NAUGATUCK — Becky Rutrough is a survivor. She grew up in a domestic abuse household, but didn’t know it at the time.
“Abuse is what shaped me, formed me. Then I met my abuser disguised as a prince,” an emotional Rutrough told a captivated audience March 24 at the United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls’ 53rd annual meeting and celebration at The Crystal Room.
For nearly 18 years, Rutrough was married to an abusive husband. She learned about denial. She learned about shaping appearances. As the abuse escalated, hitting rock bottom left her soul with just one emotion.
“My soul was unfeeling except for one feeling from the depth of my soul — I wanted to die,” said Rutrough, a Naugatuck resident and 2015 Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury Out of the Shadows Award recipient.
Then, on a November night in 2007, after being beaten in front of her then 4-year-old son as her then 8-year-old and 13-year-old daughters listened upstairs, Rutrough made a choice — she chose survival.
Rutrough called police and the responding officer gave her a business card for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury, a nonprofit organization that assists victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“If there had not been an automatic process there is no way I would have gotten out of that situation — not alive anyway,” Rutrough said.
Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury is one of the more than 15 partner agencies that receives funding from the United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls through its annual fundraising campaign. The United Way announced last week that this year’s campaign had raised $351,000, or about 84 percent of its $420,000 goal.
While the campaign hasn’t reached goal yet, United Way Executive Director Lisa Shappy is confident the organization will hit its mark.
“It was tough going early, but we’re going to do it,” she said.
Shappy said the United Way is still waiting for other United Ways in the state to submit their campaign reports, which will include any donations from individuals designated for the United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls. She anticipates that when these reports come in, around the end of April, the campaign will reach goal.
Shappy said it’s harder now for people to give, which has affected all nonprofit organizations.
“They say the economy is getting better and that’s what you hear, but I don’t think it’s trickled down to our area yet,” Shappy said.
Dispute the difficulties facing the United Way, the organization is expanding its reach by allocating funding for programs at two additional agencies — Naugatuck Youth Services and Acts 4 Ministry, Inc. — on top of the agencies the organization currently aids.
“I think it follows our mission of making an impact in our community,” said Shappy about funding the additional programs.
The evening also offered an opportunity for the United Way to recognize the businesses and individuals in the community that support the organization each year.
Rebecca and Peter Zandvliet, who have volunteered countless hours in the community, received the highest honor of the night: the Mary H. Connolly Community Caring Award. The award recognizes individuals who have set the standard for service to the community.
“Rebecca and I strongly feel that you have to make the community a better place to live, and the way to do that is to organize or actively participate in events within the community,” Peter Zandvliet said.
The United Way also recognized 13 volunteers with a Van Allen Medal, which is named after the founding members of the United Way, Robert and Anna Lee Van Allen, and honors people for extraordinary service to their community.
Ion Bank received the Silver Bowl Award for increasing employee and corporate giving and employee participation. Ion Bank, ITW Powertrain Fastening and Naugatuck Public Schools were named campaign pacesetters for completing their campaigns before the United Way’s annual kickoff.