2015 Winners

The third annual Beacon Awards was held on Oct. 8, 2015 and honored 17 members of the shoreline community.

Patricia Andriole

In Branford, there’s a place where people can go for help—for assistance, for counseling, for food, for company. Its name is no coincidence: The Patricia C. Andriole Volunteer Services Center. Recently retired, Pat headed the Branford Counseling Center and its predecessors for decades, but that’s just her most obvious contribution to the town. She’s also served her community through the Branford Rotary Club, Soundview Family YMCA, Branford Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking, Branford Festival, and numerous other efforts to help ensure those in need could find help. Her volunteer work continues in full force today—as one nominator noted, “If there is something wonderful happening in Branford, chances are Pat is a part of it!”

Judy Bannon

“Judy Bannon is the epitome of service above self.” That was one of the accolades we received about Judy, a teacher at the Jerome Harrison Elementary School (JHES) in North Branford. She’s a volunteer for Matt’s Mission, a dedicated member of the North Branford Women’s Club, a supporter of he Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and a driving force behind GodFest and the North Branford Night to Care, which raises funds for families in need right before the holidays, but she’s perhaps best known for her efforts to fundraise for childhood cancer research. When two members of the JHES community were faced with childhood cancer, she coordinated the annual St. Baldrick’s head shaving event at her school that’s raised more than $30,000 for research.

Mary Caruso

Parents put their children first—that’s just expected. But not every parent faces the challenge that Mary Caruso has faced: coping with the diagnosis of a debilitating disease in both of her young daughters. Mary founded the Friedreich’s Ataxia Alliance soon after her daughters Sam and Alex Bode were diagnosed with the progressive neural disorder, providing a network of support to others while devoting her own energies to raising her girls. The fact that Sam and Alex are both dynamic, engaged, and inspiring members of their community today can be traced back to their mom, of whom one nominator wrote, “She smiles every day through her chaotic life and brings cheer to all.”

Wendy Cowles

A retired pediatric nurse, Wendy Cowles was trained to be observant, so it’s no surprise that she was among the earliest advocates to address a hole in social services: kids who come to school hungry on Mondays due to inadequate food over the weekend. As president of the Branford Food Pantry, Wendy helped to establish Feed Branford Kids, a program that addresses food insecurity seven days a week. The good will she has generated over the years has made her an impressively effective collaborator, linking those in need with those agencies best able to help. As one nominator wrote, “Wendy is an amazing person with a heart of gold who continuously makes valuable contributions to our community!”

Margaret & Vinny Diglio

Madison’s food pantry was once a closet space in the Madison Social Services office. Today, it’s a temperature-controlled storage facility offering perishable and non-perishable food items that features produce from local farmers in season. How’d that happen? We have Margaret and Vinny Diglio to thank. Co-directors Madison Community Services, the Diglios are on a mission to ensure that each neighbor’s struggle is met with kindness and compassion. They also help to brighten lives around the holidays through the Holiday Baskets Program.

Patricia Kral

Helping others is one of the most powerful things a person can do, but in the end, one person can only accomplish so much. Pat Kral understands that better than anyone, and she may just be better than anyone at overcoming that obstacle by inspiring others to join the cause. From her position as director of the Community Dining room, Pat has engaged thousands of volunteers over the years, sending them off with a hug and a smile to help their neighbors in need. She’s also a passionate supporter of the SARAH family of services, the Arc of Connecticut, and Christ Episcopal Church in Guilford.

Joe Goldberg

Joe Goldberg and his brother Lenny have left a mark on the shoreline area—they’re the duo behind the famed Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tales chain, where kids ride a Magic Carousel (which has awarded almost $1 million to non profits and charities since 1999). The brothers have a strong record of behind-the-scenes community work as well, though, and Joe’s focus has been on the youth of Guilford. He serves town through Guilford Community Television, the Women & Family Life Center, and the Guilford Foundation, but he’s best known as co-founder of the Guilford Fund for Education (GFFE), which supports funds initiatives for educators that fall outside the Guilford Public School budget, and he serves as president of Guilford Youth Mentoring. As one nominator said, “His advocacy has shaped the ethos of the GFFE; galvanized educators, volunteers, and donors; and created a legacy for our community in this educational fund.”

