By Rob Glidden
The Southington YMCA discussed their plan to “extend the legacy” of their organization to future generations during its annual dinner at the Aqua Turf Club. The dinner is also a chance to formally recognize the recipients of the YMCA’s annual awards. The names were revealed in November.
The Person of the Year award was presented to Tony Denorfia, a local developer and attorney known for his charitable contributions and ethical approach to his business. He said he was somewhat “embarrassed” by the attention and that he was just one of many people in Southington who work hard on their town’s behalf.
“I’m a firm believer that no man is an island,” he said. “We work in teams and I’ve got several tables worth of my team here tonight.”
During his speech, he described some trends in modern American culture that made him nervous about the future and hoped that the community could come together and overcome difficult times.
“If we become a society based on fear and a ‘me first’ attitude, our society will crumble and die,” Denorfia said.
Teamwork was also emphasized by Linda Mendelsohn, the prolific volunteer who received the Unsung Hero award for her work with Bread for Life and the Community Services Department.
“Nothing I do is accomplished singlehandedly,” Mendelsohn said. “There are many volunteers beside me. I’m blessed to be able to work with such a loving and caring group of people.”
The Reaching Out award went to The Mill Foundation for Kids, which began in 2006 as a Christmas toy drive but has since developed into a larger organization that works to bring happiness to children suffering with pediatric illnesses.
Brian Taylor, speaking on behalf of the group, briefly outlined the foundation’s goals.
“Our mission is to put smiles on the faces of sick kids,” he said. “We use a very simple method for that – toys.”
He said a toy was more than just a fun gift for a sick child, describing it as a chance for a young hospital patient to feel like a child again in the midst of traumatic times.
Each of the award recipients received proclamations from both the Town Council and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (delivered by state representatives).
In addition to the dinner and the award recognitions, the YMCA’s annual dinner also includes a business meeting. Outgoing YMCA board president Beth Smedick passed the baton to Melissa Sheffy as the organization elected new officers. Joe Eddy was named vice-president of the board.
The YMCA’s “character champion” awards went to Joe Foster, Leann Kroll, Michele Riedinger, Jessica Rosario and Lisa Taurinski. The Volunteer Service awards went to Jeff Bennett and Jeff Borkowski. Teens Kylie Sarantides and Rachel Wrinn received the Youth Leadership awards, with each of them making a brief statement about what they had learned from their experiences within the YMCA.
“Being a leader means to set a good example with our words and actions,” Sarantides told the crowd.