Category Archives: Community Spirit

Fundraisers to Benefit Misquamicut Area

Events to benefit the Misquamicut area, which sustained significant damage during Superstorm Sandy, are scheduled.
Bash for the Beach II, at the Knickerbocker, on December 7 from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring the music of Never Enuff, Equinox, Hope Road, The Beach Band, and Terry Sylvester of the Hollies. Tickets are $15.

The Misquamicut Beach Benefit is set for December 9 from 2 to 9 p.m. at The Malted Barley, Perks & Corks and The Twisted Vine, on High Street, Westerly. The all-ages event will feature live music, food from local chefs, a cash bar, silent auctions, art sales and a raffle. Donations of any size will be collected at the door. Donations of $20 or more will qualify donors for a chance to win a grand prize.

All funds raised will be used to make grants to businesses struggling with losses not covered by insurance. Also, the association’s fund is being used to replace damaged equipment used for a host of events such as movies on the beach and two festivals.

Positive Testimony Marks Prison Awareness Gathering at Shiloh

(l-r) Kimberly Haugabook, Annita Harris, Wanda Short, Trenton Phillips, Daryl Finizio, Mayor of New London, Taja Miller, Winston Taylor, James Miller, Jr.

by Jon Persson

America, bastion of freedoms unknown in many lands, has a higher percentage of incarcerated citizens than in any other land. This stark statistic—and the many sad stories it represents—represents the calling to which Winston Taylor of New London’s Shiloh Baptist Church has been drawn. For  3½ hours at his Prison Awareness and Prevention Gathering on October 27, testimonials, presentations, displays, and a video bring to light the price of prison and the power of positive choice in the lives of young people.

This is the second year Winston has hosted this event, which is an extension—and a hoped-for alternative—to his ongoing prison ministry.

“The overarching theme,” says Winston, “is to raise awareness of the social and spiritual needs of offenders, ex-offenders, and persons affected by incarceration.” He goes on to say that the gathering, and his ministry, have as their aim to “identify ways to keep kids safe in the community,” and to “engage law enforcement personnel to improve relations and partnering to prevent crime.” A further objective is to “recognize correctional and law enforcement personnel” for particular excellence in service to the community.

Yet the most prescient attendees are the young people; emcees Trenton Phillips and Taja Miller, 10th and 8th graders respectively, and 7th grade speaker James Miller. Their generation’s leadership will help end crime and incarceration.

Niantic’s Main Street Stroll

story & photos
by John Stratton

The village of Niantic was bustling with hundreds of bundled-up moms, dads, grandparents and kids of all ages for the Ninth Annual Holiday Stroll sponsored by Niantic Main Street. The family-friendly favorite was on the nippy Saturday evening of November 24.

Activities included horse-drawn carriage rides around the village, carols by the Connecticut Yuletide Carolers, letter writing to Santa, complimentary hot cider and cocoa, kids games on the Liberty Green with DJ WJR, a snowflake drop of gift certificates, and—finally—the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Santa on a vintage firetruck after First Selectman Paul Formica led an enthusiastic pack of kids who counted down for the tree lighting.

Beech Brook Provides Haven, Healthcare, and Homes to Horses

Deborah Finco of Mystic, owner and director of Beech Brook Equine Rescue, with Taco, a baby donkey born this Fall at the farm; her mom, Ashley was rescued from the auction block.

story & photo
by Anna Truksy

Tucked away on a 14-acre parcel of land in the woods off Fishtown Road in Mystic is Beech Brook Equine Rescue, a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and places horses, donkeys, and other animals. The organization was started by Deborah Finco of Mystic, a  Pfizer scientist who initially built the barn for the two horses she and her daughter rode. Deborah has CHA (certified horse association) certification and is a member of the Connecticut Horse Council and the Connecticut Volunteer Horse Patrol.

Beech Brook is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that relies on donations through fundraisers, sponsorships, and grants. The farm features a three-stall barn with a tackroom, a small paddock area with a run and a shed for three horses, and a couple of pastures.

