By LINDSAY CAREY
The United Way of Southington held its eighth annual dinner and auction on Thursday, March 19. The night was called an “Evening in the Stars” with a Star Wars theme, which included characters and memorabilia from the Star Wars movie series.
The local organization honored three members of the community with the Southington Stars community service awards.
Chris Conlon was named a Southington Star for continually donating food from his local restaurant Smokin’ with Chris to support local organizations like the Southington Chamber of Commerce, Southington High School Marching Band, the United Way and many others. Conlon is also a retired volunteer firefighter.
“Chris donates his time his effort and his restaurant and his food to so many wonderful charitable organizations,” said Town Council member Victoria Triano, who served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event.
Even on the night that he was being honored, the Smokin’ with Chris owner donated a dinner for sixteen people to his restaurant to benefit the United Way’s auction.
Dave Zoni presented a citation from the General Assembly on behalf of Joe Aresimowicz, Rob Sampson, Al Adinolfi, and Senator Joe Markley to each of the three Southington Stars.
“His favorite reply is ‘what can I do?’ said Zoni reading the citation. “His generosity is only overshadowed by his humility. He’s always willing to stand back and let others take the limelight.”
Chairman of the Town Council Michael Riccio presented a citation from the Town Council alongside members Cheryl Lounsbury, Dawn Miceli, Tom Lombardi, and Triano.
“I’m humbled because there are so many people that do so much more than I do,” said Conlon. “One grain of sand does not make the beach nor does one tree make a forest, but together we are a community, and this is what it’s about.”
Lifelong Southington resident and Planstville business owner Gary Saucier was also recognized by the United Way as a 2015 Southington Star.
As the owner of Saucier Mechanical and Hayes Equestrian Center, Saucier is well known in town for his business. However, he’s also well known for his volunteerism.
Every week, Saucier provides space at his property for the Southington High School Robotics Team 195 Cyber Knights to practice.
“If it wasn’t for Gary they wouldn’t have a place to practice and to become the champions that they are,” said Triano.
Saucier has been a longtime volunteer at the Southington Community Services.
“In recognition of his outstanding generosity and volunteerism to the youth and needy of Southington by donating his time, his finances and his expertise to many worthwhile causes including the Southington High School Robotics team the Cyber Knights and Southington Community Services,” said Zoni reading from the official citation from the General Assembly… “He has distinguished himself within the community as a man of integrity, generosity, and vision.”
Before reading the Town Council citation, Riccio spoke about his personal experiences with Saucier and his family. He praised their Equestrian Center and urged people to visit it.
“If you haven’t been there, the transformation the Saucier family has done in that facility over the last four or five years has been amazing,” said Riccio.
Saucier thanked his wife and employees, but credited his parents with instilling a value of volunteerism in him.
“I didn’t quite understand why I had to mow the neighbor’s lawn or visit a nursing home on weekends to people we didn’t even know or why I had a little brother from the big brothers program when I had four siblings,” said Sacuier. “My parents would say we have to help and take care of our neighbors, and they didn’t just say it they practiced it.”
Saucier also chose to donate to the live auction, his business Saucier Mechanical will be completely installing a humidifier in the highest bidders home.
“Rachel Wache’s name is synonymous with volunteerism,” said the Evening in the Stars program.
Wache was honored as a Southington Star for her service on several town committees, civic organizations, and volunteerism for community events.
Wache has been serving as members of both Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) and Apple Valley-Southington Chapter of AARP.
She has held several positions with American Legion Auxiliary, where she started Southington events like “Touch A Truck,” “Heroes to Hometown,” and “Got Books.”
Even beyond her service on committees, Wache has volunteered for the Salvation Army, the Southington Drive-In, the Apple Harvest Festival, Red Cross Blood Drives, and many others.
“The one thing that motivates Rachel is her heart,” said Triano. “She goes about doing little things in extraordinary ways and few cannot leave from being with Rachel without feeling better about who you are.”
The citation from the General Assembly credited her with “setting a standard of volunteerism and service within the town.”
“Rachel lives a life of service,” said Zoni on behalf of the General Assembly. “Her life shines forth as an example of what one person can accomplish with a vision and a heart to help.”
Longtime friend, Town Councilor Cheryl Lounsbury spoke about Wache’s inspiration on her career and presented her friend with the Town Council citation for being a United Way Southington Star.
“She truly is a mentor,” said Lounsbury. “She does for everyone, the church, the veterans, the community at large, there’s nothing that Rachel doesn’t do.”
Wache said that she loves being a community volunteer and thanked everyone in the community for their support.
“I will tell you that I couldn’t be able to perform any of it without the always generous and very willing spirit of everyone in this community who contributes either with goods, food, talent, muscle, material, money and much more,” said Wache. “You are the folks who make it happen.”
The dinner was at the Aqua Turf, which began with a silent auction and ended with a live auction with items donated by local businesses.
The United Way of Southington is a community group that raises money to fund 16 local organizations serving residents in Southington, Milldale, Marion, and Plantsville.