Club to honor community champions

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NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Exchange Club will honor the contributions of four members of the community at its annual Community Champions Banquet this month.

The club will recognize a citizen, firefighter, police officer and teacher at the dinner, which is March 26 at the Crystal Room, 98 School St. Tickets for the dinner are $40. For information or tickets, contact Kelly Pinho at 203-667-2506 or kellymannix@sbcglobal.net.

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR

Larry Erickson, a Prospect resident, and his family have owned Jesse Camille’s Restaurant in Naugatuck since 1996. Over the years, Erickson has hosted numerous charity events at the restaurant and supported many fundraising events.

Erickson is also actively involved with the Camille B. Perugini Charitable Trust Scholarship Fund, which was formed in memory of his sister-in-law Camille Perugini who died in 1997 at the age of 27 of an undiagnosed tumor. Since its formation, the trust has raised more than $221,500 to fund college scholarships for local high school graduates.

Erickson, who is a member of the Naugatuck Exchange Club, has also coached youth hockey in Watertown, served as president of the Watertown Youth Hockey Association, and coached soccer in Prospect and lacrosse in Wolcott.

EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR

Naugatuck native Robert Hughes is the director of instrumental music and the band director at Naugatuck High School, where he has taught for eight years.

Under his watch, Hughes has increased student participation in instrumental music, expanded course offerings, and created a nonprofit organization to support the band program. He also initiated a six-year French exchange program for student musicians.

Under his leadership, the Naugatuck High School marching band program has earned numerous Musical Arts Conference championships in its respective class.

Hughes earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music Education degrees from the University of New Haven, where he co-founded the university’s marching band program. He recently received his Sixth Year Professional Diploma in Educational Leadership from Sacred Heart University.

FIREFIGHTER OF THE YEAR

Anthony F. Salcito, a lifelong Middlebury resident, was hired by the Naugatuck Fire Department in August 1997.

Along with being a firefighter, Salcito is the department’s head mechanic and responsible for maintenance and repair of the department’s apparatus and equipment with the help of three firefighters who are also assistant mechanics.

Salcito is certified as a firefighter II, pump operator and emergency medical technician. He is also certified as an air supplied technician, which allows him to maintain and repair the department’s self-contained and supplied air breathing apparatus.

Salcito is involved with the local firefighters union. He has served many years as chairman of the union’s annual golf tournament, which raises funds to support local youth sports teams and activities.

During his career, Salcito has received the Naugatuck Fire Department Unit Citation and a Naugatuck Fire Commission Letter of Commendation.

POLICE OFFICER OF THE YEAR

Det. Paul Bertola, who grew up in Newburgh, N.Y. and now lives in Watertown, began his career with the Naugatuck Police Department in July 2013.

Bertola was first assigned to the evening shift in the patrol division. During his time with the patrol division, Bertola served on the traffic enforcement unit and as a field training officer for new recruits.

In July of 2018, Bertola was promoted to detective. He continues to serve in the department’s detective division and his primary focus is on narcotic activity and other vice-related crimes. Bertola’s investigative work has been credited with significant seizures of illegal drugs and guns, and shutting down several drug dealing operations in the borough.

Bertola, who is also an Eagle Scout, is a certified firearms instructor for the Naugatuck Police Department and a member of the Waterbury Regional Emergency Response Team.