Jim and Shirley Draper of Colebrook were well known for their kindness and humility. During their lives, they supported many community organizations and educational institutions, foregoing affluence to provide for the needs of their community. In 2010, the Drapers left their final and perpetual gift, a $30 million endowment to establish a fund that supports in perpetuity 19 area nonprofits chosen by the Drapers.
Giving is personal. That’s why we work with donors and their financial advisors to establish donors’ individual charitable goals and administer the tools necessary to reach them. We provide fund investment and accounting management and ensure that tax and audit requirements are met. We award grants based on your recommendations, and audit grant recipients to ensure that your donations are doing the most good and are in perfect alignment with your philanthropic goals.
You can establish a fund that provides grants to specific named non-profit organizations, or more broadly, provide grants to non-profits for a specific field of interest, such as access to healthcare, homelessness, childcare, education, land conservation, animal rescue or any other cause that is important you. You can also establish a non-restricted fund, and the Foundation will award grants where and when they are needed most in your community.
There are many advantages to establishing a charitable gift, and your Foundation offers a variety of options for charitable organizations, families and individuals to use during and after their lifetime. We work with a well-qualified team of financial advisors. We also are happy to work closely with your legal or financial advisors to set up your charitable fund. In some cases, they can even continue to manage the assets.
Read stories about Community Foundation donors and fundholders below, Explore Giving Options, and peruse the Community Foundation's Guide to Giving. As always, Community Foundation staff are happy to discuss your charitable goals and giving options over the phone or in person.
In 1960, Mary Coutant was Mary Humeston, a teenage girl attending Camp Mohawk, a camp for girls nestled among 1,500 acres of state forest in the hills of Northwest Connecticut. As a Counselor in Training (CIT), Mary worked to develop leadership, public speaking, teaching and counseling skills.
During her time at Camp Mohawk, she served as assistant waterfront director, senior unit director and eventually led the CIT program. In 1962, she met another fellow camp counselor named Roger Coutant; the two married four years later in 1967.
“Mary emanated the spirit and energy of Camp Mohawk,” said Fran Marchand Camp Mohawk Executive Director.
She earned a degree in psychology from Springfield College in Massachusetts, a school with a strong athletic focus and historical partnership with YMCA USA. In 1998, she established the Winchester Youth Service Bureau, an agency that functions as a case manager for families of at-risk children, helping them to access agencies and resources, so their children experience success at school, at home and in the community.
“Mary was a force for good,” Foundation President Guy Rovezzi said. “And her contributions to the welfare of our community, especially where it concerns children, will be felt for generations to come.”
Over the course of her life, Mary received the Torrington Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellowship award; was named Person of the Year by the Torrington UNICO Club; and earned the Chamber of Commerce of Northwest Connecticut’s Community Leader Award.
In recognition of Mary’s contributions to the community, The Mary H. Coutant Fund for the Summer Fun Club was established at the Foundation in 2001. Recently renamed Northwest CT Community Foundation Mary H. Coutant Fund for Rising Star Camp, the endowment supports programs that benefit at-risk children through the Winchester Youth Service Bureau aged 5 to 15 by encouraging healthy choices and goal-setting.
In addition to establishing The Mary H. Coutant Fund for Rising Star Camp, Mary bequeathed seed money to Camp Mohawk for the establishment of a non-restricted fund. The Camp Mohawk Fund will support Camp Mohawk and enable others to continue Mary’s legacy by including the Camp in their estate planning.
Tim Considine, or “T. Cons” as many of his hundreds of friends called him, was a funny man known for his quick wit and endless oneliners. He could take a bad day, a moment of anxiety or fear, and lighten the mood with a comment that elicited laughter from everyone in the room.
A father of two boys, Timmy and Brian, he never stopped trying to make his children smile. “Top of the morning, Lads,” he’d say to them as they stumbled downstairs in the morning for his famous egg breakfasts. Every night on their way to bed, the three would share in a two part exchange with Tim saying, “God willing,” and the boys responding, “and the creek don’t rise,” completing together the folk saying, “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” meaning the speaker will complete a task if all goes well.
An accomplished college athlete and Yankees fan, Tim coached Torrington Little league, Torrington Babe Ruth, Pal/Elks Basketball, and basketball at his alma mater, St. Francis School, later renamed St. Peter/St Francis School. He found time to help paint the school cafeteria, prune trees in the schoolyard, and chair golf tournaments. “Whatever he could do, he would try to help out,” said his wife, Cheryl Considine.
“He was everyone’s friend. Everyone knew him, and everyone who knew him considered him a friend.” Tim was known for making people laugh, often so hard that it hurt their stomachs. And, his faith was as big as his funny bone. He grew up attending church with his parents, and he never stopped, always sitting in his favorite pew. “His faith was very important to him,” said Cheryl. “It carried him through his illness and connected him to his community.”
