Donor Stories

Valerie Friedman: A force for good—now and forever

  • “Problems on a worldwide scale often appear overwhelming. To combat this, we must focus on making a positive impact on our small corner of the universe. And that is where Connecticut Community Foundation comes in.”

    More than anything, Valerie Friedman loves figuring out how to help people solve problems. As a successful financial planner, she often advises her clients on how best to share their investment successes with causes that resonate.

    For her, those causes are environmental issues, women’s reproductive choice and the welfare of animals, and Valerie has often been a driving force—tenacious, inspirational and vocal—for positive change on the issues she cares deeply about.

    Her generosity reflects her passions and her wish to leave a legacy that will benefit the community forever.

  • “I direct my own giving now, but planning for what happens after my death is important to me,” said Valerie. “When I’m no longer here, the Foundation will make sure that my contributions accomplish my intentions.”

    One fund she established at the Foundation and will fund through her estate will benefit projects that sustain the environment, and another, unrestricted fund will allow the Foundation to make grants to address pressing needs in the community. Portions of both funds will be endowed permanently.

    True to Valerie’s lifelong interests, grants in her name will be given to myriad nonprofit organizations whose causes she supports—and always will.

    Photos by Dorian Mode Photography

Helping Children Achieve Their Greatest Potential

  • Alex's Helping Hands Fund

    “All children deserve a chance to access the therapeutic services they need to achieve their greatest potential.Their family’s financial status shouldn’t keep kids from accessing early interventions.” —SAMANTHA NOBILE, SOUTHBURY

    Samantha and Rob Nobile’s daughter Alex was born with a rare genetic condition that will cause lifelong challenges including developmental delays and neurological issues. Doctors were not optimistic about Alex’s chances of walking and were unsure of how she would progress developmentally.

    With the help of an abundance of physical, occupational, speech,aquatic and equine therapies, Alex started walking at age three and continues to progress physically and developmentally.

  • Samantha and Rob are confident that the outlook would be much different if they were not able to provide Alex access to these vital therapy services. They know they are among the lucky ones.

    Because the therapies are costly and not affordable for many families, they are dedicated to the idea that all children should be able to get the help they need no matter their financial situation. Samantha and Rob created Alex’s Helping Hands Fund to raise money for agencies that provide therapies for children with special needs— at low or no cost.

    Photos by J. Castro Photography

A Tribute to their Mothers Makes College Dreams Come True

  • The Mother's Fund, established by Emily and Eric Anderson

    “When we started the fund, we didn’t have a lot of money. But, we wanted to support the dreams of students who wanted to go to college but couldn’t afford to. Even a small fund like ours can make a difference in someone’s life.”

    To find inspiration, Eric and Emily Anderson needed only to look to their mothers.

    Emily’s mother, Irene Frantzis, was part of the Frantzis family that owns Quassy Amusement Park and Waterpark in Middlebury, Connecticut. She had always loved to write and started pursuing a degree in English, but her studies were cut short when she became seriously ill.

  • Eric’s mom, Joan Anderson, loved nothing more than bringing her five children and grandchildren together for holidays and special occasions. Each woman had a strong positive influence on her family, and Emily and Eric admired their deep devotion to their children. Though neither mother had the chance to earn a college degree, they wanted their children to attend college.

    As a tribute to Irene and Joan, the Andersons created a scholarship fund at Connecticut Community Foundation called The Mothers Fund, which provides financial help to college students in our region who are pursuing degrees in English, literature or journalism.

    Emily and Eric like the Foundation’s long-term, holistic view of the community and its needs, and that’s what drew them to creating their fund. Emily said, “Our tribute to our mothers is in good hands with the Foundation. They take care of the fund with the same level of caring and concern as our mothers took care of our families.”

Partners in life, philanthropy and community service

  • The Powers-Baker Fund

    “Because we know Connecticut Community Foundation’s inner workings so well, we have confidence that they will do great things for the community with our fund, now and forever.”

    Partners in life, philanthropy and community service, Lisa Powers and Fred Baker can be found volunteering for many causes across our region. Together they roll up their sleeves to plan annual galas, fundraise, organize political activities and serve on committees. And they have volunteered with the Foundation for many years—Fred as a former trustee and president, and Lisa as a thoughtful and energetic community ambassador and committee member.

  • Fred’s desire to help others access health services started years ago when he assisted a doctor in setting up a children’s clinic that treated kids regardless of their immigration status in the United States, for free, with no questions asked. Seeing the need, he helped raise money and make connections.

    Through their community involvement, Fred and Lisa came to a profound awareness of local needs and issues. They are most committed to the idea that all people have a right to medical access, to education that leads to success in life and to the inspirational power of the creative arts. They believe that all people should be able to achieve whatever is important in their lives, regardless of their physical or mental ability or financial situation.

  • Fred and Lisa have established an unrestricted endowment fund at the Foundation and have also included the Foundation in their estate plans. The latter will enhance their fund after their lifetimes.

    As Lisa said, “We’ll trust the Foundation to use the funds for the most pressing community needs, without tying their hands in advance.”

    Photos by Dorian Mode Photography

A Mentor’s Enduring Legacy: Hector Riollano Fund for Education

  • Hector Riollano retired after 30 years as director of community schools and assistant principal in Waterbury schools. Yet, every morning post-retirement he still headed to Carrington Elementary School to meet the school children when they stepped off their school buses and headed to class. Just as important, he wanted to continue facilitating communication with parents and encouraging their involvement in their children’s education.

