Humanitarian service saluted at annual dinner

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Every year the Boys & Girls Club of Bristol Family Center honors individuals and organizations for their dedication, sacrifice and accomplishments in humanitarian service.

Last Thursday, the club recognized five honorees during the 32nd Annual Humanitarian Dinner held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels: Webster Bank, Valerie Furey, David Kushlan, Howard Schmelder, and Craig Yarde.

Webster Bank received the Special Service Award, which is given each year to an organization that offers major resources intended to enhance the lives of others in the Greater Bristol area.

A leading regional bank with more than $25 billion in assets, Webster Bank supported the Club’s new West Street facility that was constructed two years ago. During the Club’s Capital Campaign to build its new building, Webster formed a New Markets Tax Credit relationship, which allowed the club to receive $2.2 million.

“Without their support, it would have taken so much longer, and it would have been so much harder…to get to where we are today,” said Michael Suchopar, CPO of the Boys & Girls Club of Bristol Family Center.

Besides financial contributions, Webster also provides countless hours of volunteer service, as employees contribute more than 125,000 volunteer hours each year in the communities they serve. In addition, the bank provides about $4 million in grants to a variety of nonprofit agencies dedicated to building strong and self-reliant communities through financial literacy, food and shelter, health and human services.

“We will always remain a community-focused and values-guided organization,” said Webster Bank Regional President Timothy Bergstrom, adding that the club embodies Webster’s values. “We’re pleased to play a positive role in the future of the club.”

Another honoree recognized for his contributions to the club was David Kushlan, a member of the Older Members Association for nearly 40 years now.  Kushlan received the Oliver Gaudreau Lifetime Service Award, which is presented every year to recipients who embody the characteristics of Oliver Gaudreau, or “Ollie,” a 70-year member of OM who spent most of his adult life working to benefit the Club and its members.

In 1977, Kushlan and his family created the Charles Kushlan Memorial Scholarship, which is now awarded to the club’s Youth of the Year recipient and recently increased to $2,000 annually.

Kushlan also introduced Club members to the world of technology and innovation. Last year he funded and personally helped organize a VEX Robotics program that allows middle school students and club members to build robots while competing against their peers. That program’s success resulted in a new advanced Lego Robotics program that began this past August. These year-round programs are free to members who wish to participate.

“We’re on the right track,” said Kushlan, a 30-year member of the Bristol Rotary Club.

“This puts Bristol on the map in a science and technology area.”

Currently working as a youth development professional at the club, Valerie Furey received the PLUS Award, which is presented to a woman, family, or civic group that unselfishly gives their time, energy and devotion to people in the greater Bristol area. For over 20 years, Furey has focused her volunteer work at Bristol Hospital. She has played a leadership role with the Bristol Hospital Auxiliary while serving as a corporator of the hospital. During the holiday season, she decorates several Christmas trees that are on display at the hospital. A member of the Women & Girls’ Fund Advisory Board at the Main Street Community Foundation, Furey also serves on numerous school committees and school booster clubs.

While accepting the award, Furey encouraged community members to help themselves by helping others.

“Volunteering engages your heart, your brain and your soul. It has proven to reduce stress, lengthen your life and increase feelings of self-worth,” said Furey, who served as an officer of the Bristol Garden Club for several years.

Meanwhile, Craig Yarde and Howard Schmelder received the Humanitarian Service Award for helping to make the community a better place.

In 1975, Schmelder became one of the original appointees of the Bristol Redevelopment Agency, which later transitioned to the Bristol Development Authority. He continued in that role for the past 40 years, currently serving as vice chairman of the BDA. During his tenure, Schmelder’s decisions had a positive impact on Bristol, including the creation of the 229 and Southeast Industrial parks, ESPN, and community development block grants for local organizations like the club and St. Vincent DePaul.

Also one of the first appointees of the city’s Marketing Committee, Schmelder, a lifelong Bristol resident, continues to play a leadership role at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School.

“I love the city of Bristol. It’s a great place to work, live, to raise a family,” said Schmelder, who retired at Bristol Savings Bank/Webster Bank in 2007. “I voted for what I always thought was best for the city of Bristol and its people. It was a terrific experience for me to be on the BDA.”

A family-owned company since 1976, Yarde Metals continues as a benefactor and sponsor of community activities and nonprofit organizations.

Yarde, the founder of Yarde Metals, worked with the park department to donate 100 trees to be planted on Memorial Boulevard, so others could honor loved ones who passed on.

In addition, Yarde has encouraged his associates to hold annual food and gift drives to support community organizations like the Club and Little Leagues. Over the past two years, he also has organized and supported a recognition event for Bristol’s public safety employees and supported various information digital signs throughout the city through his generosity.

“Bristol is all heart—there’s no doubt about it,” said Yarde. “It’s an honor to be awarded and recognized for…giving back to the community.”

PHOTOS by AIREN MILLER