Finco and her team of dedicated volunteers perform all the horse-care duties, which recently included protecting the horses from Hurricane Sandy by putting special masks on them to keep flying debris from injuring their eyes. The horses receive excellent veterinary care, which includes special diets when needed. Deborah and her team strive to find homes for the animals they rehabilitate, but those animals who are not adopted get a loving, life-long home at Beech Brook.

“We built the barn for our own horses, but then we fostered one horse, and it grew from there,” Finco explained. “Now we have not only horses but minis, donkeys, and a few other animals we well.” The animals have been rescued from situations of neglect and abuse, as well as from the auction block, where they are often sold to Canada and other countries to be turned into meat for human consumption. Recently, Beech Brook saved two beautiful female donkeys, Ashley and Matilda, who were pregnant. Ashley’s baby girl, Taco, was named through a fund-raising contest.

Beech Brook offers summer classes and programs for kids, and programs for at-risk and special-needs youth. It will be holding a Spaghetti Dinner Fundraising Event on December 7 at United Congregational Church,  Pawcatuck.

Navy Recognized Senator Lieberman as Honorary Submariner

On October 24, Navy leadership at the base recognized U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT) by making him an Honorary Submariner. Rear Admiral Richard Breckenridge, commander Submarine Group Two, pins Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) with a set of Dolphins, bestowing upon him the title of honorary submariner at Naval Submarine Base New London. Lieberman toured the newest Virginia Class fast-attack submarine, USS Mississippi (SSN 782), shortly before the pinning ceremony.

Whole Foods Donates $12,000 to Gloria Gemma Foundation

(l-r) Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation Director of Development Gary Calvino, Whole Foods Market Waterman Street Marketing Team Leader Shawna Lawton, Whole Foods Market University Heights Marketing Team Leader Bonnie Combs, Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation Executive Director Maria Gemma, Whole Foods Market Cranston Marketing Team Leader Jewel Healy; Photo credit: Judi Sherwood/Judith’s Point Photography

Whole Foods Market announced a $12,104.34 donation to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, the result of a recent “5% Day” promotion. Three Rhode Island Whole Foods Markets—the University Heights and Waterman Street locations in Providence and the Cranston location—participated in a 5% Day on October 9, donating five percent of that day’s net sales to the Pawtucket-based Foundation.

“At Whole Foods Market, we proudly support non-profits in our community,” explained Whole Foods Market University Heights Marketing Team Leader Bonnie Combs. “The results of this three-store 5% Day prove that our customers generously shopped to support the mission of the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.”

Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation Executive Director Maria Gemma and Director of Development Gary Calvino accepted the donation Wednesday morning from Bonnie Combs, Waterman Street Marketing Team Leader Shawna Lawton, and Cranston Marketing Team Leader Jewel Healy.

“The Foundation is absolutely delighted to have partners like Whole Foods Market that understand our mission,” said Maria Gemma. “Too many national chains will only support national organizations, especially during promotions related to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

Gemma continued, “There’s no rule that says big, national brands can’t support local non-profits. Whole Foods Market is again leading by example and proving that national names can indeed have a very positive local impact on the individuals they serve. The Foundation is committed to using donations like this to support our free programs and services for women and men right here in our community.”

Bonnie Combs agreed, “We have enjoyed working with the Foundation over the years to educate their community about the benefits of healthy eating, green cleaning and using natural cosmetics and body care products and we are pleased to support their efforts providing resources for those diagnosed with breast cancer.”

The Gloria Gemma Foundation was established in 2004 in memory of Gloria J. Gemma and to honor her fight against breast cancer. For more information, call 401.861.HERO (4376) or visit www.gloriagemma.org.

Athena Award Honors Women as Leaders, Humanitarians

2012 Athena Award recipient Marta Parsons.

by John Stratton

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m just a regular person!”

So said the surprised recipient of the Tenth Annual Athena Award at Lake of Isles October 24, as her selection was announced to some 200 leaders from the Stonington-Pawcatuck-Westerly area at the evening gala honoring her and her fellow nominees, as well as six scholarship recipients exemplifying young women of promise in the region.

