Capturing a beloved tradition after the Covid stopped, the city celebrated its most dedicated volunteers with an outdoor party on June 1 on the lawn in front of the center building.
Describing volunteers as “the city’s most valuable asset,” Janet Glicksman, Director of the Department of Human Services, distributed citations and appreciation to those who freely gave their time and talents, many for years, to improve the lives of their neighbors. As master of ceremonies, Glicksman had the assistance of several broadcasters, including Senators Jorge Cabrera and James Maroney; first chosen one, Beth Heller; Human Services Commission Chair Swan Davidson; In addition to the department’s staff, Woodbridge Center Director Kristi Moriarty, Senior Writer Elaine MacDonald, and Director of Youth Services Nancy Buffond.
He received special recognition for the Living Treasures Committee, which worked so hard to organize a major fundraising event for the department. The panelists are Susan Davidson, Bob Garofalo, Lynne Piacek, Janet Onofrio, Kathy Austin, Ellen MacDonald, Janet Glicksman, Christy Moriarty and Margaret Hamilton. Those who worked at the event were also honoured, including “celebrity servers.”
Despite Covid restrictions, the event succeeded in raising $10,000 for management, Glicksman said. The funds will be added to the grants received for the center’s renovation project.
Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteers earned another warm appreciation, meeting clients in the corridors of the center’s building and any other corner they could find due to the center’s rooms under construction. Elaine MacDonald, who gave the presentation, said they were able to help with 164 tax returns. VITA volunteers include Michelle Detzian (site coordinator), Vincent Spino, Mariano DiGregorio, Kelly Posenberg and Alberta Davis.
Fire Marshal Joe Cappucci accepted the recognition on behalf of the Volunteer Fire Association. In 2021, the fire department responded to 446 calls and, during blackouts, made sure that food, water, and power were available to the most vulnerable in society.
State Senator George Cabrera read a quote from the state and presented a plaque to Human Services Committee Chair Nancy Davidson for countless hours of supporting the Department of Human Services in its work. She was one of five “Outstanding Volunteers”. Other honorees in this category are Cathy and Tim Austin, who received emergency shelter training and helped distribute test kits and masks; Alice Lipman, who was honored to sew more than 100 stylish masks at the height of the pandemic; and Teena Arbo who has been honored as a longtime supporter of Youth Services.
The community organizations and businesses selected to support the department and the residents it served were friends of the city library; Coachman Square and Hamden Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center.
PJ Program: Special recognition is given to Gabriella and Chase Dorso, ages 9 and 12, who founded the “Goodnight Sleep Tight PJ Program, Inc.” The Dorso family collected books, slippers, pajamas and stuffed animals for children in various regional hospitals.
Gabriella Dorso had some personal experience staying in the hospital when she had asthma, and her inspiration was to make children “feel warm and comfortable,” she says. The charity has grown since it began in 2020, and now includes deliveries to other states, as well as donations to residents of the Beth El Center in Milford. The program has contributed more than 90 pajamas to Christmas baskets that the Department of Human Services distributes on holidays. It was also collected for Ukrainian refugees in Poland and for children in Ukraine itself.
The Woodbridge Center Award I’ve been to Linda Caffalette for many years helping out, first with the annual Holiday Fair, and now with the Living Treasures event.
The other center award winner was Sandy Fagiana, an avid pickle ball player who is a “cheerleader for all.”
Youth Award: First Selectman Beth Heller presented this year’s Youth Award to Ava Shanbrom, a rookie student at Amity High School. For the past two-and-a-half years, Ava has helped an elderly neighbor with the laundry that’s been laid out in the basement. The neighbor’s family didn’t want her to go up the steep stairs anymore, so Ava would walk every Sunday afternoon to help her out. Over time they developed a friendship.
“I love hearing her stories about her husband, the places they’ve been to, the places she’s lived,” Ava said after the presentation. She never accepted any money for her service. “It’s something I wanted to do,” she said. Their connection became especially important once the pandemic left many elderly people isolated and unaided. Scott Zimmerman of the People’s Bank said in the presentation that it was thanks to Ava’s support that her neighbor had been able to stay home. Present Ava with a $200 certificate in recognition of her volunteer work.
Other organizations recognized include: Woodbridge Rotary Club, Massaro Farm, Friends of the Woodbridge Library, Scouts and their leaders of Troops 63, 907, 410, Troop 60865 and 167884; representatives of the Bethany Community School, students of Spartan Academy, members of the Recreation Committee, the Finance Board, and the Council on Relations with the Human Services Commission; Friendly visitors. members of the Youth Advisory Board and volunteers in the Evening Youth Program; Pantry volunteers, and craft group members.
In addition to Coachman Square and the Hamden Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, both of which support the center’s programming, several local businesses have been recognized, namely Joyce Printers, Progress Salon, and Surreybrook School.
State Senator James Maroney cited in his presentation a stoic saying, “Don’t argue what a good person should be; just be one.” In keeping with his word, he was seen folding chairs at the conclusion of the ceremony.
- The Dorso family, Gabriella, 9, and Chase, 12, are honored here with their parents, Melissa and Mark, for their Goodnight Sleep Tight PJ Program
- First Selectman Beth Heller (on stage) presented this year’s Youth Award to Ava Shanbroom
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent