By Angela Barbosa
From a lieutenant commander to a reverend, from a volunteer to an award-winning filmmaker and advocate for adults with disabilities, the diverse talents of the crowd were evident among the honorees of the 2015 Hometown Heroes Benefit Dinner hosted by the United Way of Western Connecticut (UWWC) on March 7 at the Ethan Allen Hotel.
The sold-out event counted on the special participation of keynote speaker and performer Blessing Offor, who appeared in the 2014 season of NBC’s The Voice. His inspiring story, combined with his musical talents, was a highlight of the evening, just like the honorees.
The 2015 award recipients were:
Corporate Philanthropy Award presented to Praxair, Inc. in recognition of its commitment to making giving back to the community a priority for the company
Corporate Volunteer Award presented to Pitney Bowes in honor of its leadership in promoting volunteerism as a part of its corporate culture
Small Business Hero Award presented to Dawn Blom of Dawn’s Pizzazz Artistic Group and Day Spa (aka DPZ Group) in recognition of its leadership, commitment and generosity within the greater Danbury community
Lifetime Hero Award presented to Dr. James W. Schmotter for his seven years of service on the UWWC Board and long-term presence on the Northern Fairfield County Community Council, as well as to honor his upcoming retirement after more than ten years as president of Western Connecticut State University.
Fourteen individuals from within UWWC’s service area were also recognized for giving back to their local towns: Bethel: Lt. Cmdr. Mark Dwinells and Master Sgt. Joe Meehan; Bridgewater: Rev. Peter Hammond; Brookfield: Marianne Seeber; Danbury: Bill Beattie; New Fairfield: Lori Vengalli; Kent: The Davis Family; New Milford: Dr. Evan Hack and Dr. Diane D’Isidori; Newtown: Bob Geckle; Redding: Peggy Palmer; and Ridgefield: Valerie Jensen.
Proceeds from this event will benefit UWWC’s work in support of ALICE families throughout Northern Fairfield and Southern Litchfield Counties. A United Way acronym, ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.
“These individuals and families are employed – often with more than one job – yet struggle to make ends meet,” said Kim Morgan, chief executive officer at UWWC.
According to Morgan, they live paycheck to paycheck and are forced to make hard choices regarding their healthcare, childcare, transportation and housing needs. ALICE families often earn too much to qualify for social services. UWWC provides support through financial coaching, access to food banks and availability of early childhood literacy programs, among others.