    Said his wife, Dolores, “Hector was completely committed to kids getting an education, and he wanted to do anything he could to encourage them to stay in school. He thought that education was the key to everything.”

    Hector, a native of Puerto Rico who earned degrees in social work and academic administration, was also keenly sensitive to the unique experiences of Latino youth.

  • “Hector mentored so many kids! Over the years, we had a cadre of young men– many of them Hispanic – who lived at our house while they were getting through high school,” Dolores said.

    They earned their diplomas with a big boost from Hector and the stability the Riollano home offered. “They were good kids!” she remarked. “Now all are in their 20’s and not in trouble.”

    Even when battling cancer, Hector urged Dolores to get involved with Connecticut Community Foundation’s grants committee. An accomplished and dedicated educator in her own right (she retired as the assistant to the vice president for academic affairs at Post College in Waterbury), he told her, “You are going to love it, and you’ll learn so much about the community and its needs.”

    She did.

  • “When he died, I wanted to memorialize Hector and his commitment to education and I knew the needs were many,” said Dolores. So, through the Foundation, she created the Hector Riollano Fund for Education to assist young people in Waterbury with academics.

    “We met on the Waterbury Green and we lived and worked in Waterbury for many years,” she said, “and those memories are so important.”

    Thanks to Dolores, Hector Riollano’s memory and legacy will surely endure in the students of Waterbury for generations to come.

    Learn more about establishing a fund at Connecticut Community Foundation.

    [Photos courtesy of Dolores Riollano]

Brian Gibbons Homeless Outreach Fund

Thyrza Whittemore

  • All In The Family

    J.H. Whittemore was a successful businessman in the iron industry who partnered with fellow industrialist, B.B. Tuttle to form The Tuttle & Whittemore Company (now The Eastern Company) in 1858 in Naugatuck, CT. When his son J.H. Jr. died at 15 in 1887 of a genetic heart ailment, the grief-stricken father decided to honor his son’s memory by building The Howard Whittemore Memorial Library in Naugatuck. “My great-great grandfather was the son of a minister,” said Thyrza Whittemore of Middlebury. “It was ingrained in him that you give, share and help – that the community is your family.” J.H.’s grandson, Harris Whittemore Jr., Thyrza’s grandfather, founded the Salem Foundation in 1953, a private foundation to support charitable giving in Naugatuck and surrounding towns.

  • Harris Whittemore, Jr., along with a few other family members, including Thyrza’s father, Robert Whittemore, ran the Salem Foundation on behalf of the family. In 1997, Robert terminated the private foundation and transferred the assets to the Connecticut Community Foundation, creating the Salem Foundation Fund. He found partnering with CCF to be more cost effective and less of an administrative burden. “My father wanted someone local to manage our family foundation and the Community Foundation was the perfect place,” she said. After her father died in 2010, Thyrza and her cousin Karin continue as advisors to recommend grants from the Fund. “It’s the perfect partnership,” said Thyrza. “We choose what we want to give to and the Foundation finds out the details about the organization or project. They stay in touch with the nonprofit to provide us with updates on the projects we’re funding.”

  • Since 1997, the Salem Foundation Fund has awarded more than $781,000 to area nonprofits, including nearly $184,000 to restore the recently completed rotunda at the Whittemore Memorial Library. “We get to support tangible things that benefit other people,” she said. “We are particularly pleased to be able to continue our family legacy of support for the library which is much more than books and quiet studying. It’s a hub for the community. "Working on the fund gives me a wonderful, deeper sense of family connection with relatives who I never knew but I admire tremendously,” said Thyrza.

Dan Sherr

  • Nonprofit Assistance Initiative (NAI) Advisor

    Connecticut Community Foundation is fortunate to have a corps of volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to strengthen our region’s nonprofit community as Nonprofit Assistance Initiative (NAI) Advisors. The Foundation’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence relies on the free consulting services these advisors provide as a core part of its efforts to strengthen area nonprofits. The NAI Advisor program is a joint initiative of the Foundation and United Way of Greater Waterbury.

  • Drawing on his background in marketing and business development, long-time NAI Advisor Dan Sherr has been able to lend his expertise to produce meaningful change. “I love this work because it embodies the essence of what CCF works to achieve – fostering creative partnerships to build rewarding lives and thriving communities. As an NAI Advisor, I work with the organization to carefully craft a plan and implement changes. This makes the nonprofit more efficient and effective at delivering their services and brings me great satisfaction,” comments Sherr.

  • Sherr, who lives in Washington, estimates that he has worked with 35-40 nonprofits over the years. “There are several organizations that I’ve worked with that really stand out. Transition and market planning for TheatreWorks in New Milford, marketing for Wellmore Behavioral Health in Waterbury, strategic planning for Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury, and recently market analysis for Saint Vincent De Paul in Waterbury, come immediately to mind. The range of organizations and issues they face make the work personally rewarding. These are the organizations that assure thriving communities.”

  • NAI Advisors offer more than a quick fix. The program is designed to help each nonprofit sift through a particular problem area, implement the proposed solution, and receive continued support. In many cases, projects becoming long-term. “I have been working with Shakesperience Productions for over 10 years. We have done a lot of work to build their board of directors and are now working to build their capacity to reach higher fundraising goals,” adds Sherr. Connecting seasoned professionals to nonprofit organizations – Timeless Impact.