In November 2011, Tim developed a limp; three months later, he was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. “Thank goodness it isn’t named after a Red Sox player,” Tim quipped. While Tim joked to once again make a stressful situation easier for everyone else, he knew he didn’t have much longer to support his family, be there for his children, and share his time with his community.
The community of Torrington reached out to the Considines with food, prayer, good will, and countless visits. “The whole town wanted to see him; and he wanted to see them,” said Cheryl. “He wanted them in his life, and they wanted to be there for him.” For months the Considine house was full of support from his faith, family, friends, and most of all full of laughter. During one of several memorable conversations with his sons, as Tim discussed with them the extent of his illness, he told them: “There are three things that are really important in life: Faith, Family and Friends.” Later that night, his son Brian designed wristbands with his father’s advice printed on them. The bands were ordered and quickly could be seen everywhere in the community. Starting out as solid green for family members, Brian decided to order more in green and white to sell to friends and the community, with all proceeds going to the ALS Association of CT.
On July 28, 2012, dubbed, “Tim Considine Appreciation Day,” and recognized by Governor Malloy as ALS Awareness Day in the State of CT, an estimated 1,500 people gathered in the rain at Action Wildlife in Goshen to raise money for the Considine boys’ education and to show their support for the Considine family. Tim greeted each and everyone with a smile from his wheelchair. With Tim’s passing, Cheryl Considine wanted to give back. “I wanted to show the town how much I appreciated everything they did for Tim, me and my children,” said Cheryl. “Tim always wanted to help the youth in his community, and that’s where he was really involved. I wanted to give back to them the way Tim would have.”
Established in October 2012, the Northwest CT Community Foundation Tim Considine Memorial Scholarship Fund awards two $1,000 scholarships to students who, like Tim, have a love of athletics, a strong academic background, a connection to community, and a strong faith. In Tim’s spirit, the Tim Considine Memorial Scholarship Fund will continue to help local youth in perpetuity, “God willing and (whether or not) the creek don’t rise.”
During their 35-year marriage, Shirley and Toby MacCallum shared many things, an antique business, three children and a strong sense of connection and responsibility to animals in their community. A deep respect for animals was instilled in Shirley at a young age. Growing up on a farm in Massachusetts, Shirley had plenty of opportunities to befriend animals of all kinds.
“We had rabbits, chickens, cows, horses and cats, you name it,” said Shirley. “I wanted to bring all of the animals inside. Dad was not happy about that.”
Over the years, Shirley and Toby welcomed many canine companions into their family and made regular donations to local animal welfare organizations in their community. But when they were forced to put down their longtime companion, Smokey, a mixed-breed shelter dog and member of the family for more than 18 years, Shirley was so heartbroken that she decided she would never adopt another dog. Instead, she doubled the couple’s efforts to support local animal welfare organization that needed support.
“I gave to everything,” said Shirley, “any animal organization that needed help. I didn’t care if it was a skunk who needed help. I sent money to help.”
Then in 2003, Toby was diagnosed with cancer and given a year to live. He had one request of Shirley:
“I want a dog,” he said.
Days later, the couple ran into a colleague who was returning from his veterinarian’s office with a litter of yellow labs. Toby scooped a wiggling puppy into his arms. He looked at Shirley, and they both knew that Esmerelda “Little Molly” had found a home.
To the surprise of doctors, Toby lived for more than eight years, fighting for his life with Molly by his side. “She never left him,” said Shirley. “They were always cuddled up together. Molly would lay in the bed with him with her head on his leg. She slept with us.” They soon discovered that Molly was fighting a battle of her own. Molly was diagnosed with Lymphoma.
“Whatever happens,” Toby said to Shirley, “When I’m gone, take care of Molly.”
Toby passed away in 2012. Soon after, Molly became extremely ill. After seven months of dialysis, with Shirley a constant by her side, Molly too passed away.
“I spent so much time at the veterinarian’s office, meeting sick animals and their caregivers,” said Shirley. “I realized there is a real need in our community to reach out to sick animals whose caregivers don’t have the means to provide them with live-sustaining medical care.
“They can’t talk,” she said. “They need our help.”
Established in 2013, The Northwest CT Community Foundation MacCallum Family Fund for Animal Welfare is an endowed field-of-interest fund. The fund accepts donations from the community to provide in perpetuity resources for sick and suffering animals who require extensive and often expensive medical treatments to prolong their lives.
“I always wanted to do something for animals,” said Shirley. “This fund will continue to help them long after I’m gone.”
