Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT Hosts 10th Annual Social Service Recognition Breakfast
Eastern CT –November 20, 2019 – We Are Better Together was the apt theme of the 10th Annual Social Services Recognition Breakfast coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT at Norwich’s Holiday Inn. The event is designed to show appreciation for social service organizations, but it also served as an opportunity for staff and volunteers of these agencies to connect as friends and colleagues who work together to improve the quality of life in eastern Connecticut.
Keynote speaker Kathleen Stauffer CEO of The Arc Eastern Connecticut, suggested organizations look for opportunities to cooperate, collaborate, or when it makes sense, merge. Having recently completed a merger between The Arc New London County and Quinebaug Valley, she said the essential question if bigger is better was carefully considered. “We came to the conclusion that bigger is not better. Better is better, and if you can become better by getting bigger then bigger is better,” said Stauffer, pointing to efficiencies and solutions realized through joining the two agencies.
Stauffer emphasized the value of nonprofit partnerships in legislative initiatives, where agencies with common goals can help educate elected officials on issues. Senator Cathy Osten echoed the sentiment and encouraged organizations to attend the Chamber’s December 3 breakfast featuring Governor Ned Lamont to represent their interests.
Being better together was echoed in the words of award winners, recognized for their service above and beyond in their duties, as nominated by industry peers. The awards are sponsored annually by SAVA Insurance Group, with the breakfast supported by Citizens Bank and Walmart.
Staff Member of the Year Marlynn Benker of Always Home expressed her appreciation of all the agencies and staff she works with in Always Home’s effort to prevent homelessness. “We have a long, hard path to walk with the people who we walk with and help along. Without the collaboration of everybody and help of collegiality, I’d be walking by myself,” joked Benker.
Board Member of the Year Debbie Kievits shared her story of being invited to the Board of Thames Valley Council for Community Action. “They made room for me at the table, but most importantly they heard my voice. That meant more to me than I can tell you as a single mom raising two kids,” said Kievits who understands firsthand the value of the work being done.
For the first time an award was presented for Collaboration of the Year to GIRL POWER Joint Fundraiser with Girls on the Run, Girls Scouts of Connecticut, S.T.E.P.S., and Soroptimist Connecticut Shoreline. Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Terry Friedman of Madonna Place, and Kelly Thompson of Alliance for Living was recognized as Executive Director of the Year.
The SAVA Guided by Heart Award was announced at the event. Ann and Paul Dagle were recognized for The Brian Dagle Foundation, dedicated to the healing of grieving adults as well as community education on suicide prevention and awareness. “We have been guided by our heart since we started,” said Ann Dagle, thanking the many people who helped launch the Niantic nonprofit.
“Listening to everybody talk about what they do is a wonderful reminder of how important every single one of you are to this region, and I want to thank you for that,” said Tony Sheridan, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT CEO and President, concluding the appreciation breakfast.