Dosi-Do Fund

The Abramsons

  • When Joel and Doris Abramson retired, they took a close look at what they wanted to accomplish with their giving. While they were glad to donate to different causes each year, Joel, a World War II fighter pilot and retired businessman, and Doris, a former opera singer, wanted to find a way to contribute that would live on forever. “We love kids and felt we wanted to make a contribution to the ones who may need extra help to reach their potential,” explains Doris. In 1992, the couple established a permanent scholarship fund at the Connecticut Community Foundation to support college students planning careers teaching children with learning disabilities.

  • In 2014, the Abramson’s scholarship was awarded to Haley Callahan of Middlebury. “I’ve been planning to teach special education since the sixth grade. I cried when I heard I’d received the scholarship,” recalls the Pomperaug High School graduate, who made special arrangements during high school to earn credits by working with students with a variety of disabilities. Now, with the support of the Doris and Joel Abramson Scholarship Fund, Haley is studying special education at Southern Connecticut State University and moving toward her dream of teaching young elementary school students with learning disabilities. “I don’t look at what the students can’t do – I focus on what they can. That’s where you start.”

  • Joel and Doris are thrilled to know that they have helped put Haley on her path. “We wanted to give people like Haley a chance to do what they cherish and dream about. Helping students like Haley is exactly what we were hoping for. You drop a pebble and the ripples spread out,” explains Joel. Doris agrees. “Haley embodies the spirit of our scholarship. It’s so valuable. Think of the lives you’re changing.”

The Marc R. Mills Memorial Fund

  • Everyone knew Marc Mills. Growing up in New Milford, he was active in youth sports, art, and music. When Marc passed away in 1989 at the age of 18, he left a void in the community.

    “Marc had a true zest for life. He could get more out of a day than anyone I have ever met. We were young and his death had a lasting impact on all of us,” recalls Dave Nicosia, a close friend of Marc’s and founder of The Marc R. Mills Memorial Fund at the Connecticut Community Foundation.

    In late 2013, Nicosia and a group of Marc’s closest friends decided to honor Marc’s legacy in a formal way. The group first considered creating a private foundation, but found that option expensive and time consuming.

  • Ultimately they turned to the Connecticut Community Foundation and found a solution that met their goals.

    “The Foundation has a great reputation and long-term commitment to serving the local community. We could not be more satisfied with our decision to partner with such a trusted organization that truly understands the needs and issues of the New Milford and Northwestern Connecticut area.”

    The Marc R. Mills Memorial Fund was established at the Foundation in February, 2014. It is an advised fund, meaning that advisors selected by the Fund’s founders may recommend grants from the Fund to serve community needs. The Fund aims to support local causes in Marc’s name, while bringing the New Milford community together.

  • Said Nicosia, “We are still doing a lot of fundraising to build up our fund and we are eager to begin making community grants. The ability to help community members in Marc’s name is a powerful."

    Fund organizers held the 1st Annual New Milford High School Golf Tournament to benefit the Fund in August, 2015. Over 50 people attended, raising over $2,000. Other social and recreational fundraisers are being planned.

    For more information, visit

    To make a gift to the Fund, visit

The John A. and Joyce S. DeCesare Fund for the Environment

Lois Livingston McMillen Fund

  • A Family’s Love and Loss Leaves a Legacy to Help Women in our Community

    In 2000, Josephine and Russell McMillen created two funds at the Connecticut Community Foundation in honor of their daughter, Lois Livingston McMillen, an accomplished fine artist and champion of women’s rights whose life was tragically cut short. The funds are a testament to Lois’ accomplishments and interests and, as her parents wished, recognize the contributions Lois would have made to her community in her lifetime. Through the funds, Lois’s legacy will last forever.

  • One fund, the Lois Livingston McMillen Fund, reflects one of Lois’s passions: helping victims of domestic violence and abuse. The fund provides tens of thousands of dollars each year to support agencies that provide critical services to women in our region. One current recipient, the Susan B. Anthony Project, uses its McMillen Fund grant to support a crisis hotline, emergency shelter, transitional housing, counseling, advocacy, and support groups. “We’re honored that we’ve received support from the Lois Livingston McMillen fund since 2008,” said Barbara Spiegel, Executive Director of Susan B. Anthony Project. “Without this funding, we could not guarantee that we would have staff available at all times to support the numerous victims seeking assistance.”

  • Another recipient, Safe Haven of Waterbury, has been able to use McMillen funding over several years to enhance and expand a variety of services. “Most recently, grant support has allowed us to provide an Art Therapy program for adults who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. This program has been extremely helpful for victims who are recovering from the trauma they have suffered,” explains Peggy Panagrossi, Executive Director at Safe Haven.

  • The second fund – the Lois Livingston McMillen Memorial Scholarship Fund – provides scholarships to women studying the fine arts. Lois herself studied at the Parson’s School of Design and with McMillen Scholarships, many other women are able to follow in her footsteps. Jessica Bonaventure, one of several McMillen scholarship recipients, has seen her dreams become reality.

  • With the help of her scholarship, Jessica, a student in the Theatrical Design program at Fordham University, has already designed sets for a number of university and community productions. “With the generous support from the McMillen Scholarship, I am able to attend one of the best undergraduate theatre programs in the country. By allowing me to pursue this education, I am gaining the tools that I will use throughout my successful career,” comments Bonaventure. With their generous gift, born out of loss but meant to provide hope, Josephine and Russell McMillen have ensured that their daughter will touch the lives of other women forever – Timeless Impact.

