2014 Winners

The second annual Beacon Awards was held on Oct. 8, 2014 and honored 15 members of the shoreline community.

Linda Beavers

As a 13-year member of the Clinton Rotary Club, Linda Beavers of Clinton has been involved in the Amber Alert Child ID Program, the Annual Cancer Relief Fund Walk-A-Thon, the Morgan School Interact Club, the Dictionary Project, the Clinton Bluefish Festival, the Lutheran Church of Madison, the Pretty Committee of Clinton, the 350th Celebration of Clinton, and much more. Linda was on the Warm the Children Committee, and raised money by soliciting donations for needy children in Old Saybrook, Madison, and Clinton. She also volunteered to take the families and kids shopping. Linda’s active involvement with a myriad of programs and projects demonstrate how she’s embraced the Rotary’s slogan, “Service Above Self.”

Kim Beckett

Kim Beckett of Guilford is a familiar face around Guilford schools, having served on the PTA and the GHS Unity Group to create a culture of acceptance and celebration of differences to help reduce bullying. She also co-chairs Guilford DAY (Developmental Assets for Youth) and has helped develop the town’s United Sports Program. Kim brought the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign to Guilford Public Schools, and implemented the Positive Coaching Alliance Program in Guilford. Thanks to Kim, DAY has trained more than 200 coaches and team captains with the goal to provide all youth and high school athletes
with a positive, character-building sports experience. With Kim’s help, the results of DAY’s survey of students in grades 7 through 12 demonstrate significant improvements in the developmental assets town youth report. In addition to her work as an advocate for Guilford youth, Kim is an integral part of Guilford’s First Congregational Church.

Taffy Bowes

Taffy Bowes of Madison has worked for Madison Youth & Family Services for almost 20 years. She has helped to develop many programs for them, including Gay and Straight People, Violence Prevention Program, Women of the World, Reach Out, Peer Advocates, and many more. She is a licensed professional counselor with more than 16 years of experience. Taffy is responsible for the prevention work of Madison Youth & Family Services. In referencing her work with youth, Taffy states, “The work I do is based in the belief that young people have the intelligence and the soul to be powerful actors in this world. Teenagers help me stretch and grow—and they are entertaining.” Through Taffy’s
influence, Madison’s youth have increased their level of sensitivity and acceptance of differences in others.

Fred Brooke

Fred Brooke of Old Lyme is a co-founder of Angel Swim, an organization he started in 2003 to raise awareness and money for children with a life-threatening illness. He originally got the idea when he swam to raise money for a Westbrook family in need. He has been swimming six hours a day for six to eight days in a row each summer for the past 10 years to cover the 850-mile coast of New England. He’s also the founder of Angel Ride, a Memorial Day pan-Connecticut bicycle ride whose donations support the Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp’s Hospital Outreach Program (HOP). Since 2004, the ride has raised nearly $4 million, and 23,000 children hospitalized with life-threatening diseases have received camp visits in more than 28 hospitals from Massachusetts to Philadelphia. In 2013, Angel Ride raised more than $750,000 for HOP.

Brenda Eldridge

Lifelong Branford resident Brenda Eldridge has volunteered for years at the Community Dining Room, helping to serve the 7,000 meals a year. She also serves the Branford Compassion Club, caring for all the cats and kittens at the shelter and even fostering some in her own home. Not only does she provide direct care for as many as 90 cats, she also spends a considerable amount of her time fundraising for the organization. She shops, totes, cooks, and cleans up from the lavish pasta dinners and breakfasts that she puts on with little help. These events raise substantial sums of money for the organization to carry on its mission. She and her husband also rescue older golden retrievers and provide them with safe, happy, loving homes until the end of their lives. Brenda has been on church missions to Staten Island and the Appalachian region to provide meals for volunteers
working to repair storm damaged homes.

Kristine Klarman

Kristine Klarman of Branford has taken part in a long list of fundraisers and volunteer opportunities. For the past 28 years, she has helped at Community Dining Room and has been a fi xture at the Friends of the Blackstone Library annual Book Sale, and served on the Branford Festival Souvenir and the Walk like MADD committees. She has taught CCD at St. Mary’s in Branford for 18 years, and has been Eucharistic minister there for 16 years. Since it began in 2009, she’s helped at Abraham’s Tent, a cooperative between Columbus House and New Haven-area congregations to provide shelter to homeless individuals during winter. She worked for Branford/North Branford Senior Housing, and since she left, she continues to keep in contact with some of the residents and still assists them with errands and grocery shopping. She was employed by Apple Rehab in Guilford and now volunteers there. Kristine was the first volunteer at Orchard House when she was in high school.

Tracy Landino

Tracy Landino of East Haven was a three-time cancer survivor before she passed away on Sept. 15. She worked to raise more than $58,000 for the American Cancer Society while fighting for her own life. Her passion was the “House of Hope” Relay for Life Team and she worked to spread the word of early detection. Not only did she raise money for the fight against cancer to help her family, friends, and neighbors live healthier lives, but she spread the word of eating well, exercising, and going for regular checkups. Tracy had recently put her story into book form in the hopes of inspiring others who are fighting the fight against
cancer and their families and loved ones.

