The first annual Beacon Awards was held on Oct. 9, 2013 and honored 15 members of the shoreline community.
As chair of the East Haven Shoreline Greenway Trail Committee, Barbara Brow has been instrumental in the completion of several trail sections in East Haven, linking the town the Greenway Trail running from Lighthouse Point in New Haven to Hammonasset State Park in Madison. But as much as she’s known for involvement with Greenway Trail Committee, Brow also has a long history of involvement in other aspects of the community. Back in 1968, she helped to organize the East Haven Policemen’s Wives Association and she served as the secretary of the Connecticut Policemen’s Wives Association. In 1991, she was elected to one term on the East Haven Town Council, representing the fifth district. She was also the secretary for the Republican Town Committee at the time. Then, in 1998, she was elected as chair of the Town Council and served in that position for 17 months. Since then, she has organized and served as president of the League of Women Voters of East Haven and formed the Town Green Tree Preservation Project under the auspices of the Garden Club.
Terri Cain’s volunteerism dates back to her days as a teenager in Michigan. After graduating from high school, she spent a summer working for OxFam in London. She gave her time to groups including the Sierra Club, Easter Seals, and the Red Cross before setting in Guilford in 1996. More recently, her resume of service includes directing the Pilgrim Fellowship at First Congregational Church in Guilford, which helps guide teens toward being more compassionate through mission trips and other service activities. She’s also served on the Guilford Community Television board, has been a vice president of the Guilford High School Theatre Arts Parents group, and a member of GHS Connections. Terri is co-founder of the Hubbard Community Garden, as well as its volunteer manager. Known as the “Hub,” the organic garden provides food for the Guilford Food Bank and the Community Dining Room and also includes a children’s garden, four plots offering modified access, and 25 community plots. Last year, Cain also developed a classroom garden at Cox Elementary School and she led 2nd graders in gardening projects over the course of the year.
John Divis has been a member of the Chester Hose Company for 43 years, including being an officer for three years and chief for three years. Chester residents will remember him in his role as chief during the early 1980, when he demonstrated heroism as waters ravaged the town. Currently, John is director of Chester’s Public Works Department. In this capacity, he has helped to reopen the Chester Meeting House following its closing by the fire marshal due to safety issues in 2011 and has contributed to the success of many events, including the annual Halloween Hayride.
John “Jack” Eagan recently completed a 42-year career with the Clinton Police Department. In addition to his service with the department, he has also served as a volunteer firefighter, ambulance attendant, and dispatcher for the Town of Clinton, and has served on the Bluefish Festival committee. He has also been a strong supporter of the Clinton Rotary Cancer Relief Fund. It is through the Rotary that Jack found his favorite project: the Amber Alert ID initiative. While still working as a police officer, Jack would save up two weeks’ personal vacation time so that he could travel to the Big E to process children through the Amber Alert ID program. During those two weeks, he registered more than 4,000 children.
Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School science teacher David Fowler stepped up to fill some big shoes when Bikes for Kids founder Chuck Graeb passed away. Fowler was instrumental in rallying Bikes for Kids volunteers following Graeb’s death. One of his first missions was to collect and ship 100 bikes to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. With Fowler as the non-profit’s current president, Bikes for Kids continues Graeb’s legacy, accepting donations of used children’s bicycles, refurbishing them, and distributing them to kids in need. Fowler regularly puts in more than 40 hours per week outside of his day job repairing bikes, picking up used bikes, ordering parts and helmets, and much more. Last year, when a Centerbrook home burned to the ground, upon learning that everything in the family’s garage was lost, Fowler presented the family with two adult bikes and a smaller one for their oldest child.
A mother of five girls, Tina Garrity finds her own happiness in volunteering. Among the many organizations for which she volunteers are Circle of Care, the Madison Selectman’s Council on Youth Substance Abuse, the Children’s Center in Hamden, the Hospital of St. Raphael and Yale-New Haven Hospital. She has held leadership positions on practically all of the committees on which she’s served. She is also the founder of the Madison Happiness Club, which aims to enable people to find the positive in their lives. One of her biggest projects is running Circle of Care’s Art from the Heart program, which makes over a room for a child undergoing chemotherapy. Tina works with local high school students and area professionals to make this happen. In addition, she organized and runs a knitting group at the Hearth at Tuxis Pond.
Longtime Madison Rotary Club member and 2005-’06 Rotarian of the Year Robert M. Green has given back to his community for several decades. In 1978-’79, he received the Madison Lions Club Public Service Award and he also been the recipient of the Madison Jaycees Distinguished Service Award. In addition, he has served as the chairman of the board of directors of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Madison; has given 50 years of service to the First Congregational Church, in addition to being a Habitat for Humanity volunteer; was a part of Madison Little League from 1963 to 1967; and was instrumental in the rebuilding of the West Cemetery stonewall.
Maryanne Lincoln Hall
Maryanne Lincoln Hall has been involved in countless local organizations and initiatives, among them Read to Grow, the Homemaker Thrift Shop, Branford Garden Club, Branford Historical Society, Branford Community Gardens, the Branford Democratic Town Committee, the Branford Representative Town Committee, Branford Litter Committee, East Shore District Health Department’s Pumpout Boat Committee, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Summer Island Day, and the Branford Land Trust. She’s held leadership positions in many of these organizations. She was a charter member of the East Shore District Health Committee’s Pumpout Boat Committee and, as a member of the Land Trust, she has organized town-wide litter pick-up days. She is also a past president of the Homemaker Thrift Shop. And, if you go to the Town of Branford homepage, you will see her name under “Volunteer Resources.” She organized the 2009 Branford’s Volunteer Celebration.
