NAUGATUCK — A lifelong Naugatuck resident has been named the 2015 Elk of the Year.
David Perugini, 56, will be honored at a celebration March 7 at 6 p.m. at the Naugatuck Elks Lodge 967, 758 Rubber Ave.
“To be recognized by your peers is very humbling and I’m very grateful,” Perugini said.
Perugini said he will accept the award for all the members of the lodge.
“I’m going to be accepting it on behalf of all the membership when I give my talk because it’s through them that I’ve been inspired to do the things that I do. The senior members that still continue to give service to our community and the younger members for their enthusiasm and new ideas and concepts,” Perugini said.
Perugini said he originally joined the Elks 11 years ago for selfish reasons — to have access to the Westbrook Elks Lodge, which is along a beach on the Long Island Sound.
“It was as beautiful as I was told and, if you are a member of any lodge, you can go to any lodge,” Perugini said. “So I joined here just to be able to go there. Selfish. Just thinking of me.”
However, he started to understand the good the Elks could do in the community after meeting a man who would become his mentor.
“In time I started getting involved and another member, Bob Loughlin, was a little bit of a mentor to me. He’s 75 and he still runs the Bingo down there. I got close to him and he really inspired me, at his age and everything he’s doing down there,” Perugini said. “I started asking where can I help and be productive.”
Loughlin was also the person who helped Perugini become an officer with the lodge.
“I’m glad I did because I learned a lot from doing that,” Perugini said.
Since dedicating himself to the Elks, Perugini served the lodge as its exalted ruler from 2013 to 2014 and currently serves as the chairman of the Elks National Foundation for the Naugatuck lodge.
Perugini’s volunteering stretches beyond his work with the Elks. He has volunteered at the Special Olympics Connecticut Winter Games for the past three winters, volunteered with the POW/MIA ceremony in Naugatuck, and marched with the Elks in the borough’s Memorial Day Parade to support the veterans.
He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus Ojeda Council 33 and an usher at St. Francis Church.
Since becoming involved, Perugini said, he has given a lot and gotten a lot back.
“That’s why this reward is very nice to receive. I didn’t do the things I did to receive an award. Most people that get awards are that way. But it’s kind of funny that I joined for a selfish reason, I got involved, and was rewarded for all the things I do and am going to continue doing,” Perugini said.
Perugini said he continues to serve with the Elks because he wants to give back to the community that gave him so much.
“I keep my membership in tact because of all the good they do for the community. They also support the Boy Scouts. I was a Boy Scout at one time and I also played in little league baseball in town. I never knew, indirectly, they were helping me as a child. I’m paying back for what they’ve done for me. If it wasn’t for guys before me doing what they were doing, I wouldn’t have a partial sponsorship in someway with these activities they gave to me. So I’m giving back what was given to me,” Perugini said.
Perugini learned about community service at an early age from his father, who served as a burgess in the borough and with the Knights of Columbus.
“He was my first inspiration growing up,” Perugini said. “I grew up with the teachings of helping each other out and community support.”
Perugini hopes more people will join the Elks and carry on the tradition of serving the community.
“We cover a myriad of programs. Different people have different interests, but we are involved in so many things there is a way for somebody to get involved in some way. We all have different talents and different experiences we can bring,” Perugini said.