Raymond and Angela LaMoy, Waterbury

  • Raymond LaMoy, a former trustee of Connecticut Community Foundation, found success as a business owner in Waterbury, but people in need were never far from his mind. During his lifetime, he gave to many nonprofit organizations and established two charitable remainder trusts that will continue his generosity through the Raymond & Angela LaMoy Fund at Connecticut Community Foundation. A remainder trust makes it possible to make a charitable gift during life, receive tax benefits and income during the donor’s life and the lives of others. At the death of all beneficiaries, the assets from the trust are used to establish or add to a fund at the Community Foundation that will provide support for the organizations and institutions the donor chooses.

  • “He never forgot where he came from, or what it was like for people to struggle,” his wife, Angela LaMoy, remembers. “I think if Ray were here, he would be extremely happy to know about all the good work the Community Foundation is doing.” Just as Mrs. LaMoy adjusts her current giving to reflect the community’s changing needs, she is pleased to know that the Community Foundation will continue to do the same when their fund is established.

  • “There are so many ways people need help, especially now,” she said. “We believed in sharing what we had, and I still feel the same way.” In 2007, Mrs. LaMoy established another fund, the Raymond Arthur and Angela Crocco LaMoy Scholarship Fund. The endowed fund provides scholarships for students living in Greater Waterbury and will be added to through her estate plan.

The Burton and Sylvia Albert Fund

  • Supporting charities important to the Albert family since 1992.

    The Albert family of Middlebury has run Albert Bros., a leading scrap-processing facility, since 1895. They’ve supported charities in and around the Waterbury area for just as long. The parents, Burt and Sylvia Albert, instilled the concept of “tzedakah” in their children and, through them, their grandchildren. “Tzedakah” suggests everyone has an obligation to help the people around them and leave the world a better place than they found it.

  • Albert family members have served on the boards of numerous nonprofits, donated their time, talents and money to important causes, and been honored with numerous awards for their charity – including the Traurig Family Award for Philanthropy.

  • To celebrate Burt’s 60th birthday, family and friends banded together to create the Burton and Sylvia Albert Fund to continue to provide financial aid to the charities closest to the family’s heart. Contributions to this donor-advised fund have become a special way of celebrating family occasions and milestones, and continuing the Albert family tradition of helping others.

Dr. Clare Ventre and Craig Carragan, Southbury

  • Following her chemotherapy, the couple opened Reflections Boutique to provide wigs for cancer patients. When her chemotherapy ended and her hair grew back, Dr. Clare Ventre had a pile of wigs, hats and scarves she no longer needed. Remembering how other women had given her their old wigs when she was undergoing cancer treatment, Dr. Ventre and her husband, Craig Carragan, came up with a plan to put the head coverings to good use.

  • The couple started Reflections Boutique at Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center where women can try on wigs in private and keep them free of charge. They then established a fund at the Connecticut Community Foundation to support their project. ”It’s a place for women to draw on the strength of those who have gone before them,” Dr. Ventre said. “It’s almost as beneficial for anyone who donates those items because it’s a way for them to say, ‘I’ve reached this stage where I don’t need this now, and I can use this to help somebody else’.”

  • Though the Carragans’ fund will keep the boutique stocked, the couple hopes women who use the service will also give back to it. ”We thought it would be great if we could create a network,” Mr. Carragan said. “That’s exactly what we did.”

The Powers-Baker Fund

  • Providing financial assistance to address new and emerging charitable needs since 1999.

    In any community, new charitable needs and priorities present themselves with each passing year. Lisa Powers and Fred Baker of New Milford wanted to ensure the Foundation would continue to have the financial resources and freedom it needed to respond to new, high-priority needs as they emerged in the community.

  • To do this – in perpetuity – they established the Powers-Baker Fund, an unrestricted fund that gives the Foundation the flexibility to respond to the community’s most pressing needs of today … and tomorrow. Each year, the Foundation applies the monies available from this fund where it’s needed most.

Ask and You Shall Receive

  • As the grandson of Henry Baker, Sr., who in 1914 founded Crystal Rock, the oldest bottled water company in Connecticut, Jack Baker was raised to believe that obligations come with opportunity. "We are fortunate to be on the giving side," said Jack who is executive vice president and director of the company. "It makes for a full life." Jack and his wife Pam enjoy living and giving in our corner of the state focusing their philanthropy on education, environment and the arts.

  • “We are lucky to live in a beautiful place and we want to keep it that way,” said Pam. “It feels good to give to something local. We can see and feel the impact of our giving and take ownership of issues that are important to us.” Having served on the Evaluation Committee, Jack was familiar with CCF. He later joined the Board of Trustees in 2007. “Jack and Pam have been tremendously generous to the community through the Foundation,” said CEO, Ingrid Manning. “It’s rare that the Bakers turn away from any opportunity that we present to them to make life better in our region.”

  • In 2009, the Bakers contributed to an emergency fund raising initiative at CCF to help towns respond to residents struggling with the economic crisis. That year, Jack and Pam also were major donors to the newly-established Community College Scholarship Fund at CCF. “We like supporting non-traditional students and making education available to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity,” said Jack. “Maybe they were not at the top of their class, or are returning to further their education. These are the students who will stay here and work in our community.”

  • In 2010, Warren Parks & Recreation started a scholarship fund at CCF for high school graduates from town with proceeds raised at a 5K Cider Run. A resident of Warren and a CCF trustee, Jack stepped in and encouraged Warren residents to support the new fund. “We liked the criteria for the scholarship,” said Pam. “It’s not based on scholastics. You just have to be a student from Warren.”