Matt & Mary Hally

If it’s happening on the Branford Green, there’s a good chance Mary and Matt Hally are involved. From the Friends of the Blackstone Library’s massive annual book sale to the Branford Festival, the Hallys have stepped forward for years to ensure things go well. Matt’s also volunteer firefighter in town. The two also support community outreach efforts at St. Mary Church and St. Theresa Church. One of their said of the duo, “When a neighbor needs help, you don’t need to ask the Hallys. They are already at your side, pitching in.”

Lisa LeMonte

The list of organizations that benefit from Lisa LeMonte’s service reads like a Who’s Who of Middlesex County non-profits. Highlights of her involvement include the Valley Shore YMCA, the Connecticut River Museum, the Community Music School, the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Middlesex Hospital, HOPE Partnership, and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County. As community development officer for Guilford Savings Bank, it’s her job to find meaningful ways to connect with local non-profits, and it’s clear that its a task to which she’s perfectly suited. Her commitment is contagious—as one of her nominators said, “She has mentored many of her associates, inspiring others to join a cause, serve those less fortunate, and generally improve the quality of someone’s life.”

Judy McCusker

“Whether supporting children of the shoreline, community initiatives, her church, or those who can’t do for themselves, Judy has been a selfless contributor to the shoreline community and is a deserved recipient of the Beacon Award,” wrote one of Judy McCusker’s many fans. Judy is a longtime advocate for and volunteer with St. Mary of the Visitation Church, the Henry Carter Hull Library, Meals on Wheels, Morgan booster clubs, the Clinton Education Foundation, Clinton Democratic Town Committee, and Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries. A parent and a teacher, Judy still teaches ESL today.

Bill O’Brien

At just about every important community happening in Branford, Bill O’Brien is a familiar face, camera in hand to document it all. It doesn’t take much digging to learn that he’s not just a photographer—he’s used his extensive knowledge and willingness to get involved to help bring about many of events that make Branford Branford, such as the annual Branford Festival. A retired banker, his lifelong love for sports also shows in his support of the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the National Football Foundation, Southern Connecticut Conference, and Branford Recreation Department.

Theresa Ranciato-Viele

Theresa Ranciato-Viele is like a benevolent force of nature, providing a seemingly endless supply of support and compassion in her North Haven community. Much of what she accomplishes she does through the North Haven Rotary Club, such as the support for Hunter Pageau, a young man battling through the rare disease SMARD. She’s also provided key support to Rotary events like the Day of Wine and Roses, leading the club ro recently name her Rotarian of the Year. Outside of Rotary, Theresa helps youth through the Jack Viele Scholarship Fund at the Eli Whitney Museum, held in honor of her late son, and through serving as a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Miner Vincent

About a decade ago, Miner Vincent saw that some of his Clinton neighbors were struggling to stay warm during a cold winter, and made the decision to do something about it. That simple commitment turned into Families Helping Families, through which he nearly single-handedly raised thousands of dollars for fuel assistance. Families Helping Families has since turned into one of the community’s most potent and trusted ways to address need, through food, fuel, and compassion. Miner has been the very dedicated and gracious voice of Families Helping Families, giving his neighbors with just a little extra a way to help those facing a struggle. As a nominator noted, “His passion is truly serving others.”

Joe Wollack

The saying goes, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” In Old Saybrook , people in the know know to ask Joe Wollack. A member and former president of both the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce and Old Saybrook Lions Club, Joe is the go-to guy for countless events and initiative to make his community a better, more engaging place. He’s also a familiar face at the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, and Old Lyme Congregational Church. As one nominator said, “He has been an outstanding volunteer, an outstanding leader, and an outstanding businessperson in Old Saybrook for many years. He is a man of his word and offers his word to get things done freely.”

Robert Worrell III

Robert Worrell III has put his financial expertise to good use in a number of charitable ways, ranging from serving as financial chair of St. Clare Church’s carnival fundraising and manning the grill for a Confirmation class pancake breakfast to serving as financial advisor for the Elevating the Collection fundraising at Shore Line Trolley Museum, where he also volunteers in the grill tent for car shows, and aiding the Orchard House Adult Day Center with financial advice and…grilling hot dogs for picnics (we’re sensing a trend). He’s also a vocal fan and supporter of the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, Relay for Life, and the East Haven Food Pantry, among other organizations.