Chamber honors local people, organizations

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

From economic growth to legislative advocacy to business development, all six honorees of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce’s 128th Annual Awards Dinner have made a difference in a variety of ways.

This year, Webster Bank received the Distinguished Business of the Year Award. A community-minded bank that dates back to 1935, Webster has expanded with over $26 billion in assets and 167 banking centers in the northeast.

Although the company has grown, its core values have not, said Webster Bank Regional President Timothy Bergstrom during the dinner, which took place last Thursday at the Aqua Turf. Whether volunteering for events like United Way’s annual Day of Caring or supporting the new West Street facility for the Boys & Girls Club, Webster Bank has shown core values like citizenship and teamwork.

“Webster continues to have a deep, meaningful relationship with organizations that align with our core values,” said Bergstrom, adding that the Bristol community has been part of Webster’s family for a long time.

The former executive director of Bristol Community Organization, Tom Morrow received the Outstanding Community Service Award. Morrow, who retired late last year, started out as a neighborhood services coordinator at BCO in 1973 before becoming executive director. Co-founder of the Bristol Emergency Shelter, Morrow started Bristol’s first AIDS Task Force and brought the Head Start preschool program to Bristol.

During his speech, Morrow thanked many who made the award possible, including the staff members at BCO, which consolidated with the Human Resources Agency of New Britain early this year.

“My fellow employees and board members at BCO allowed me to pursue my passion,” said Morrow, who has served on the Salvation Army Advisory Board.

The chamber also honored two other individuals who have worn many community hats over the years: John Lodovico and John Smith.

A member of the Board of Finance, Smith received the Spirit of Bristol Award. When he moved to Bristol in 1962, Smith taught English at the former Bristol High School, where he also coached football and baseball. He then served as assistant superintendent of schools and chief business administrator for 20 years before he became the senior vice president of Bristol Hospital. He retired in 2006, and served as an independent project consultant until 2012.

When defining what the “spirit of Bristol” means to him, Smith said, “it’s omnipresent, yet one can feel it.”

“It’s about people helping people, people helping organizations, organizations helping people and organizations helping organizations,” said Smith.

The current vice chairman of Bristol Hospital’s Board of Directors, Lodovico received the E. Bartlett Barnes Distinguished Service Award. Over the years, he served on the Zoning Board and the former Bristol Downtown Development Corporation. A veteran who served in the Vietnam War, Lodovico also serves on the Bristol Veterans Council and the Archdiocese of Hartford Pastoral Council.

“Find your purpose in life and make the community a better place for all,” said Lodovico, who recognized Smith as one of his mentors.

This year, the Bristol Exchange Club received the Volunteer of the Year Award. A non-profit organization that supports the Parent and Child Center at Bristol Hospital, the Exchange Club is involved in many ways, such as awarding scholarships to local high school seniors every year, directing the Mum Festival Parade and more.

Last year, the club helped revive the Mum Festival, which will return as a four-day event this September.

“This award would not have been possible if it weren’t for all the dedicated individuals who give their time and talent to this club, enabling us to do so much for our community,” said Bristol Exchange Club President Jack Ferraro.

While the chamber honored the Exchange Club for its longtime presence in Bristol, it also honored a new group of volunteers. Comprised of young professionals and entrepreneurs, the Professional Young Visionaries of Tomorrow  received the Special Recognition Award. PYVOT launched in May 2016 as an organization within the Central Connecticut Chamber that provides constructive input to businesses, organizations, ensuring that the region attracts, empowers and grows the young professionals base statewide.

PYVOT co-chairs Michael Prentiss and Michael Sweeney accepted the award on behalf of the group, which holds social and business networking events while hosting civic service, professional education events and activities.

“They truly are our future leaders,” said Cindy Scoville, the president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.

During the dinner, the chamber recognized Tunxis Community College President Dr. Cathryn Addy, who is retiring later this month after 23 years of community leadership in the greater Bristol community.

The community also stood in applause when Hall of Fame Coach Jim Calhoun made his way to the podium as the dinner’s keynote speaker. In taking the University of Connecticut from a regional contender to a three-time national champion, Calhoun is known as one of college basketball’s legendary leaders.

“I believe it takes a village,” said Calhoun, who was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. “It’s about giving to each other.”

Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.

John Lodovico listens to his introduction prior to receiving the E. Bartlett Barnes Distinguished Service Award at the Bristol Chamber of Commerce’s 128th Annual Awards Dinner last Thursday. (MIKE CHAIKEN)