Home Is Where Their Heart Is

  • Growing up, raising a family and working in Naugatuck, you could say that Mark and Nikki Yanarella have a soft spot for the Borough. “Being part of a community, you need to contribute any way you can,” said Mark. “If you can give financially, that’s great. If not, there are other ways.” Giving to the community is something that Mark “just learned” from his parents and from his 41 years working at Naugatuck Savings Bank where he is president and CEO. “My parents volunteered and it’s part of the culture I grew up with at the bank. In a small community like ours, there are a lot of opportunities to get involved.”

  • Friends of the Connecticut Community Foundation since 2000, the Yanarellas have been extremely generous to their hometown with their time, talents and charitable dollars. Mark served as a trustee from 2001 to 2006 and on the Audit, Evaluation and Executive committees. Nikki was a member of the Grants Committee. “Of all the boards I have served on, the Foundation’s was the most interesting,” remembered Mark. “Everyone was very professional. I met nice people who brought a lot to the table.”

  • Through their donor-advised fund at CCF, Mark likes to support nonprofits that serve Naugatuck residents in health care, economic development and the arts. Nikki, who was a kindergarten teacher in Naugatuck for 20 years, is passionate about early childhood education and literacy. A daughter of a builder, Nikki stated, “If you give children a strong foundation early in life, they can build from there. If they don’t have that, the foundation will crack as they get older.” In 2003, CCF enlisted Nikki and Mark’s help to introduce the LitLinks early childhood education initiative to the Naugatuck community. Since then, LitLinks has awarded more than $31,000 in grants to provide professional development for preschool and kindergarten teachers and to improve literacy and kindergarten readiness in Naugatuck.

  • Grantees include Naugatuck Discovery, a program of United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls to help children succeed in their social, emotional and academic development. Nikki served as chair of Naugatuck Discovery when it launched in 2002. “When Nikki takes on something, she is passionate about it,” said Lisa Shappy, executive director, United Way. Nikki has demonstrated her passion every Friday morning for the last five years leading a story hour for preschoolers and parents at the Whittemore Library as a Naugatuck Discovery volunteer.

  • “It’s a win-win program,” said Nikki. “Children discover the joy of reading and parents get to connect with their kids.” For Nikki, story hour is a win for her too. “To have a small child hug you and say ‘thank you’ gives me joy. To see them smile and hear them laugh warms my heart. It’s all I need to make my day.”

Inspired by helping others to reach their dreams

  • When Joe and Marion Coulon hired landscaper, Peter Spagnoletti to do some gardening at their home in Heritage Village in Southbury, they had no idea of the connection they had with him. “I know you, Joe,” said Peter, a former Heritage Village employee. “You gave me a scholarship.” Joe, 91, and a group of fellow residents established the Heritage Village Employee Scholarship Fund at CCF in 1992. He and Marion, 89, also founded the Paul Louis Coulon Memorial Scholarship Fund at CCF in 1996 in memory of their son.

  • “There is a hard-working group of people here at Heritage Village,” said Joe. “I thought a scholarship fund would help them.” From 2006 to 2009, Peter received scholarships from the Heritage Village fund to study Landscape Design at Naugatuck Valley Community College. Today, he works at Planter’s Choice Nursery in Watertown, CT. “I love horticulture and working outside. I wanted to learn more but I was afraid of the cost,” recalled Peter.

  • Peter is not the only scholarship recipient to thank Joe personally. “It makes me feel very good when a student or parent thanks Joe for his help,” said Marion proudly. “I’m a firm believer in education,” added Joe. “It makes you a better person, and better for your community.” Joe retired in 1984 after a 31-year career as a partner, attorney and CPA for what is now one of the “Big 4” accounting firms. Looking at his accomplishments in law school, his career, and as a philanthropist, Joe acknowledged, “I couldn’t do it without Marion and her support.”

Judith and Mehdi Eslami, Southbury

  • Judith and Mehdi Eslami give from theirdonor-advised fund to support the Community Foundation’s scholarship program, which Judith got to know well by serving as a trustee and the chair of the Foundation’s Scholarship Committee.

  • “I’m a firm believer that at some point, you have enough, and you want to make sure others have enough,” Judith said. “And to help, what’s more important than an education? We know we’re helping the future of our area, our state, our country, our world. We believe in these kids.”

The Alexion Scholarship Fund

  • Awarding scholarships to local students pursuing careers in science and health care since 2009.

    After 15 years of research and development, Alexion Pharmaceuticals identified a prescription drug that was proven effective in treating an extremely rare blood disorder. The drug, Soliris (eculizumab), has since been approved for treating patients in nearly 40 countries.

  • To commemorate its success and encourage local high school students to pursue careers in science and chemistry that could ultimately benefit mankind , the company formed the Alexion Scholarship Fund. Each year, eight graduating seniors from four public high schools in Waterbury are selected as Alexion Scholars.

  • The scholars are chosen by their respective high school principals, based on factors that include their academic achievements and career plans. Each scholar receives a $4,000 scholarship, paid over the four years of their undergraduate studies, to encourage their pursuit of a career in science or health care.

Victor Visockis, Southington

  • Victor Visockis wanted a lasting way to honor his parents. After the death of his mother, who had been a substitute teacher in Prospect, he decided the best way to pay tribute to both of his parents was to provide extra academic help to elementary school pupils.

  • “She just loved all kids, and they loved her,” Vic said of his mother. “And my father always thought that if kids got a kickstart early in life, it would help them later as adults.” Vic didn’t want the work and expense of starting his own foundation, so he established a fund at Connecticut Community Foundation to support tutoring at Algonquin Elementary School.