The Athena Award winner is Marta Parsons of Westerly, who has an unparalleled, 35-year career in nursing and civic leadership, with a “you can do it all and do it well” attitude that she transmitted to countless other women.

There were five nominees for the 2012 award, each of whom has a stellar record of personal and community achievement. The award is sponsored by the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce to “celebrate professional excellence, creativity, and initiative, giving back to the community, and assisting women in reaching their full leadership potential.”

The other nominees were Michelle Yozzo Drake, Cindy Duncan, Janell Hayes Bruno, and Elizabeth “Bobette” McCracken. Alexis Ann of The Resident was the event’s keynote speaker.

This year’s presenting sponsor is Geraldine B. Cunningham Associates, with other sponsorships led by Purchasing Group Power of Northeast, Chelsea Groton Bank, The Day, The Washington Trust Company, The Westerly Hospital, and Zoe and Company, the presenting sponsor for the Athena Scholarship, along with additional donations by Prime Time Café.

Keynote speaker Alexis Ann, The Resident.

Scholarship award winners also reflected leadership and potential.

Winners of the Nancy Creaturo Memorial Scholarship are Bomina Belden and Zoe Prescott, both of Westerly High School, who have worked for the “betterment of downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck” in the spirit of the leader for whom the scholarship is named. The four Athena Scholarship recipients are Emily Buxton, of Stonington High School; Laura Martinelli, of the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical School in Providence; Kelley Miguel, of Westerly High School; and Joni Moody, of Stonington High School.

Athena Scholarship recipients are presented with their awards. (l-r) Laura Martinelli, Emily Buxton, Joni Moody, Michelle Russell of Zoe & Co., and Kelley Miguel.

Bud McAllister: Veteran Volunteer

Bud McAllister “connects the dots.”

by Jon Persson

Bud McAllister volunteers for many things, and back in May of 1968 it was for a tour in the United States Army. The conflict  in Vietnam was at its desperate heights at home and in theater, yet for Bud the experience would ultimately become a cornerstone of his life and work to this day.

In pure Army terms, Bud’s MOS was Communications Specialist, his training in radios, telephones, field telephones; the technology of relaying messages across distances to coordinate the movements of separate groups. After basic training at Fort Dix, he was stationed at Ft. Gordon for his specialist training before being sent to Ft. Lewis in Washington. There he taught communications technology skills to ROTC cadets.

During his deployment to Vietnam in 1969 and ’70, Bud spent time with a communications unit, relaying coded messages intended to limit the ability of all but a few to understand the messages. Bud was not responsible for the encoding process, nor is the technology of communication his calling today.

Indeed, the very notion of Bud McAllister today sending encoded messages for a select few would no doubt amuse those who know him best. Rather, Bud says, “my communication skills, being able to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime” is the primary skill learned in the Army that he employs today. These skills were acquired incidentally as a result of teaching technology, and working with fellow soldiers in the line of duty.

Much of Bud’s time these days is spent in voluntary service to the cause of building a healthy community. He “meets regularly with more than 25 organizations in southeastern Connecticut” while heading up his own Partners In Healthy Communities organization. His objective is to “connect the dots, bring people together, build community,” Bud says. “There is no ‘I’ in cooperate,” he adds.

Bud is also a volunteer coordinator between area veterans and the Ledge Light Health District. Bud’s role is to connect veterans with the agency, while determining how they are faring healthwise. “There is a high prevalence of heart disease, diabetes,” he reports. “Healthy diet and exercise has a 30-year payoff in lower healthcare costs,” Bud says, adding “this is the whole point of Partners In Healthy Communities.”

Indeed, says Cindy Barry of the Ledge Light Health District, Bud “has been a member of the Achieve New London County Coalition which works to prevent chronic disease by changing policy systems and conditions that affect our health,” She continues, “he has worked to help connect Achieve New London with the risk factors that veterans are reported to have in terms of chronic conditions.” And, he “gives us connections with people that understand the veteran’s population and some of the needs they may have in the community.”

Cindy concludes that “he is very beneficial to have on a coalition because he really helps connect people who need to know other people, and he knows everyone!”

