By Lindsay Carey
Mary DeCroce will be honored as the 2014 Leading Ladies Award Receipt at their annual luncheon on Friday, Oct. 24, at the Aqua Turf Club.
Donna Ayer, from the Leading Ladies, said that DeCroce’s success as president of the Southington Community Cultural Arts in securing the Gura Building for a community art center made her stand out this year as the woman to recognize.
“She has just put in such tireless dedication into making our art center a reality,” said Ayer. “We just thought this would be a good time to recognize her for all efforts.”
DeCroce said being able to save the Gura Building, fundraise and receive enough funds to start the renovation for the arts center is one of her most rewarding projects.
She said that the architects for the project are working on the final plan, which has to go before the Planning and Zoning Committee. DeCroce said she is hoping to start the renovation this month. On top of the plans, DeCroce and the SCCA are still fundraising, because they still need to raise another $250,000 to complete the renovation within the next year.
DeCroce is seeking grants and donations of any size to complete the project.
The arts center, however, is not the only thing that she will be honored for at the luncheon. Despite her success this year, she said she was surprised by the award and feels honored to be recognized.
“It’s an adventure,” said DeCroce. “I love what I do, so I think that makes a big difference when what you’re doing isn’t work.”
DeCroce is known for her murals and mosaics all over town, including Rails to Trails, the Pepper Pot, Southington Care Center, the library, and the dog park, along with many others in Southington and around Connecticut.
“Things are never accomplished by one person, they’re accomplished by people coming together,” said DeCroce.
She said one of her favorite murals to work on was the “Because of 26,” which is along Rails to Trails to commemorate the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. According to DeCroce, over 30 artists, including children and adults, helped paint the mural.
She also said her recent memorial mural for Ben Buckley, a young Southington boy who passed away from an asthma attack earlier this year, was another rewarding project.
“It was nice to see the artwork help [the Buckley family] heal and watch the community come together for someone,” said DeCroce.
Besides her mural work, DeCroce is also an art teacher at the Southington Community YMCA and St. Dominic School.
For the last four years, the Leading Ladies have given out an award to a woman who is not only deserving of honor for her achievements, but lives a life that reflects the Leading Ladies mission.
The group’s mission is to make a contribution to the community through business, civic commitment or volunteerism. The Leading Ladies luncheon is on its 15th year and it includes a sit down lunch and a signature cocktail.
There is also usually some form of entertainment at the luncheon, and, this year, the group has invited Lyn Dillies, an award winning female illusionist.
“We always try to have someone who is inspirational, but fun,” said Ayer.
Dillies has been performing illusions for over two decades and is also the first female illusionist to receive the Milbourne Christopher Award from the Society of American Magicians.
“Talk about women talking charge and leading in their profession, to be the first woman to receive that prestigious award is incredible,” said Ayer. “She’s a pioneering woman and that’s the kind of thing we like to recognize at our event.”
Dillies will perform her show and then talk about her accomplishments.
According to Ayer, the Leading Ladies luncheon is an opportunity to gather and recognize women, but also to mingle and celebrate everyone’s accomplishments.
Tickets for the Leading Ladies luncheon cost $40 per person. However, the proceeds go directly back into helping women in Southington.
The proceeds will go directly into the Leading Ladies Immediate Assistance Fund, which provides up to $200 of financial assistance for local women in need.
“Since we’re women we are multi-taskers,” said Ayer. This is not just a lunch and to be entertained, we are raising money for the girls and women in Southington that need a helping hand whether it be for a sudden move, for utilities, an outfit for a new job interview, or for education or training.”
The Leading Ladies Immediate Assistance Fund is hosted through the Main Street Community Foundation.
By Lindsay Carey