Growing up in the picturesque community of Berlin, New Hampshire, Louis Thibeault thrived in an environment of close family, caring friends and strong community. His childhood was fueled by the rolling hills, winding rivers and cool clean air of the White Mountains. It was a beautiful and friendly place, but as a child growing up in New England, Louis knew that the ice on the pond wasn’t always as sturdy as it seemed, a destructive storm could linger behind the billowing clouds of a perfect summer day – that more often than not, the most menacing of troubles are those left unseen
Louis graduated from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. and relocated to Torrington, where he lived and worked for 45 years. Over the course of his career, and as he raised his family in Torrington and Goshen, Louis worked for The Torin Corp., First Federal Savings and Loan, and for 12 years, as the general manager of the Torrington Country Club.
“My life was certainly not dramatic in any way, but I had the opportunity to work with some great people in the Torrington community,” Louis said. “It was a great place to work, live and bring up my family.”
After 45 years, Louis wanted to give something back to the community.
“There are wonderful things in Torrington,” he said, “family events, movies, things that children enjoy. It is a wonderful place to live. “But in some homes, there are children whose needs are not always met because of neglect, because their parents don’t know what’s wrong, or because their parents can’t afford to help them.”
It’s something that Louis understood at a young age, witnessing the frustration that his close friend experienced growing up with an unrecognized learning disability. Louis describes his friend as extremely intelligent, but a little different than the other children in grammar school. “He was very creative,” said Louis. “He picked up on things quicker than other people, but he struggled in school and eventually lost interest. In some ways, his opportunities were limited because nobody knew he was Dyslexic.
“Many children have great potential and are hindered because they have a hidden deficiency,” he said. “They get so far behind that they give up.”
Louis chose to reach out to the children of the Northwest Corner by establishing the Northwest CT Community Foundation Louis O. Thibeault Fund for the Advancement of Children's Education. Established in May of 2009, the Fund supports the education of economically disadvantaged children facing unseen obstacles by helping provide health examinations, and when needed, eyeglasses, medical prescriptions as well as human services needs that must be met, so children can focus on education.
“I wanted to do something for the community,” said Louis.
Although the Fund has supported several children in the community with different challenges, Louis feels very strongly that every child should be screened for vision problems and that every child who needs glasses
should have them.
“An eyeglass need is probably one of the more insidious infirmities that a child can have,” says Louis. “It’s more difficult to recognize than broken
teeth or walking disabilities. “If a child doesn’t know that he has a stigmatism or myopia or some
other vision deficiency, he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be seeing. He just knows that school is harder for him than it is for his peers.
“This is not a huge fund,” said Louis. “But if it helps a child, or two, or three, it is well worth it.”
In May, early childcare providers from Education Connection, Healthy Families, Family Strides, Children 1st, and The Maria Seymour Brooker Memorial attended training in the use of the Pedia Vision SPOT Vision Screener. The Spot Screener and training in its use was made possible by a grant from the Louis O. Thibeault Fund for the Advancement of Children’s Education. Beginning in the Fall of 2014, students attending preschool and early childhood development programs throughout Torrington and Winsted will receive Pedia Vision SPOT Vision Screener eye screenings.
“This is an opportunity to help a great number of children in a preventative and proactive way, to discover abnormalities in kids that can be corrected,” says Louis Thibeault, who established the Louis O. Thibeault Fund for the Advancement of Children’s Education in 2009 to help children experiencing academic difficulties because of unknown or untreated medical conditions. The SPOT is a handheld, non-invasive vision screener that enables early education providers to bring vision screenings to children. The Spot can quickly detect near-sightedness, far-sightedness, unequal refractive power, blurred vision, eye structure problems, pupil-size deviations, and eye misalignment. When deficiencies are detected, screeners provide a printed report that parents can take to a physician for a follow-up screening and appropriate treatment.
“Early intervention is critically important,” said Douglas Zybrands, who provided SPOT training at Education Connection in Litchfield, CT. “Without funding from sources like the Louis O. Thibeault Fund for the Advancement of Children's Education, many of these children would likely go without early vision screenings.”
The Litchfield Garden Club established Northwest CT Community Foundation Litchfield Garden Club Centennial Fund in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Club’s 1913 founding. This endowed charitable fund, established with the Community Foundation, will support projects and programs in the greater Litchfield area in the fields of gardening, horticulture, civic beautification, environmental awareness, and historic preservation.
“The Centennial Fund will enable Litchfield Garden Club members and other donors to accomplish projects of significant benefit to the community,” said Drew Harlow, Litchfield Garden Club president.
“The Foundation is honored to partner with an organization whose members exhibit an immense passion and dedication toward the beautification and preservation of the greater Litchfield area,” said Guy Rovezzi, Community Foundation president. “The Garden Club is an asset to our community, and I am confident that we will continue to enjoy their achievements well into the next millennium.”
One of three children of a homemaker and a factory worker in a close-knit community, Susan Strand always felt a strong impulse to participate in her church, local non-profits and politics.