Another of Bud’s volunteer activities is with the Ten Year Plan On Homelessness, a regional plan aimed at ending homelessness by addressing root issues and finding practical and lasting solutions. This is a plan which recognizes the human and financial costs of cycling people through a system without resolving the underlying causes. And, says Bud, “25 percent of the homeless are veterans.”

Bud McAllister can be regularly seen around New London, riding his bicycle or working on his laptop at one of his favorite downtown haunts. He remains persistent in his efforts to build a strong community in New London, which he says “has tremendous assets that ought to be taken advantage of.”

As for all his volunteer work, Bud says “the more I serve the more satisfaction I get from the service.” Given the scale of the projects Bud is addressing, he will have many opportunities to serve and many more openings for connecting with the community.

U.S. Army Vet Glenn Hathaway of Groton Still Serves His Fellow Citizens

U.S. Army Veteran Glenn Hathaway of Groton enjoys his work as an EMT with Groton Hook & Ladder.

by Anna Maria Trusky

One of the most important things U.S. Army veteran Glenn Hathaway of Groton learned when he served his country during the Vietnam era is that “People are people,” he said. “Everyone is basically the same no matter where in the world they live.”

Glenn grew up on Oral School Road and attended Fitch High School. Both his parents worked at the Mystic Oral School. At 16, Glenn started working as an EMT with Groton Hook and Ladder back when it was a small firehouse on Gravel Street in Mystic. When he wasn’t responding to emergency calls—work he loved—Glenn enjoyed tooling around town in his flashy first car, a Pontiac GTO. However, when Glenn turned 18, he left the things he loved and joined the U.S. Army so he could serve his country.

The year was 1965, and the conflict in Vietnam was heating up. Glenn went through eight-week basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he was trained as a heavy duty machinist. From there he spent almost a year at Fort Riley, Kansas. “While I was there, they changed my MOS—military occupational specialty—to heavy vehicle operator. I learned to operate bulldozers, trucks, every kind of big vehicle there was.” Then came the inevitable orders to ship out to Southeast Asia.

“My platoon shipped out to Pleiku, in the central highlands of Vietnam,” Glenn recalled. Their home base was Camp Halloway, but being in transportation, Glenn and his nine platoon mates drove all over the country. A lot of their work involved moving troops and supplies inland from Cam Ranh Bay. “Cam Rahn Bay was actually a very beautiful place,” he recalled.

Glenn Hathaway as a young U.S. Army Heavy Vehicle Operator at Camp Halloway, Pleiku, Vietnam, 1966.

While many of his days were filled with the camaraderie of good friends, there were, of course, difficult times, too. “I was fortunate because I only saw action a couple of times, when our base was hit twice from ground and mortar attacks. We lost two men in those attacks,” Glenn said somberly. “One of the hardest things was unloading the helicopters containing the bodies of dead soldiers.”

Glenn returned to the States in 1967, where he finished out his service at Ft. Lewis, Washington, and came out as a Specialist 5. Then he returned to the Groton area, where he worked for SONOCO, a paper mill, and then drove a truck for Barnes Moving and Storage. He married twice and has a daughter, Beth, as well as three stepchildren he raised with his second wife.

It was Glenn’s niece who, about 15 years ago, got him back into the lifesaving EMT work he’d enjoyed as a teenager. “One day she said to me, ‘Uncle, I want to be an EMT but I’m afraid of needles.’ I told her that sometimes you just have to face your fears. She came back to me and said she’d signed up for an EMT class. I said I was proud of her. She said, ‘I’m proud of you, too—because I signed you up to take the class with me!’ I said I was afraid I was too old and she said, ‘Well, Uncle, sometimes you just have to face your fears!’

“I love this work and will keep doing it as long as I can,” Glenn said with a smile.

Glenn, we salute you and all those other brave Americans who face their fears to serve their countries in dangerous, faraway places. Thank you for your service!