  • With the Victor and Rosemary Visockis Education Fund, named for his father and mother, Vic can make ongoing contributions to the fund while the Community Foundation works with the elementary school to carry out his plan. “Connecticut Community Foundation has been great in terms of making the connection,” he said. “They handle the nuts and bolts of everything.”

The Traurig Family of Waterbury

  • What siblings learned as children led to a lifetime and a legacy of giving

    For the children of William and Nettie Traurig, giving was an everyday occurrence. A coin box in their home was filled with change for charity, and people in need of help often joined them at the dinner table. It was a lesson that the seven siblings never forgot.

  • “Our mentors were Mother and Dad,” Rose Traurig once recalled. “They believed that there is something good in everyone. They gave us qualities to admire and strive for – good humor, charitableness, helpfulness, kindness, doing the best you can do – all of these things plus wanting equality for everyone. Mother and Dad also taught us that if you share with others, you’ll be a better, happier person.”

  • While they had long careers in law, business and education, the five Traurig siblings who remained in Waterbury – Gertrude, Rose, Max, Louis and Edward – were best known through the many institutions they supported. Facilities and scholarships at Naugatuck Valley Community College, Post University and Gaylord Hospital all bear the Traurig name. At the Foundation, Max served as president and four of the siblings established individual funds.

  • The family also started its own Traurig Foundation, which provided support to the community for over 40 years. The decision was made to terminate the family’s private foundation and move the funds to the Community Foundation. Now, the Traurig Family Funds at Connecticut Community Foundation continue the legacy by benefiting Waterbury agencies and scholarships at universities the family members attended.

Helen Garvey of Waterbury

  • A Quiet Gift

    Helen Garvey did not get the chance to have the education she may have wanted, but her generous gift means that others will have that chance. Mrs. Garvey, then Helen Clark, moved to Waterbury as a young woman, when she came to live with the family of Pat Cruess. The two women became close and remained friends for over 50 years. “We were more like sisters,” Pat remembered.

  • Pat called her friend a forthright person and an avid reader who enjoyed a good movie, being around young people, and singing in the choir at St. Margaret’s Church. She had different jobs over the years, including cutting hair for a time. Her husband, James Garvey, a school custodian, was remembered as a well-read person who laughed easily. “He was one of those hidden, smart men,” Pat said.

  • They lived carefully but comfortably, taking trips to the beach and sometimes to Ireland to visit his relatives. After her husband’s death, she took pleasure in their home, which was filled with the sounds of her pet birds – up to four at one point. “They were like children,” her friend recalled. “They chirped when she came in and it was really something to hear. She talked to them and they talked to her.”

  • But one thing she never talked about, at least to her friend, was her plan to leave a legacy to the community. The Helen L. and James P. Garvey Funds, established through a bequest from Mrs. Garvey, will benefit the Foundation’s grant making and scholarships to area students forever. Even though her gift was a surprise to her closest friend, the reasons behind it were not. It makes sense that Helen would have wanted it that way. “She would like to help others, and she would have liked to have had a better education,” Pat said.

Margaret Hallden Has Given More Than $3 Million to Keep Heart & Cancer Care Moving Forward in the Region

  • In 2009, the Foundation commemorated 25 years of Margaret Hallden’s support of the local chapters of the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association Gift to Heart Association Helps Launch State’s First Regional System of Care for Heart Attack Patients Twenty-five years after her death, Margaret Hallden continues to make an impact on heart care for patients in our region.

  • Her gift to the American Heart Association (AHA) this year allowed the organization to launch a Mission:Lifeline Project with New Milford Hospital and The Heart Center of Greater Waterbury, jointly operated by Waterbury Hospital and Saint Mary’s Hospital. Mission:Lifeline aims to improve the region’s response and treatment of ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) — the most serious and deadly type of heart attack.

  • Margaret Hallden’s gift lays the critical groundwork for the regionalization of emergency cardiac care including a pre-hospital protocol where patients are assessed in the field and transported to the closest hospital able to meet their needs. The project includes paramedic training and emergency medical technician instruction on chest pain and STEMI patient assessment, and for public education on the early signs and symptoms of STEMI and the importance of calling 9-1-1.

  • Funding also provides the opportunity for Waterbury Hospital, Saint Mary’s Hospital, and paramedics to access enhanced technology to communicate critical pre-hospital ECG information to the emergency department enabling them to be fully prepared when the patient arrives.

Nelson Hart, Waterbury

  • Nelson P. Hart was a lifelong resident of Waterbury who contributed to the Foundation and his community in many ways. Hart was very active with the Foundation during the 1970’s and 80’s, serving as a trustee from 1978 to 1987, including terms as vice president and president. In 1986, he established the Nelson P. Hart Fund, an unrestricted permanent endowment fund. More than 20 years later, Hart made a final and everlasting commitment to his community through his estate. He arranged for the assets in his IRA to be added to his Fund.

  • Annually, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees awards grants to area nonprofits from unrestricted funds, such as the Hart Fund. Nelson saw the importance of forever continuing his service to his community through his legacy. By establishing an unrestricted fund, he demonstrated his trust in the Foundation to determine, through the decades, how his gift can best meet the needs of our community.

Leavenworth P. Sperry, Jr. and Family of Middlebury Protecting the environment forever

  • As the longtime president of the Middlebury Land Trust, Leavenworth P. Sperry, Jr. (Lem) knows the costs that organizations face to maintain and protect their land. He established the Leavenworth P. Sperry, Jr. and Family Fund for the Environment in 2007 with assets from an IRA rollover. This field of interest fund supports the preservation of open space and wildlife, the enhancement of landscapes by land trusts and similar groups, as well as the restoration of forests, fields, lakes, rivers and streams.

