Champions of the community

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NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Exchange Club will recognize four outstanding members of the community at its 14th annual Community Champions Dinner.

The dinner is March 10 at the Crystal Room, 98 School St., at 5:30 p.m. During the dinner, the club will honor the citizen of the year, the police officer of the year, the firefighter of the year and the educator of the year.

This year’s honorees are citizen of the year James Desmarais; educator of the year George Macary; firefighter of the year Paul Russell, and Bryan Cammarata, police officer of the year.

“Its just amazing the people we have in Naugatuck,” Exchange Club President Nancy Buckmiller said.

In addition to recognizing the members of the community, the event is one of the club’s major fundraisers of the year. The proceeds will benefit the club’s programs that support the community. For tickets, call Buckmiller at (203) 232-8338 or contact any one of the award recipients.

Citizen of the Year

James Desmarais
James Desmarais

James Desmarais, 69, has been a member of the Naugatuck Elks Lodge 967 for over 33 years. For the past seven years, Desmarais has run the Senior Home Work Program through the Elks.

The program helps Naugatuck senior citizens or disabled homeowners with maintenance of their homes. Volunteers from the lodge will assist with work including cleaning gutters, spring yard cleanup, trimming bushes and hedges, fixing a faucet and changing storm windows.

Desmarais said he joined the Elks Lodge to help people.

“I’ve always liked to help out where I could, whenever I could. Plus the Elks gave me an avenue to meet people and socialize,” Desmarais said.

Desmarais said he continues to volunteer and serve his community because he sees the positive effect it has on people.

“We get thank you letters from the people we help and that boosts your spirit and makes you want to do more,” Desmarais said.

Firefighter of the Year

Paul Russell, a Naugatuck native, is the second assistant chief at the Naugatuck Fire Department. He was hired by the fire department in 1990, became a lieutenant in 1996 and was promoted to his current position in 2005.

Paul Russell
Paul Russell

During his 24 years of service, Russell has received two Fire Commissioner Awards, one Unit Citation and is the first recipient of the Armand Brodeur Memorial Service Award.
Russell volunteers his time with firehouse, helping with the annual flower sales, dodgeball tournaments and soapbox derby.

Russell is also involved in many community organizations. He is a member of the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls’ Board of Directors, a 23-year member of Naugatuck Elks Lodge 967. He also serves on the Saint Paio 5K committee and volunteers at the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day 5K.

Russell has coached for numerous youth athletics leagues. He’s currently a coach for YMCA Little Pal basketball and the Naugatuck Basketball Association.

“Naugatuck fire is one of the best departments in the state and has many deserving individuals. I am honored that the Naugatuck firefighters chose me as their firefighter of the year,” Russell said.

Police Officer of the Year

Lt. Bryan Cammarata, 46, began his career as a police officer in 1993 with the Mecklenburg County Sheriffs Office in Charlotte, N.C. He moved to Connecticut and joined the Naugatuck Police Department in 2000.

Bryan Cammarata
Bryan Cammarata

“I am honored to receive this award. I have been a police officer for over 20 years and have seen a lot of very good officers receive this same award. I am very proud to have the same distinction,” Cammarata said.

Cammarata has served the Naugatuck Police Department as an officer within the patrol division, where he was certified as one of the department’s motor officers and as an accident investigation reconstructionist.

Cammarata was promoted to sergeant in 2007 and was also assigned as a supervisor within the Regional Police Accident Reconstruction Unit. In 2010, he was assigned to oversee the department’s juvenile division as a detective sergeant.

Cammarata was promoted to lieutenant in June of 2012 and was assigned to oversee the agency’s administrative division, which includes the police department’s records division, training division, and evidence and court liaison division.

Cammarata is also responsible for community relations and is the public information officer. As part of those responsibilities, Cammarata administers the department’s social media.

Cammarata said his work with social media and its impact on the community is part of the reason he won this award.

“I have a great love for both this department and this community and to be able to serve as a liaison for the police department to our residents has truly been an honor. I think I have been able to show the community a more human side of the police department through our posts as well as entertain and inform,” Cammarata said.

Educator of the Year

George Macary has taught applied technology education at Naugatuck High School for 42 years.

George Macary
George Macary

His colleagues who nominated him stated in a letter that with Macary, “It’s always about the student; he takes the time to make every student feel good about themselves and their learning. His motto is ‘If it’s good for kids, then we should be doing it.’”

He has his students pair up with elementary school students to create bottle rockets, hot air balloons and gets them involved in Read Across America Day and field day. Recently, he took students from his construction classes to repair dugouts at Union City Little League.

Macary could not be reached for comment.

“His resume impressed us most. He is involved with afterschool projects and the high school graduation. It’s amazing the time he has been putting in to help children. That’s what Exchange Club is all about, preventing child abuse and volunteering. He hit both of them,” Buckmiller said.