and connections for kids and community education and prevention. From sponsoring speakers on Internet safety to coordinating a community prescription take-back program to creating wellness events for students, the coalition has held a variety of programs and initiatives that support those two focus areas.
“United Way has been a huge partner and supporter all these years,” said Roberta Brown, co-chair of the coalition.
“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done over the last decade, and we look forward to the next decade and well beyond in continuing the work we’ve done,” added Davis.
¸By LISA CAPOBIANCO