A night to celebrate

United Way holds 50th annual meeting

Mary H. Connolly Community Caring Award recipient Lee Schlesinger, left, talks with Joseph Carlson during the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls annual meeting April 11 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Mary H. Connolly Community Caring Award recipient Lee Schlesinger, left, talks with Joseph Carlson during the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls annual meeting April 11 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — The United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls had more to celebrate at its 50th annual meeting than the organization’s golden anniversary.

The United Way exceeded its 2012 campaign goal by $15,000 and raised a total of $440,000, said Laurie Yelding, campaign chairwoman.

“This campaign would not have been the success it was without you, our contributors,” said Yelding, who is also the incoming president of the United Way. “The United Way is working each and every day to enrich the lives in our community and advance the common good but each United Way can not do it alone.”

Funds this past year were designated to support 15 different human service agencies and four youth athletic leagues.
Along with celebrating surpassing the campaign goal, the efforts of volunteers were honored by the more than 250 people who filled Leary’s Crystal Room on School Street.

The evening’s highest honor — the Mary H. Connolly Community Caring Award — was given to Lee Schlesinger.

Schlesinger, a Naugatuck native who now lives in Waterbury, is the associate director for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury. Twenty years ago, he worked for Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan. At the time, he was approached by Mary Connolly, who was the executive director of the United Way, about volunteering.

“Mary has that kind of personality where you just do not say no to her,” Schlesinger said.
Schlesinger didn’t say no.

He served on the United Way’s Board of Directors for two terms. He was treasurer for nine years and a member of the Allocations Committee, which controls the distribution of funds to local service agencies.

Members of the Naugatuck High School jazz band perform during the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls annual meeting April 11 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Members of the Naugatuck High School jazz band perform during the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls annual meeting April 11 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Schlesinger’s volunteerism extends beyond the United Way. He served as president of the board of directors of the Morris Foundation, which provided mental health and addiction services and is now part of Wellmore. For the past 12 years, he has been co-chairman of the finance committee for the Greater Waterbury Relay for Life.

“My first and sustained impression of Lee over the years is what an incredibly kind, compassionate and decent soul this is,” said Kevin DelGobbo, who introduced Schlesinger.

Schlesinger thanked Connolly for asking him to volunteer all those years ago and said he was honored to be recognized.

“It is such an honor to even be considered for this award among the distinguished previous recipients,” he said.

The United Way marked its 50th anniversary with the awarding of 50 Van Allen Medals. The medal, which is named after founding members of the United Way Robert and Anna Lee Van Allen, was created in 2007 to honor the Van Allens and recognize people for extraordinary service to the community.

Medal recipients included founding members, former staff and people who served as directors, campaign chairs and presidents.
Tony Edwards, 61, plant manager of the former Peter Paul plant in Naugatuck, was among those recipients. He traveled to Naugatuck from North Carolina, and said he continues to contribute to the United Way.

Edwards, who volunteered for the organization from 1992 to 2007 including as a past president and campaign chairman, said, “United Way continues to sustain its goal of helping those less fortunate in the community.”

The United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls honored 50 volunteers with Van Allen medals during the annual meeting April 11 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls honored 50 volunteers with Van Allen medals during the annual meeting April 11 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

He added that was the enduring reason for him to stay closely connected, and it still is.

Naugatuck Savings Bank received the Silver Bowl Award, which is given to a company with the highest increase in corporate and employee giving and employee participation.

The bank along with ITW Powertrain Fastening, Naugatuck public schools, Naugatuck YMCA and United Avionics were honored as Campaign Pacesetters, which are companies that raise funds in preparation of the campaign’s kickoff.

The evening capped off the United Way’s 50th year. Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo congratulated the United Way on 50 years of serving the communities of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.

“That’s not easy and that doesn’t happen by accident,” Mezzo said. “It takes the kind of commitment, compassion, caring of so many people over such an extended period of time.”

The Republican American contributed to this article.

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