By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Every year, the Bristol Boys and Girls Club honors individuals for their dedication, accomplishments and sacrifice in humanitarian service to the community through the Humanitarian Service Award. Whether helping children by working to improve the quality of education or helping people of all ages by building jobs and promoting safety, the recipients of this award have made the Bristol community a better place in a variety of ways.
This year, the Boys & Girls Club recognized Nancy Brault, Nancy O’Donnell, and David Preleski with the Humanitarian Service Award during a dinner held at the DoubleTree last Thursday.
Growing up in a family of eight children, Brault said the need to give back stemmed from seeing the way her own father made a difference. Brault said her father taught her how to give back at a young age, whether watching him serve as a catechism teacher at church or in other civic groups.
Brault spent more than 12 years volunteering in leadership positions at Bristol Hospital. She has served three years on the board for the Bristol Hospital Development Foundation and previously served as chairman of Bristol Hospital Board of Directors from 2008 to 2011. A founding member of the Forestville Village Association and president/ majority owner of The Ultimate Companies, Brault also served as chairman of the advisory board for the Parent and Child Center at Bristol Hospital for three years.
Also a volunteer for Bristol Hospital, Preleski has dedicated his time to different local organizations for more than 35 years, first starting his service at the United Way of West Central Connecticut where he served on the board of directors as well as on the finance, investment and executive committees. One of the founders of the Main Street Community Foundation, Preleski also has been a volunteer at St. Stanislaus Church and previously served on the Family Center of Bristol’s board of directors for eight years. He started discussions with the Bristol Boys Club, which eventually led to the merger of those two organizations.
“When you give your time and talent to these community groups, you often get much more back then you think you give,” said Preleski, who was president of Bristol Savings Bank. “
O’Donnell’s involvement with the Bristol community began when she worked as a teller at the Bristol Federal Savings and Loan Association. An active member of the United Way of West Central Connecticut, O’Donnell’s service has extended beyond Bristol. She served two terms as president of the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce and now serves as a director. A founding director of the Plymouth Community Food Pantry, O’Donnell also serves as treasurer of the Rotary Club of Terryville.
During her speech, O’Donnell said when she researched the definition of humanitarian, “it means having concern for or helping to improve the welfare and happiness of people.”
“I think that definition can be applied to almost everyone here,” said O’Donnell, who works as vice president-compliance and risk officer at Thomaston Savings Bank.
Besides the Humanitarian Service Award, the event also recognized several other community members through the PLUS Award, Oliver Gaudreau Award, and the Special Service Award.
The PLUS Award honors a woman, family, or civic organization that “unselfishly gives their time, energy and heartfelt devotion to people within the Bristol area,” according to the Boys & Girls Club event program. Chairperson of the Board of Finance in Bristol, Cheryl Thibeault serves in several local organizations, including the Forestville Village Association. A youth leader and Sunday School teacher at Grace Baptist Church, Thibeault helped start the annual Pequabuck Duck Race and Duck Parade, and has been a Girl Scout leader and PTA president.
As a recipient of the PLUS Award, Thibeault challenged the community to “find an intentional act of service.”
“We hear the phrase ‘random acts of kindness’ everywhere we go,” said Thibeault, who works at non-profit agency Community Solutions, Inc. “How about intentional acts of service? When you have a purpose…when you have a target group or charity that you wan to help out…there’s nothing random about it—it’s something you’re passionate about.”
Giving back to non-profits in her hometown of Bristol, Deidre Tavera served as vice president of the St. Anthony School Board when her children attended St. Anthony’s. During that time she offered volunteer consulting services to create a strategic plan for the school and advance fundraising efforts. A volunteer for the Women & Girls Fund of the Main Street Community Foundation, Tavera also facilitated a series of focus groups at St. Paul Catholic High School to create and action plan for a marketing communications program to raise awareness of the school. Outside Bristol, Tavera has served on various boards in the Greater Hartford region, including the Connecticut Alliance for Arts Education.
Tavera said her volunteer work gave her “immense opportunities,” as she not only enhanced her skills, but also better understood the needs of the community and met new friends.
During her speech, Tavera also congratulated other award recipients.
“Their work is a testament to the talent and dedication that is so evident in our community of Bristol,” said Tavera, adding how her parents set the foundation for her own volunteer service. “We serve and we volunteer…because it’s just what we do.”
Recipients of the Oliver Gaudreau Award embody the characteristics of Ollie (Oliver Gaudreau), a dedicated Boys and Girls Club member who also was a 70-year member of the Older Members Association. Ollie was known for spending the majority of his adult life working to benefit the Club.
This year, Richard Neill received the award. From the time Neill joined the club at the age of seven, Neill got involved in a variety of club activities, including the Hornets, the swim team. He also served as a volunteer at Camp Wangum, where he worked as a camp counselor and in the kitchen. A long-time member of the Older Members Association, Neill served as chairman of the 50th annual OM Show, and has been a cast member in nearly every show since he joined the organization.
“For 39 great years, [the OMs] are the best guys in the world to do something for the Bristol Boys and Girls Club,” said Neill. “They work hard, they perform, and things come out right”
Ninety Nine Restaurants in Bristol and Torrington are known for their “passion to serve” the Bristol Boys & Girls Club as well as the OM’s by providing water and other supplies as well as staff. Last year, Ninety Nine Restaurants donated $540,000 to the Boys & Girls clubs of America.
“There’s no better cause than taking care of the future of kids,” said Matt Keal, general manager of 99 Restaurant in Bristol.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO