The 10th Annual Community Champions Banquet is already a success and it hasn’t even happened yet.
The Naugatuck Exchange Club’s banquet honoring a local citizen, educator, firefighter, and police officer has already sold about 270 tickets two weeks before the event.
“To be sold out so quickly, that’s just a testament to [the recipients],” said Nancy Bolton, co-chair of the banquet.
The club will host the banquet March 8 at Leary’s Crystal Room in Naugatuck.
The club will donate proceeds from the event to local civic and charity organizations, with a focus on the prevention of child abuse.
When the club was first founded in Naugatuck in 1948, it held an annual dinner honoring one person from the town, but over the years, it fell by the wayside, Bolton said.
When she joined 12 years ago, Bolton decided to revive the tradition. Instead of honoring one person, they decided to honor four-a citizen, firefighter, police officer and teacher.
“You can’t just really draw many people for one person any more.
That was the whole idea,” she said.
The money raised will go towards scholarships for graduating seniors, St. Mary’s Foundation for Children, the Little League, basketball team, and other community organizations.
Candidates for officer and firefighter of the year are nominated by their own departments while an exchange club committee reviews applications for teacher and citizen of the year submitted by their peers.
“We get these unbelievable people who are nominated,” Bolton said.
The committee uses a point system to take into account years of service, volunteerism, and the work that nominees do.
“We try to pick someone who has donated a lot of their time, especially with children,” Bolton said.
Firefighter of the Year: Stephen Sousa
A full-time job as a firefighter for Naugatuck is not enough for Bethany resident Stephen Sousa. He is also an active member of the Bethany Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance Corps.
“I enjoy doing it for a job, but I also enjoy working in the community,” Sousa said.
For Sousa, it’s a family affair. Most of his wife’s family volunteers for the Bethany Fire Department too.
“If we all have a dinner at the house, and a call comes in, you’ll see about 12 cars take off on the driveway,” he said.
Sousa has a long history of helping emergency services in Naugatuck. At 15, he became an explorer with the Naugatuck Ambulance Corps., and at 18, Sousa started volunteering for the Naugatuck Volunteer Fire Company 1. When he was 20, Sousa became a police dispatcher for the Borough of Naugatuck.
“I’ve just always had a strong sense of helping in the community,” Sousa said.
In the ten years since he was appointed a permanent member of the Naugatuck Fire Department, Sousa has volunteered and participated in fundraisers for both the department and national campaigns.
Two summers ago, Sousa raised $700 for Autism Speaks by sheering his locks in a “shave your head for autism” event at a camp in Massachusetts. Sousa usually sports a bald head anyways.
“I grew my hair back in just to do this,” Sousa said.
Sousa helps protect his fellow firefighters as the Local 1219 Safety Committee chair for the past six years.
Sousa received numerous awards during his time in the Air Force from 1994 to 1998. He is a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
When Sousa found out he won the Firefighter of the Year award, he thought one of the guys was messing with him.
“He goes, ‘No, I’m not kidding, I’m serious,” Sousa said.
Sousa’s peers appreciate what he does.
“That’s what I seem to be finding out as I go along here,” he said.
Educator of the Year: Diane Dorherty
Diane Dorherty has been a culinary arts teacher at Naugatuck High School for the past 25 years. Before that, she was a high school secretary for nine years and had her own catering business. During her tenure as secretary, one culinary teacher retired and several more came ad went.
“The third time they offered me the job, I took it,” Dorherty said.
Even though she had to go back to school to get her teaching certificate, Dorherty said she did the right thing.
“It was the best decision that I ever made. … I want to be here. I love to be here. I love the students,” she said.
The love is reciprocal, according to High School Principal Fran Serratore.
“‘Mrs. D’ loves her students that they love her. Culinary I&II are two of our most popular electives,” Serratore wrote in a letter of recommendation to the club.
Dorherty teaches students basic cooking methods for entry into the food service industry. They make lunch for the high school faculty and design meals for themselves.
Dorherty said her students run the whole operation.
“I just kind of oversee everything to make sure we’re on the right path here,” she said.
Doherty’s students have gone on to culinary schools on scholarship and won top price in the State Food Service Competition. One was even on the TV show, “The Iron Chef.”
Some of her students return as guest chefs in her class.
“Her kids come back and they give back to her what she gave to them,” Bolton said. “It’s just amazing how successful her kids are.
She leaves that impression on them.”
One of Doherty’s students, senior Kristina Lintgeris said Doherty is one of her favorite teachers.
“She makes sure that everybody learns something,” Lintgeris said.
Officer of the Year: Danielle Parady
Naugatuck police officer Danielle Parady knows how to act undercover.
Since she joined the Naugatuck Police Department three years ago, Parady has been involved in numerous sting operations.
Last June, Parady was instrumental in serving eighty arrest warrants for area drug dealers during “operation cease-fire.”
“The bravery she displayed posing as a narcotics buyer from known and violent criminals is a testament to her dedication to the law enforcement profession and she should be lauded for her efforts in making this investigation a success,” wrote Christopher Edson, Chief of Police, when he nominated her to receive the Officer of the Year award.
Last April, Parady worked undercover, posing as a prostitute for a sting operation on Craig’s List, an online classifieds site.
“As a result of her patience and professionalism, through her efforts she was instrumental in making 20 arrests of individuals over a two-day period,” Edson said.
A few months later, Parady used her training from the Internet Crimes against Children Task Force to target males who meet underage girls on the internet with the intent to have illegal contact with them. She also tracks individuals who download child pornography.
Aside from her career, Parady also volunteers with Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), mentoring the daughters of law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty.
Citizen of the Year: Kevin DelGobbo
Kevin M. DelGobbo has demonstrated a lifelong passion for community and public service, according to the nominating committee.
“I’m obviously very honored,” DelGobbo said of his nomination. “And I’ve always felt the Exchange Club is one of the bedrock organizations in town. It has a history of just doing so many great things.”
DelGobbo has served in almost every public office imaginable, including in the state legislature and Naugatuck Board of Mayor and Burgesses. Currently, he serves as chairman and commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control.
“He’s involved in every organization. He’s just amazing,” Bolton said.
In addition to public service, DelGobbo has a full schedule of community service. He volunteers for United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, where he was past president, and is the current president of the Naugatuck YMCA. He is also on the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, and works with Connecticut Community Care Inc. This list goes on.
“Kevin, as you know has the energy of three people. His endless consideration and kindness toward all the citizens of Naugatuck is just one reason I have so much respect and love for Kevin. He has always been just a phone call away to all who need him,” wrote Judy Anderson in her nomination.
DelGobbo said it’s easy for him to find time for all his activities.
“None of it’s a chore. It’s exiting to be involved,” he said.
DelGobbo is no stranger to award ceremonies. He’s received the Lewis A. Dibble Sr. Award from the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce, the Friend of the Taxpayer Award from Yankee Institute, the Naugatuck High School Alumni Award, and many more.
“One of the most amazing things about a town like Naugatuck is this honor could be given to literally thousands of residents of the town every year. Our town has such a tradition of community involvement. It really is just fantastic,” DelGobbo said.
For DelGobbo, volunteerism is a way of life.
“My grandfather was very active as a volunteer himself, so even as a little kid, I was helping out and volunteering for a number of things,” he said.
DelGobbo recalled the blizzard of 1978 when, as an eighth-grader, he stayed up all night relaying emergencies messages to doctors and hospitals over his ham radio.
“Rather than sitting around and complaining about what’s wrong in the community, you know, myself, and frankly many, many other people in town have decided not to just complain but do whatever we could to try and make things better,” DelGobbo said.
DelGobbo’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“DelGobbo has earned a reputation as a hardworking, responsive and effective advocate in any role he has served,” Anderson wrote.
For ticket information, contact Nancy Bolton at 203-232-8338. Space is limited. Even if the banquet is sold out, it’s not too late to support the Exchange Club by purchasing an ad in their program book. Contact Kathy Lengyel at 203-808-8717 for more information.