Horses Healing Humans Helps Vets on the Path to Recovery

 story and photo
by Anna Maria Trusky

After Lee Paradis of North Stonington suffered a traumatic brain injury in a 2009 car accident, she found that her three-decade career as a dental hygienist and periodontal assistant was over. Vestibular and cognitive challenges made it hard to perform normal, everyday tasks and carpal-tunnel impairments severely restricted the use of her hands.

A lifelong horsewoman, Lee felt it would be beneficial to spend time volunteering at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc., in Old Lyme—a move that dramatically changed the outcome of her recovery and her life. Today Lee and a team of therapists, instructors, and horses help bring healing to others recovering from injuries and trauma—including U.S. Armed Forces veterans.

Lee Paradis of North Stonington, Director of Horses Healing Humans, in the indoor ring at Starboard Stables in Stonington with Lenny Macaione, a vet from Westerly, and Wookie, a resident therapy horse.

Lee recalls that she was so impressed with the healing effects of therapeutic riding that she decided to stay at High Hopes, complete a course in therapeutic rider instruction through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International, and establish a new therapeutic program, Horses Healing Humans, Inc. Its mission is “to help heal people with physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges through Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy conducted by caring, credentialed professionals, protecting both the physical and emotional safety of all clients.”

Lee first ran Horses Healing Humans, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, at a stable in Voluntown; however, the program quickly outgrew the space. So Lee sublet a larger space at Starboard Stables in Stonington and reopened the program last July 1. All volunteers, Lee and the rest of her staff care for the facility and the horses, which belong to Starboard Stables. Like High Hopes, Horses Healing Humans is a member of PATH International.

“We have licensed mental-health professionals on staff, as well as equine specialists in mental health. That way, there is always someone has to look out for the human and someone to look out for the horse,” she explained. “Most of the vets who come into the program are self-referred or hear about the program through friends. They are also referred by physicians, physical therapists, and mental health professionals.

“A lot of the service people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), depression, and anxiety. Working with horses is very helpful. We use exercises designed to create a metaphor for what is going on in the person’s life. How they react to a particular exercise tells us what is going on with them. Horses are very sensitive to emotional energy. If a vet is anxious, the horse will become anxious, too.” Lee explained.

In addition to performing unmounted exercises with the horses, vets are invited to help perform horse care (which helps with self-care and relationships with others), and carry out other relaxing, yet productive, activities outdoors.

On one recent day, Lenny Macaione, a Korean War-era vet from Westerly, was in the indoor ring being helped by Lee and Lise Mayers, LICSW, along with Wookie, a beautiful brown-and-white paint. They instructed Lenny in how to guide the horse to walk around in larger and larger circles. The exercise was designed to help Lenny gain confidence. A former Third-Infantry artillery gunner, Lenny’s smiles spoke volumes about how he responded to the exercise.

Lee is hoping mental health programs in the area will see how valuable this work is and refer more of their clients to Horses Healing Humans, which also has programs for people with autism and women who have been abused. “There are so many vets coming home with a need, and we are working to address that need,” she said. “We are hoping to get grants and funding to help support our vets program.”

Horses Healing Humans, Therapeutic Horsemanship in Coastal Connecticut, is located at Starboard Stables, 340 New London Turnpike (Route 184), Stonington. For more information, contact Lee Paradis, Director, at 860.460.4107, or leeparadis@gmail.com, or go to www.paradistherapeuticriding.com. To volunteer, contact Kathryn Vine, Volunteer Coordinator, at 860.381.0755, or hhhtrkv@gmail.com.

Valenti Backs Work Vessels for Vets

John Niekrash, founder, Work Vessels for Vets, and John Devine, sales manager, Valenti Volkswagon, present Max Monger with the keys to his new Honda Accord, compliments of Work Vessels for Veterans.

by Alexis Ann

On a sunny October afternoon, Max Monger of Saybrook, a veteran and single dad, drove away in his new 1999 Honda Accord compliments of Work Vessels for Vets (WVFV) with his three children.  The car was purchased at Valenti Family Dealerships and the “spiffing up” was performed by Valenti gratis.  Max spent 11 years in the Army serving in the 4th Infantry 166th Armor Division.  Serving in the mid-east from 1999 – 2009 as a tanker, Max also served in West Africa and Liberia.

