Award recipient epitomizes service, caring

Karen Ambari Longo

NAUGATUCK — Karen Ambari Longo is no stranger to volunteering.

The list of organizations the 52-year-old Beacon Falls resident volunteers with includes the International Institute of Connecticut, the Beacon Falls Lioness Club and the Beacon Falls Rotary Club.

About seven years ago, Longo started volunteering with the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls by helping out with the organization’s annual Festival of Trees. About two years later, she was chosen to serve on the United Way’s Board of Directors and continues to sit on the board to this day.

Longo, who is an art director for Deloitte, said the scope of programs impacted by the United Way is what first attracted her to volunteering with the organization. She continues to serve the United Way because, she said, the need for volunteers and the community’s needs grow each year.

“It’s such a wide range. It’s such a variety. There’s just so many organizations that the United Way reaches and helps,” Longo said.

The feeling is mutual.

The United Way will recognize Longo with its Mary H. Connolly Community Caring Award at the organization’s 54th Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner on March 23.

The award is presented annually to recognize an individual or individuals who have demonstrated outstanding support to the United Way and the entire community.

“Karen demonstrates a level of love for family, friends and community, in ways large and small, known and unknown, which gives true life to the United Way mission,” states a biography of Longo provided by the United Way. “Karen displays all the attributes of community service and caring that the United Way looks for as it awards the Mary H. Connolly Community Caring Award each year.”

Longo’s acts of caring stretch beyond volunteering with organizations. When a close friend was diagnosed with lymphoma, she organized three teams across the country to walk in the Light the Night event to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, according to her biography. One of those teams was the highest fundraising team in the area, the biography states.

Longo also designed a new visual identity system that included a logo, brochures, and stationary for Safe Haven of Great Waterbury, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, according to the biography.

When asked for an experience that stood out to her over her years of volunteering, Longo pointed to a trip to West Africa she took with Rotary International. During the trip, Longo volunteered on immunization day at schools in Ghana and visited a vocational school that helps women enter back into society after being victims of the sex slave trade.

Longo described the experience of seeing cultures that are less fortunate first-hand as “eye-opening” and a “game-changer.”

“To say volunteering is important to her would be an understatement,” states the biography. “She would tell you it is a way of life.”

Longo said learning that she is this year’s recipient of the caring award was very emotional for her.

“I don’t volunteer for the recognition. I don’t volunteer to receive an award. … I think your reward is giving back and helping people and seeing the impact. By doing one small thing, you can change a life for the better,” Longo said.

The annual meeting and awards dinner is at the Crystal Room, 98 School St., and begins at 5:30 p.m. Aside from recognizing Longo, the United Way will present its Silver Bowl Award to ITW Powertrain Fastening and announce the results of its annual campaign. Tickets for the dinner are $50 per person. For more information or to RSVP, call the United Way office at 203-729-1564.