NAUGATUCK — Every year the Naugatuck YMCA highlights its accomplishments along with the work of volunteers and businesses in the community at the organization’s annual dinner. It’s not every year though that the YMCA recognizes a volunteer with the Above and Beyond Award.
This is one of those rare years, as 42-year-old Chuck Czajkowski will be bestowed with the honor.
“I wouldn’t be able to do my job without someone like Chuck,” said Cathie Mauritz, community development director for the YMCA.
Mauritz said the award is only given out when YMCA officials feels someone truly deserves it and, as the name suggests, someone really goes above and beyond.
Among the ways Czajkowski has been known to lend a hand at the YMCA is donating his time with his band to perform at fundraisers or shoveling snow off of the flat roof of the YMCA building on Church Street.
“Multiple snowstorms he wasn’t doing his driveway, he could be found on the roof,” Mauritz said.
Czajkowski, who works in software support for the company Oracle, has also become the YMCA’s information technology expert.
Mauritz said employees of the YMCA call Czajkowski night and day with technology issues and he’ll drop whatever he’s doing to come down and help. A little over a month ago, Mauritz recalled, the building’s phone system died and Czajkowski spent weeks to get it working again.
Czajkowski’s computer savvy shined through again this past Christmas when the YMCA was helping a family that was displaced by a fire in December at the Southwood Gardens Apartments in Naugatuck. Mauritz said he made sure there was a laptop for the family and that all the electronic devices for the family were up and running.
Czajkowski said he told the YMCA the award wasn’t necessary, although he is “absolutely honored” to be receiving it.
His first experience with the YMCA was when he two children went there for preschool. In about 2007, Czajkowski said his wife, Lori, who is now the dorm coordinator at the YMCA, began volunteering with the daycare program.
As the time passed, Czajkowski said, he got to know the people at the YMCA and started helping out with IT issues. He said after getting to know everyone at the YMCA he doesn’t mind helping out whenever they need it because they’re all great people.
Czajkowski said he continues to lend a hand because it’s important to give back and he knows that helping the YMCA in turn helps the community.
“It’s really a great organization when you see the good things that they do,” Czajkowski said.
Czajkowski is one of four award recipients that will be honored at the annual dinner June 4 at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck.
The Robert Whittemore (Unsung Hero) Award will be given to Jane Walsh
, a 69-year-old borough resident and a former vice president of Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan.
The award recognizes a volunteer who quietly goes about his or her business helping out in the community and doesn’t get the limelight, but is always there to help.
“They really are the people that are making the difference,” Mauritz said.
Walsh, a longtime member of the Naugatuck Rotary Club, volunteers at YMCA events and is always willing to come in before events to do what’s needed such as making gift baskets, Mauritz said.
The YMCA is just one of many community organizations Walsh helps out. She is very active with Naugatuck Youth and Family Services. Currently she is vice chairperson of the Youth and Family Services Bureau Advisory Board — a board she as served on, on and off for the past 15 years.
Mauritz said when Jane Lobdell, former director of youth and family services died last year, Walsh really stepped up her role with the agency making sure programs like Toys for Tots and the Elf Project remained viable.
Walsh was also instrumental in recruiting businesses and volunteers to help a family displaced by the fire at the Southwood Apartments get the items they needed to recover from the fire.
“She does it in such a quiet way that people don’t know it,” said Mauritz about Walsh.
For Walsh, who took part in youth exercise programs and dances at the YMCA when she was younger, the reason to volunteer is simple.
“When you give to the community it gives back to you,” Walsh said.
Walsh learned of the award at a recent Rotary meeting.
“I looked around the room and felt there are so many unsung heroes in here. Why me?” Walsh said.
She said there are so many other people who volunteer behind the scenes as well that deserve the award.
“I’m quite taken back and quite honored to receive this award,” she said.
David Rogers has been involved with the YMCA since he was a young child. Some things never change.
Now, at the age of 54, the financial advisor with Naugatuck Savings Bank remains heavily involved with the YMCA and has volunteered with the organization since the 1980s.
“Dave Rogers has been the stalwart for the YMCA board,” Mauritz said.
Rogers has served on numerous committees at the YMCA and currently is chairman of the finance committee. Mauritz said he continuously works with staff on the YMCA’s finances and comes up with inventive ways to get the most out of every dollar.
When the economy soured, Mauritz said, Rogers led the YMCA staff through the tough times.
“Dave quietly makes sure the YMCA is stable,” she said.
Rogers is being honored with The Fred Zonino Volunteer of the Year Award.
Rogers said to be named among the past recipients of the Volunteer of the Year Award is humbling.
The YMCA is a vital part of the community, said Rogers whose children are the fourth generation of his family to call the borough home. He said the YMCA is a crucial element to the community particularly for the way it supports youth in the borough.
“I think the Y is a very important part of the Naugatuck community,” Rogers said.
In the early 1990s a fire devastated the YMCA. At the time, one of the Naugatuck businesses YMCA officials turned to for help was Corso Printing & Engraving, owned by Rocco Corso.
“Rocco was one of the board members that was instrumental in getting the Y back on its feet, and he’s continued his support since then,” Mauritz said.
Corso, 58 of Waterbury, said when he was approached at the time his reply was the company would help in any way it could. The YMCA was in a distressed state, Corso recalled, and the company began donating services and materials to the YMCA.
Corso and his company have remained active in the community. Corso has served a president of the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce and past campaign chairman for the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.
“Corso Printing is an invaluable piece in the Naugatuck community not just for the business service but for the work in the community,” Mauritz said.
Corso Printing will receive the Jeffrey Witherwax Community Leadership Award for its long time support and volunteer leadership.
“When they called me I said, ‘You know we do this for the good of the community and we don’t need to be recognized,’” Corso said.
Corso echoed Rogers’ sentiments about the importance of the YMCA in Naugatuck, especially the youth programs. He said giving back to the community is just something that should be done.
While he feels the company doesn’t need to be recognized, he acknowledged it is nice to be honored.
“It’s great,” he said. “It puts a pep in your step.”
The annual dinner will also feature a special presentation to acknowledge the dedication and leadership of Executive Director William Kane, who is retiring this year after 24 years at the helm of the organization.
“He’s meant everything,” Mauritz said.
Mauritz said Kane helped carry the YMCA through troubling financial times that almost led the organization to close its doors and built the organization back up after the fire. During his time at the YMCA, Kane led a fundraising campaign for major renovations to the YMCA, some of which were completed in 2006. The second phase of the renovations is under way.
“He brought the Y back from the ashes,” Mauritz said.
Tickets for the annual dinner are $65 per person and include one drink. The deadline to RSVP for the dinner is May 30. Cocktails start at 5:30 p.m. followed by a business meeting at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and the awards presentation at 7:45 p.m.
For more information or to RSVP, contact Mauritz at (203) 729-9622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.