Laurie Yelding may not live in Naugatuck, but she makes her presence felt in the borough nonetheless.
The United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls will honor Yelding with the Mary Connolly Community Caring Award at their annual dinner meeting March 3.
The award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding support to United Way and has set a standard for service in the community.
“She does so much more in the community that not too many people realize,” United Way Executive Director Lisa Shappy said. “It’s great that she can be recognized, especially by her peers.”
Shappy said Yelding is wonderful to work with.
“When she commits to something, she gives 110 percent and she’s really passionate about what she does,” Shappy said.
Yelding, who is president of Yelding Inc., first got involved with United Way by joining the allocations committee.
“It is quite something else,” Yelding said. “You learn a lot about what United Way does.”
Although Yelding serves on a lot of committees and works on a lot of local projects, one that is near and dear to her heart is the Festival of Trees.
In its fourth year this year, the number of trees donated and decorated doubled since the first year. In December, 80 uniquely decorated trees filled the foyer of Naugatuck Savings Bank.
“Each year, it grows and grows and grows,” Yelding said.
Even though the event is a fundraiser, it is also a community building exercise, she said.
With different organizations, companies, and individuals decorating each tree, the room serves as a glittering representation of all Naugatuck has to offer.
“It kind of takes a life of its own,” Yelding said.
Yelding started volunteering in high school taking Southbury Training School residents on outings.
The experience changed Yelding’s perspective.
“You start to look at your surroundings in a different way and you start to see things that you never saw before. … If we can make our community a better place for those who live here and work here, that’s a great thing,” she said.
In addition to volunteering with United Way since 2004, Yelding serves the community through the Rotary Club of Naugatuck.
“Most people associate Rotary with the End Polio now campaign, but it’s also very local,” Yelding said.
She said Rotary’s goal for the coming year is to do more community projects and raise awareness for the projects they do.
Yelding said she was shocked to learn she was chosen for the award, but also honored.
“There are a ton more people that deserve it way more than I do,” she said.
Yelding said that more than money, it is important to share your time with the community.
“Giving up your time is so, so important because it’s one thing that we all have,” she said.
United Way will also honor Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan with the Silver Bowl Award for the largest dollar increase in employee and corporate giving and an increase in employee participation.
Employee giving through payroll deductions and the like make up most of United Way’s funds, according to Shappy. At Naugatuck Valley Savings and Loan, about 97 percent of employees give to United Way.
“It shows the passion that the employees have for their community and for United Way,” Shappy said.
For more information or to purchase tickets to the dinner call the United Way at (203) 729-1564.