By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Every year, the United Way of Central Connecticut honors local individuals and organizations who share their time and resources to create lasting changes in the community.
Serving the communities of Bristol, Plainville, Burlington, Plymouth and Terryville, UWCC is committed to creating opportunities for a better life for all by focusing on three building blocks: education, income and health. During the 14th annual Community Builders’ Reception held at the DoubleTree last Thursday, four award recipients were recognized for helping to improve these issues in the five communities served by UWCC.
In Bristol, the Bristol Ending Family Homelessness Task Group received the Special Initiative Award, which recognizes the collaborative impact of a special initiative in the community. Formed in July 2015, the task group was born out of a concern for the increasing number of people experiencing homelessness in Bristol. Growing from nine to 44 members, the group’s membership includes 20 organizations in addition to community volunteers.
“We [formed] in response to a number of homeless tent encampments that sprang up in Bristol,” said Tom Morrow, executive director of BCO, who also serves on the Task Group.
What resulted was an effort to provide free haircuts for the homeless multiple times at First Impressions, the creation of a one-page Bristol area resource guide, shower appointments at the Bristol Boys & Girls Club, and a warming center that opened this past winter at Bristol Community Organization. Through combined efforts of task group members, funding was attained for data collection, long-term planning, transportation, a warming center and the housing coordinator. Efforts resulted in consolidation and improved coordination between service providers city-wide and regionally, and services and housing became more acceptable.
Susan Sadecki, president and CEO of the Main Street Community Foundation, who serves on the task group, said one key success was a focus survey that asked homeless individuals questions about their situation.
“We took that information, and that led to an opportunity to focus on solutions, like simple, basic needs—hygiene services for our homeless residents, shower appointments, haircuts, distribution of personal care items while waiting for permanent housing solutions,” said Sadecki, adding the warming center was a success.
Sadecki added because of the Task Group’s efforts, Bristol residents are “more aware” and “less judgmental” towards the homeless.
“That’s leading to a lot more compassion for the situations that we have,” said Sadecki, adding the group’s success has resulted from focusing on solutions. “Sometimes people end up in homeless situations, and it’s just a luck of the draw—it’s just a bad situation and they need some help to get out of it.”
This year, the theme of the Community Builders’ Reception was “Let’s Talk United,” and the event featured a unique talk-show format featuring Brittany Decker, a former United Way Youth Board student who is now a weekday morning news anchor at Western Mass News. A former “MyTV 9 Star” in 2011, Decker interviewed all four honorees during the event to find out how United Way has made in impact on their lives, including Lesley Blade from The Barnes Group, Roland Dumont Agency, and Byron Treado.
The Roland Dumont Agency, which will be celebrating its 60th anniversary this July, received the Award for Excellence for its commitment and long history of the United Way Community Campaign. During this past campaign season, the company experienced a 7.5 percent increase in employee giving over last year’s campaign, continuing to have a high level of employee participation. Roland Dumont also supports United Way with a corporate gift and special event sponsorships.
Besides financial support, the agency’s employees also volunteer for United Way by serving on the Board of Directors, the Golf Committee, the Community Builders’ Reception Committee and the Young Professionals for United Way.
Matt Dumont said his grandfather, Roland Dumont, had a vision of a company that supports the community, becomes a part of the community, and embraces what it can give back to that community.
The agency has a long commitment towards supporting youth, such as being long time team sponsor of the Edgewood, Forestville, and McCabe Waters Little Leagues. Dumont said this is a way in which the Agency “Lives United.”
“One of Roland’s visions was really always working with the youth of Bristol,” said Dumont, who has coached high school sports teams over the years. “We really try to get involved with the community.”
Another Bristol company that has experienced an increase in campaign giving for United Way is The Barnes Group. Thanks to the efforts of payroll manager Lesley Blade, campaign giving at The Barnes Group increased by 39 percent this past year, with participation continuing to increase. Currently serving as employee campaign manager for the Associated Spring headquarters office, Blade received the Lou Bachman Award, which is given annually to those who have excelled in a particular area of the United Way campaign. The award is given in memory of Louis Bachman, a managing editor of the Bristol Press who demonstrated his ability to care for his community both professionally and through volunteerism.
Blade, who has been involved with United Way in some capacity since 2003, is the master of planning United Way campaign kick-off events, treating her associates to pumpkin carving contests, pizza and a movie day, chili cook-offs and other fun events.
Blade said seeing the kind of impact that getting involved with United Way makes on the community overall is a motivating factor of The Barnes Group continued support of the organization.
“We all believe in the United Way and everything it does for the community,” said Blade, who also served on United Way’s Board of Directors as well as other committees. “What motivates us is the results that we see.”
During the event, Byron Treado received the Spirit of Caring Award for his community volunteerism and efforts to “Live United.” Every year the Spirit of Caring Award is given to an outstanding volunteer from UWCC.
The vice president commercial relationship manager at Simsbury Bank, Treado has been involved with United Way activities in Plainville and Bristol for more than 15 years. He currently serves on the United Way Board of Directors, the Golf Committee, and is campaign chairman for the town of Plainville.
Treado said United Way has multi-dimensional programs that affect people of all ages.
“There’s always strides to do more for more people and more services,” said Treado, adding that United Way affects everyone. “When you evaluate that, it’s very difficult not to stay involved.”
Outside of United Way, Treado is not only chairman of the Plainville Aviation Commission and founder/chairman of the Plainville Sports Hall of Fame, but he also is a member of the Board of Directors for Nutmeg TV and a member of the Plainville Rotary Club. In addition, he serves on the advisory board for the Plainville Community Fund and is a past president and honorary board member for the Plainville Community Food Pantry.
“Everybody should support a cause,” said Treado. “It’s important that we all give back in some way, shape or form.”