  • Grants from the fund may also be used for eradication of invasive plants, like the mile-a-minute vine, environmental education, and similar programs. His reason for choosing the Community Foundation? “The Foundation will be around,” said Lem, a former Foundation trustee and past president. “You don’t give to an outfit that will be here today and gone tomorrow.”

Kyungsook Petrahai, Prospect

  • Kyungsook Petrahai first learned about the Foundation more than a decade ago, when she was president of what was then the Naugatuck Valley Youth Symphony. She appreciated the Foundation’s funding of the symphony, but she was also impressed to learn about the many issues the Foundation supports. Recently she served on the LitLinks Committee, the Foundation’s early childhood literacy initiative.

  • Kyungsook, a retired social worker who lives in Prospect, annually contributes to a fund she established in memory of her husband. She has also included the Foundation in her estate plans. She likes knowing that by leaving a legacy through the Foundation, her support of the community can continue even when she is no longer here to give.

  • She recently requested that the assets in her advised fund established in 1993 be used to create the Joseph A. & Kyungsook K. Petrahai Scholarship Fund. This permanent endowment fund will be awarded through the Foundation’s Regional Scholarship Program to students attending public undergraduate institutions in Connecticut.

  • “For me, it’s very gratifying to know that people will continue to benefit, even in a small way,” she said. “It would be difficult for me to do this on my own, but the Foundation makes it possible.”

The Leavenworth Family, Woodbury

  • Bonnie Leavenworth and her daughter, Sara Lynn Renda, share an enthusiasm for education and for helping women, but it’s hardly surprising. Bonnie, who volunteered many hours as president of the Waterbury YWCA in the 1980s, took her daughter along to board meetings when she was little. When Sara Lynn was away at college years later, her mom returned to school to embark on a new career in social work – a move that inspired her to enter the same field.

  • Their shared experiences have come full circle. Both are supporters of the Women’s Initiative Fund at Connecticut Community Foundation. The fund has in recent years supported family and work-related services for women and children. Its mission resonates with Sara Lynn, who formerly worked in a job-training program for teen mothers. “I just believe in empowering women, whether it’s through education or job training,” she said. “Women who are disenfranchised need to be provided with opportunities, and mothers especially need extra support.”

  • A similar desire to provide opportunities is what led Bonnie and her husband Dick to establish the Leavenworth Family Scholarship Fund in 2003. The scholarship benefits students attending the Waterbury branch of the University of Connecticut, where Dick was in one of the first classes and Bonnie was a returning student. “We felt very strongly about giving someone an opportunity who might not otherwise be able to go to college,” Bonnie said. “The way we always thought of it, I was fortunate to be able to go back to school later in life.”

  • Sara Lynn and her sister, Wendy Halpert, contribute to the Fund. Sara Lynn also credits her parents for instilling in them the importance of volunteerism. Since her retirement, Bonnie has become a Meals on Wheels driver, a literacy tutor and served on the Foundation’s scholarship committee. Dick volunteers with environmental groups and has been the chairman of Woodbury’s Conservation Commission for over 40 years.

Emmett A. Saunders, Naugatuck

  • $2 million legacy gift provides for the “sick and infirm” of Naugatuck

    In 1923, former Naugatuck resident Emmett A. Saunders was thinking about the future when he established a sizeable trust to benefit his family and his communities. According to his wishes, when the last beneficiary of the trust died in 2004, the remaining funds – more than $4 million – were to be distributed to the footwear and rubber manufacturing executive’s descendants, a hospital in Indiana, and the Borough of Naugatuck for care of the “sick and infirm.”

  • In 2008, the Mayor and the Burgesses of the Borough established the Saunders Fund for the Sick and Infirm of the Borough of Naugatuck, a permanent advised fund of nearly $2 million with the Connecticut Community Foundation.

  • Working with the Foundation’s staff, an advisory committee comprised of members of the Naugatuck community, annually will recommend grants for agencies and nonprofits that provide care for the sick and infirm of Naugatuck. Mr. Saunders’ gift will provide “good medicine” for Naugatuck residents far into the future.

Lillian Brown and Juanita Kent

  • As former educators, the late Lillian Brown of Waterbury and Juanita Kent of Prospect knew the importance of recognizing students’ achievements. So when the two felt that a promising student who graduated at the head of her class had not received her due, they started a scholarship fund that would honor future students for their accomplishments. The In Search of Excellence Fund, established in 1994 with contributions from many people both in and outside of the city, supports scholarships for top African-American students from Waterbury. Lillian, who retired as the head of the guidance department at Wilby High School, was also a trustee and the chair of the Community Foundation’s first scholarship committee.

  • Over the years, Lillian and Juanita stayed in touch with many of the students who have received scholarships from the fund, and they can easily list the colleges and universities the students have attended: Cornell, Yale, Brown, and others. They beam when speaking about students like Angela Sykes, the Wilby High School valedictorian who first inspired the scholarship more than a decade ago and who has since gone on to earn a Ph.D. Dozens of people support their vision, with many who have contributed to the fund each year since its inception. “If you can reach out and show someone another way,” Juanita said, “it’s good for you and for all of society.”

Orton P. Camp, Jr., Bethany

  • Orton P. Camp, Jr. had a great affection for Waterbury’s history. He quietly did a lot for the city. He loved the city’s stories, which he first learned growing up in the house his grandparents built in the Hillside neighborhood. A student of history, he enjoyed sharing his knowledge of Waterbury’s people and places. He was a proud keeper of the city’s industrial heritage, having served on the board of Platt Brothers Co., the business his family started more than 200 years ago.