In 2008, when the cost of heating oil soared to nearly $4 a gallon, Laurie Heflin responded to the need by founding Neighbor to Neighbor, a service that provides emergency funding, heating oil funds, utility assistance, and camp sponsorships for families in need. Since then, under Laurie’s leadership, Neighbor to Neighbor has also stepped up to assist the Madison Community Services Food Pantry when its need increased and to deliver items from the food pantry to homebound individuals. Together with her husband, Jack, Laurie also supports Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Smilow Cancer Hospital. She has served on the board of directors and as secretary of the Deacon John Grave Foundation and on the board of governors of the Madison Beach Club.
Since moving to Clinton, Sandy Luke has immersed herself in the community in volunteer roles. She is a member of the Clinton 350 Committee, the Pretty Committee, and is a volunteer coach for Clinton Parks & Recreation. In addition, she singlehandedly created the Clinton Gingerbread contest, which has become an integral part of the town’s annual Christmas in Clinton celebration in just two years. As a member of the 350 Committee, she has dedicated hours to brainstorming ways to honor Clinton’s and the shoreline’s history. During Tropical Storm Irene, Sandy’s street was the only one with power and she and her husband opened their home for neighbors to take showers, charge their electronics, and even enjoy a meal she prepared.
How do you know Chalotte Mattei? Is it through one of her more public endeavors – as the founder of the Branford Holiday Parade or her more than two decades serving on the Branford Festival Committee? Her efforts on behalf of Harbor Health Services/BHCare or the Branford Jazz Series? Her long-time involvement with the Chamber of Commerce and the Branford Fireworks? Perhaps you’re one of her Branford Rotary or Italian-American Club colleagues who praise her “roll up her sleeves” work ethic, or simply someone who admires constant commitment to others through something as semmingly simple as her year-round quest for sample-sized toiletries to assist BHCare’s homeless clients. As one of her Beacon Award nominators summed up, “If there is a need, Charlotte finds a way to help, most of the time without being asked, and if she is asked, she always says, ‘Yes.'” Another added, “She puts others and her community before herself always – she is involved in what seems like every town project – and she is a good person!”
For years, Johanne Pantani has been flying under the radar, quietly making a profound impact on her community. As impressive as the list of her volunteer work is – as a Hospice volunteer, comforting patients of a local pediatric oncologist, aiding every Habitat for Humanity build, organizing “Take a Vet Fishing” days, and serving as Secret Santa to seemingly an entire town, to name just a few – it’s the way her many nominators describe her commitment that’s most touching. Their notes share the story of a tireless spirit who, despite losing her high school sweetheart, her husband Bruce, to cancer (she is a cancer survivor herself), has selflessly continued to seek ways to help those in need – and she has always involved her four children and now her many grandchildren in her volunteering. Because of Johanne, Branford kids in need can count on a full backpack to start the school year, families (including parents!) will find a present under the tree each holiday, and her many, many friends and admirers have a role model for kindness, passion, and generosity.
It started when a neighborhood boy lost his father. Dan Perrotto decided to buy a bike to ease the child’s grief and loss. From there, the generosity multiplied. Dan has been raising money and donating more than 1,800 bikes to children of hardship families for more than 16 years. In his 40 years in North Haven, Dan has stepped up to serve his community in many ways, serving as chair on his town’s Inland Wetland Commission, as a member of the Montowese Fire Association, coaching in the Max Sinoway Little League, and as an active member of St. Therese RC Church, where he taught religious education for several years. Also a member of St. Andrews Society of New Haven and the American Legion, Dan’s service and achievements have been recognized by many, from the American Red Cross to the governor to his hometown, where name engraved on the Vietnam Memorial on the North Haven Town Green. While his contributions to his community are far-ranging, his legacy is clear: delivering to children in need the magic of what a new bike can bring.
M.J. Petretto will be forever grateful that her nephew survived a near-fatal accident and received life-changing therapy for a spinal cord injury, thanks to Gaylord Specialty Healthcare of Wallingford. The incident inspired her to give back in a big way – in 2009, M.J. established the M.J. Petretto Foundation, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) with the mission of funding local organizations that support education, health, and quality of life to build stronger Connecticut communities. In addition to Gaylord Specialty, M.J.’s foundation has supported Guilford’s VNA community Healthcare’s Parkinson’s exercise classes and caregiver support group, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut, and Connecticut’s Community Food Bank Children’s Backpack program. As an individual and local businessperson, M.J. is also a frequent contributor Guilford Food Bank and Guilford A Better Chance (ABC) programs. The success of the program alone wasn’t the sole reason for one of her nominations, howeve – her nominator spoke of M.J.’s personal commitment to the cause: “The amount of time she selflessly donates to the foundation is genuinely heart driven; for nothing less could endure the work.”
Fern Tryon isn’t opposed to working in a group environment – she’s a relatively new member of the Old Saybrook Lions Club, volunteered for the Old Saybrook Ambulance Association for about 10 years, and is active with the Deep River Congregational Church – but her standard way of helping others is more personal. Her nominators describe a woman committed to quietly caring for friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike. Going the extra mile is nothing new to Fern – one of her nominators described watching her leave her home at 9:30 p.m. to drive a senior citizen to work at 10 p.m. at a local coffee shop – Fern continued this assistance for about two years as her passenger underwent cancer treatment and ceased only when the senior decided to retire. She’s the person who stays at a friend’s hospital bedside to offer comfort through the night and who plants flowers at the entrance to Meadow Wood Lane in Old Saybrook – one of the dedicated few who are true Great Samaritans.