By Rob Glidden
The Southington YMCA selected local developer and volunteer Tony Denorfia as Person of the Year, during a press conference that also recognized The Mill Foundation For Kids and volunteer Linda Mendelsohn.
Denorfia has been a successful developer and attorney in Southington, but YMCA Executive Director John Myers emphasized his community spirit and contributions to organizations like Bread For Life and the town’s little league teams.
“He is a secret weapon for the town and keeps its best interests at heart,” Myers said. “If he’s involved with something, the chance of success is almost 100 percent.”
One example cited of Denorfia’s loyalty to the town was his role in the development of the drive-in property. Initially, town administrators did not intend to purchase the property after the commercial drive-in went out of business, leaving the door open for Denorfia to develop the area.
When Town Councilors expressed interest in a potential purchase that was later approved by voters at referendum, Denorfia gave up his claim to the property after concluding that this outcome would be best for the town. He joked that “it was a good personal decision and a lousy business decision.”
“It’s kind of intimidating,” Denorfia said of the recognition. “I’m not sure it’s deserved but I’m very honored and touched by it. It’s a lot of emotions at once.”
The “Reaching Out” award recognizes businesses or organizations that give back to Southington. Myers outlined the humble origins of the Mill Foundation For Kids, which began as a Christmas toy drive but has since developed into a larger organization that works to bring happiness to children suffering with pediatric illnesses. Today, they are best known for the annual “Santa at Sloper” event at the YMCA Camp Sloper.
“This is a true grassroots neighborhood organization,” Myers said. “They keep it simple but they have a big impact.”
The Foundation was delighted by the honor and five key members of the group attended the press conference to celebrate together.
“We think this is very uplifting,” said Tina Taylor, co- vice president of outreach and communication for the foundation. “It gives a lot of comfort to know we’re doing the right thing and to be recognized.”
The Unsung Hero award is meant to honor residents who work behind the scenes to make a difference. Myers described Linda Mendelsohn as an integral volunteer with both the Community Services Department and Bread For Life.
“For the past several years, you have worked relentlessly for these services,” Myers told her. “I think you’ve found a calling.”
Mendelsohn, who is about to jump head-first into the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas goodwill initiatives, described volunteerism as a “fever” that is contagious once you are around other people doing the work.
“It’s wonderful,” she said of the recognition. “We don’t do this sort of thing for accolades but when someone thanks you, that’s great. I’m only one of many volunteers at Community Services and Bread For Life and they all work very hard.”