  • He was also the foremost champion of the city’s collector and interpreter of history, the Mattatuck Museum Arts & History Center. He served on the museum council for many years and stayed closely involved even after his terms of service ended. Julie Keggi, who served with him, said it would be difficult to overstate his contributions to the institution. “I don’t know many people who know as much as he did about the city of Waterbury,” said his sister, Nancy Camp. “You could go for a ride with him, and he could tell you who lived in each house.”

  • “The museum would not be here today without Orton Camp,” she said. His legacy includes the museum’s current home, designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli. During the 1980s, he headed the capital campaign to raise funds for the new building and later led the building committee. Mrs. Keggi remembers his leadership during those years, noting how his love of architecture and his belief that the museum’s new building must be of the highest quality, guided the project.

  • “In order to be responsible to the collection, you had to get better quarters, and he did everything in his power to make it happen,” she said. “Waterbury’s had a huge history of wonderful architecture and he was very aware of that. Orton was just devoted to Waterbury and the museum and trying to make it the best possible place.”

  • Though the museum was a favorite beneficiary, Camp gave his funds and his time to many Waterbury institutions. He served as president of the Community Foundation from 1975 to 1977 and also served on the board of the Y.M.C.A., the Visiting Nurse Association, Waterbury Hospital, the United Way, Taft School, Riverside Cemetery, and what was then St. Margaret’s-McTernan School, with which his mother, Miriam, was closely connected. The unrestricted fund he established by bequest at the Connecticut Community Foundation will continue to be his legacy of giving forever.

Patricia and Forest Herron, Southbury

  • A love of nature and education

    Patricia and Forest Herron of Southbury enjoy traveling to see birds and wildlife, and they care about education. Through their donor-advised fund at the Connecticut Community Foundation, they were able to support a program that combines these two interests.

  • The Herrons admire the Audubon Center at Bent of the River, a nature preserve in Southbury that they especially appreciate for its educational programs for young people. “We just think it’s wonderful for children to have a place like Bent of the River,” Forest said, “It’s a very active program, and I think I would have liked it when I was a youngster.”

  • Working with Bent of the River, the CCF donor relationship staff identified three programs that matched the Herrons’ interests. The couple decided to recommend a grant to a science program for home-schooled children. They hope these students will enjoy learning about nature as much as they do.

At 40, Tony Pinto Prepares to Continue His Legacy of Community Service

  • Forty-year old Antonio Paulo Pinto, of Waterbury, recently started a field of interest fund in his name at the Connecticut Community Foundation to support nonprofits with programs and services in education, arts, and health care that serve the Portuguese community in Greater Waterbury. "If something happens to me, I want a portion of my assets to go towards helping the community," said Pinto who is first-generation Portuguese and the first in his family born in the U.S. "My fund will continue my legacy of community service."

  • Pinto served in the United States Army National Guard and the United States Army Reserve for twelve years as both an enlisted person and a commissioned officer. Since returning to Waterbury in 2003, he has been a member of the Retirement Board, Board of Education and the Board of Aldermen in the City of Waterbury. He has also volunteered for the Waterbury Regional Chamber, Main Street Waterbury and the Downtown Merchants Association.

  • Currently, he is co-chair of the philanthropy committee and on the executive committee for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross, president of the Portuguese Sports Club of Waterbury, a voting member on the United Way of Greater Waterbury board, co-chair of the 75th District Democratic Town Committee, and a parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima Church.

  • Pinto also has set up a scholarship fund at the Foundation to be funded with assets from a life insurance policy. The scholarship will give preference to students of Portuguese heritage who have demonstrated community service and/or have served in the military. The Portuguese community in our area will benefit forever from Tony's gifts.

More Donor Stories

  • Valerie Friedman: A force for good—now and forever
  • Helping Children Achieve Their Greatest Potential
  • A Tribute to their Mothers Makes College Dreams Come True
  • Partners in life, philanthropy and community service
  • A Mentor’s Enduring Legacy: Hector Riollano Fund for Education
  • Brian Gibbons Homeless Outreach Fund
  • Thyrza Whittemore
  • Dan Sherr
  • Dosi-Do Fund
  • The Abramsons
  • The Marc R. Mills Memorial Fund
  • The John A. and Joyce S. DeCesare Fund for the Environment
  • Lois Livingston McMillen Fund
  • Raymond and Angela LaMoy, Waterbury
  • The Burton and Sylvia Albert Fund
  • Dr. Clare Ventre and Craig Carragan, Southbury
  • The Powers-Baker Fund
  • Ask and You Shall Receive
  • Home Is Where Their Heart Is
  • Inspired by helping others to reach their dreams
  • Judith and Mehdi Eslami, Southbury
  • The Alexion Scholarship Fund
  • Victor Visockis, Southington
  • The Traurig Family of Waterbury
  • Helen Garvey of Waterbury
  • Margaret Hallden Has Given More Than $3 Million to Keep Heart & Cancer Care Moving Forward in the Region
  • Nelson Hart, Waterbury
  • Leavenworth P. Sperry, Jr. and Family of Middlebury Protecting the environment forever
  • Kyungsook Petrahai, Prospect
  • The Leavenworth Family, Woodbury
  • Emmett A. Saunders, Naugatuck
  • Lillian Brown and Juanita Kent
  • Orton P. Camp, Jr., Bethany
  • Patricia and Forest Herron, Southbury
  • At 40, Tony Pinto Prepares to Continue His Legacy of Community Service