WVFV is an all-volunteer movement assisting returning veterans to begin their civilian careers or educational pursuits by acquiring and distributing the necessary start-up tools. Founded by John Niekrash, Noank with the gift of his fishing boat that began a commercial fishing career for a returning Iraq veteran, the foundation is expanding its outreach to other industries to assist our returning military.

“Our model is unique and based on a sustainable, “pay-it-forward” dynamic. We support veteran entrepreneurs so they can establish businesses that thrive, so they can then hire more veterans creating quality jobs and career opportunities, “ states John.  Once the new business is profitable, WVFV becomes a beneficiary through contributions back into the organization including “gifts in kind.”

Onetime Navy Tech Glenn Dean Is At Home With Modern Appliances

by Alexis Ann and John Stratton

Just in your mind, take a look around your house. There’s a lot surrounding you that you take for granted, that your mind skips over as commonplace, all those shiny “servants” waiting at the ready for your wishes. Yes, all those many tasks that you now have done for you by machines, clever devices that we call “appliances.”

Presiding over this recent domestic revolution are inventors, manufacturers, distributors, sellers, and…the service technicians who keep the systems operating.

When Glenn Dean, a 17-year old from Pittsburgh, signed on for Navy submarine duty in 1968, he did not know that in a scant four decades he’d be president of Coogan-Gildersleeve Appliances, a prosperous and respected appliance retail outlet, with many hundreds of trusting customers and some 30 lines of devices to make life at home comfortable, safe, and attractive.  But that’s what happened.

Glenn volunteered for the Silent Service back in ’68. He soon received training as an interior communications technician, duty which included—for clearly Navy reasons— maintaining the washers and dryers aboard submarines, in addition to tuning up the  host of ultra-high-tech instruments which tell sailors where the boat’s headed and how it’s running.

Of course, everyone on board has to know many other jobs, but Glenn was a bit prepared for the washer-dryer duty because his uncle Al had been an appliance repairman and installer for the landmark Gimbels department store in Pittsburgh. Al had taken Glenn under his wing for several years after Glenn’s father passed away, and taught young Glenn some hands-on technology in the field.

So, here at the Base in Groton—when Glenn was busy acclimating himself to his brand-new submarine, USS Bergall, SSN-667, an EB-built Sturgeon-class boat launched in 1968 that was noted more for speed than roominess—he was learning a lot about complex instrumentation as well as washer-dryers. But learn he did, and received his silver dolphins as a member of the pre-commissioning and commissioning team. The vessel was at sea during much of the cold war, with antisubmarine stealth missions demanding the full measure of the ship’s motto: “Invisible, Invulnerable, Invincible.” Tough and interesting duty, recalls Glenn.

When Glenn completed his years of service in the Navy, he had some familiarity with life in southeastern Connecticut. He was ready to settle down to life on the surface around here, leaving behind a lot of his life in Pittsburgh—except for remaining a staunch Steelers fan!
After a stint at Stanley Works, in 1976 he signed on with Ed Coogan and Andy Gildersleeve at their appliance division on Route 1 in Mystic; he was their first serviceman, handling four product lines. He plunged into that opportunity too, taking many night-school classes, refrigeration courses at Norwich Tech, and personnel-management programs at Thames Valley.  Early on, his shoreside life included acquaintance with young C.J. Lewis of Mystic, who he married back then. They have two children, Stacey and Katie.

The dedicated work over the years added up to a big positive. When original owners Ed and Andy retired years ago, Glenn became the Coogan-Gildersleeve president. He’s remained true to their business traditions of sound business practice, superior service, good people, and thorough product knowledge. From the four brands that he started with 37 years ago, he and five service technicians now handle more than 30 products from their home base on Greenmanville Avenue, Route 27, in Mystic. And, as you might imagine, he’s Vet-friendly when it comes to hiring and sales.  He’s been there.

Though products change, says Glenn, one key principle stands out:  “It’s our commitment to helping our community and doing a good job for our customers.”

Go Navy!