“To our friend Tracy, whose passion for a cause while fighting her own courageous battle gives us all strength to take action to support causes we believe in to help make the world a better place. We will be forever grateful.” – Beacon Awards Committee

Eunice Lasala

Eunice Lasala of Branford is a founder of the Branford Compassion Club, a non-profi t feline rescue organization that serves the Shoreline community. She also volunteers for the Branford Community Foundation and the Branford Garden Club. Lasala and her husband, Anthony Lasala, have been Branford residents since 1966. She joined Junior League of Greater New Haven in 1972, leading to her appointment to the GNH Visitors and Convention Bureau and chairing New Haven’s 350th birthday celebration. Among her other Branford volunteer commitments, Lasala served as PTA president at every school level, chaired many programs for Branford Woman’s Club, was active with the 1980s-era Teen Activity Group (TAG), became a Blackstone Library Trustee, and taught religious education classes at St. Therese Church. Lasala was inducted into the Branford Education Hall of Fame in 2002, and earlier this year received a Lifetime

Susan McDevitt

Susan McDevitt of Madison works around the clock to raise awareness of Lynch Syndrome, an extremely under-diagnosed genetic mutation that can cause cancer in 12 organs. This past April, she created the event Comedy for Cancer, which raised nearly $20,000 for Lynch Syndrome International, for which Susan was the East Coast regional director and recently became the vice president. Susan has seven children and has been fighting cancer since she was diagnosed three years ago. Though she has been through chemo and seven surgeries, she is always thinking of others. Susan and her family are also known as “The Pizza People”
to many homeless people in New Haven. Every month Susan gets 10 to 15 pizzas donated as well as coffee, cookies, several cases of water and other food items, as well as much-needed clothes, backpacks, socks, shoes, and personal and toiletry items. Her children are very much involved in this and accompany her on each visit.

Peter Palumbo

Peter Palumbo of Guilford owns Palumbo Automotive in town and is a frequent contributor to the Guilford Food Bank. He founded the “Build a Bike, Better a Life” pilot program at Guilford High School and has been active in the mentoring program and scholarship committee there. Peter allows students from the high school to shadow a technician, makes road calls, and shovels snow for local residents. Peter has also helped
the Guilford Housing Authority and Guilford D.A.Y. (Developmental Assets for Youth) program. He allows any non-profit organization in town (and sometimes neighboring towns) to use the Palumbo’s Automotive parking lot to host fundraising car washes. He provides all the supplies and deducts donation amounts from donors’ future repair bills.

James Puska

When James Puska of Killingworth was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1998, he vowed that if he beat his cancer he would dedicate his life to helping others. He has volunteered at the Connecticut Hospice in Branford for the past 16 years. He has been a bereavement volunteer for young widows and widowers for most of that time and has said that he gains as much from the weekly meetings as the participants do. After volunteering for several years with adults in the Connecticut Hospice bereavement program, Jim became curious about what kind of volunteer programs were available for grieving children in a group setting. The outcome of his search led him to The Cove Center for Grieving Children in Guilford, where he has been a volunteer for more than 10 years. He has facilitated parent groups as well as groups of children of all ages, his favorite being teens. The groups meet every other Sunday evening.

Dan Riccio, Jr.

Dan Riccio, Jr., of North Haven is the commander of American Legion Post #76, and supports local high school sports teams, volunteers for the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, food banks, the Special Olympics, and the Leukemia Foundation. He is instrumental in leading local support and fundraising for the Fisher House. He is an active fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors Project. He collects winter coats for homeless veterans and has made it his personal mission to help other veterans obtain wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and everyday necessities. He is also the manager of the three American Legion baseball teams. He co-chairs the annual Memorial Day Parade for North Haven. May 24, 2014 was declared Daniel Riccio, Jr., Day in North Haven.

Lynn Riordan

Lynn Riordan of North Branford is the founder of Matt’s Mission Fund, a non-profit organization that raises money to assist students in need and to educate the public on responsible driving. Matt’s Mission Fund was established five years ago after Lynn’s son Matthew Picciuto died in a car accident. Lynn speaks all over the state at schools about speeding and driving. “No Need to Speed” signs have been placed all along shoreline roads as a reminder of Matt’s message. The fund raises money through donations and the annual Matt’s Mission 5K race. More than $200,000 has been raised in the past four years. Class dues have been paid for many students who otherwise would not have been able to attend graduation or senior prom. Families in need have had their rent, electric, or phone bills paid when warranted. Lunch tickets are available in the Guidance Department year-round for students who are hungry and have no money to eat. Lynn’s next project is a food  pantry in North Branford, aligned with the Connecticut Food Bank.

Anthony Sagnella

Anthony Sagnella of North Branford has been North Haven’s high school football coach for 15 years. He pushes students to excel in the classroom and community. He has held the Spring Brawl fundraiser for the past four years, which raised more than $25,000 for Special Olympics Connecticut, The Benhaven Home for Autism; the late Matthew Jacques, who was in need of a heart transplant; and eight-year-old town resident Anthony Longley, who is battling brain cancer. Sagnella’s athletes consistently talk about his integral role in their development as not only football players, but also as young men. Sagnella also volunteers his
time by organizing and running a summer conditioning camp at North Haven High School, offering a way for both male and female athletes in every sport at the school to prepare for their athletic endeavors in the forthcoming school year.

Leslie Strauss

Leslie Strauss of Chester is involved in the student-school theater program as well as the financial, acting, producing, and supporting aspects of her local theater program. She also serves local music programs as a music teacher, performer, and supporter. She is active in Planning & Zoning, design commissions, merchant associations, the local Chamber of Commerce, and fundraisers for numerous local organizations. She has served as event organizer for numerous town events as has sat on the board of 9 Town Transit and local theaters. Another claim to fame is that she published a book on the local history of outhouses—how many people can say that? Leslie also mentors local kids in theater and music, and serves as a mentor to local and regional real estate professional organizations.