“My parents were always helping someone,” said Susan. “It was the example set by my parents that told me, not just verbally, but by example, that I was supposed to be out there in the community.”
The Strands rented a home in Torrington for much of Susan’s childhood, Susan’s parents, Polly and Wesley, lived in the downstairs, while Wesley’s sister “Aunt Agusta” and her husband “Uncle Jim” lived upstairs. Polly Strand was a trained nurse who stopped treating patients when she married but never stopped caring for those around her.
Polly made meals for the Spooner House, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen. She volunteered at My Sister’s Place, an organization that provided shelter and life transition support for homeless women and children, many of whom had experienced domestic violence. She drove cancer patients to their treatment appointments. And during election season, and regardless of their politics, she drove those without transportation to the
“My mother was always out there helping other women and women’s organizations,” said Susan. Wesley worked in a local factory and served as a volunteer firefighter. He often left the dinner table after a long day’s work to fight a fire to help save a neighbor’s home. With no staff of firefighters, men in the community would listen for the warning horn from the fire box, a system that announced by the number of horn blows where a fire was located.
“The horn would blow, and we would stop whatever we were doing and count the number of blows,” said Susan. “If the fire was in our district, dad would run off to help.”
After he retired, Wesley often helped members of the church and the community. Almost every day he clipped hedges, mowed lawns and helped with minor home repairs for others.
“Every day, I remember him going out to somebody’s house to help them with something,” said Susan. When Agusta Holmes became ill with dementia,
Polly cared for her, so James could continue to provide financially. And in turn, in his will, James left Polly and Wesley an inheritance that provided for them, enabling them to purchase a home, and when Polly was ready, the financial resources needed to move into an assisted-living facility.
“My family set a really good example of caring about, not just your family because they were very supportive of family, but also their community,” said Susan. “They instilled in me a strong feeling of connection to community.”
A successful business woman and community leader, Susan Strand was a founding member of the National Organization of Women Torrington Chapter, a founding mother of the Litchfield County Women’s Network, served as Planning and Zoning Commissioner and has been, and continues to be, involved in countless non-profit community-based organizations, including Operation Overflow at the homeless shelter and her local soup kitchen. Polly and Wesley Strand and Uncle Jim have long since passed, but the spirit of their generosity and love for family and community live on as an inspiration to Susan. When Susan received an inheritance from her mother, she knew exactly how she wanted to spend it.
“I wanted to do something that would honor my parents and Uncle Jim for a long period of time,” said Susan.
In December 2006, with a single gift, Susan Strand established The Northwest CT Community Foundation Polly and Wesley Strand and James L. Holmes Fund for Programs for Women and Children. Since then, in the spirit of Polly and Wesley Strand and James L. Holmes, the fund has supported educational events in Northwest Connecticut
that work to build a sense of inclusiveness and community.
“While I feel like I’m not giving a huge amount of money, it does have an effect on the community, especially the children who attend the program or even the parents, and the effect is wonderful.”
Months after Superstorm Sandy, many Connecticut residents continued to struggle to recover their livelihoods and to provide nutritious food, safe shelter,
transportation, clothing, and medical supplies for their families. In the confusion, a philanthropic family from Northwest Connecticut stepped in to
help. Family members advised the Community Foundation to provide a grant for $50,000 from their anonymous donor-advised fund to assist individuals and families continuing to struggle to recover from the storm.
The Foundation presented the $50,000 grant to the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, which was working with the United
Way of Southeastern Connecticut to develop a flexible application process for storm victims to apply for financial assistance funds.
“Hurricane Sandy was a financial tipping point into distress for many Connecticut families,” said Alice F. Fitzpatrick, President of the Community
Foundation of Eastern Connecticut. “We were surprised to discover the breadth and depth of hardship triggered by lost wages, even for a brief period of time.”
The advised gift from the Northwest Ct Community Foundation Local Area Fund provided support for Connecticut families who worked at fast food restaurants and retail stores and lost weeks of income due to damaged buildings and roads and lost hundreds of dollars worth of groceries due to extended power outages. Many of the recipients were single-parent families without family support in the area. Recipients suffered loses that were not covered by FEMA or personal insurance.
The Local Area Fund is a great example of the positive impact of local philanthropy,” said Guy Rovezzi, president of The Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut.
“Many nonprofits supporting our community could not exist without the generosity of Litchfield county fundholders and donors like those who established the Local Area Fund.
“But, when our neighbors have a great need, such as in the case of an unavoidable disaster, there is a natural desire to reach beyond our region to assist.” Since the initial $50,000 grant, the family has provided for another $50,000 to continue to restore hope for those struggling to recover.
The Local Area Fund was established in 2002 as an anonymous donor-advised fund. The Fund supports Litchfield county nonprofit organizations, such as The Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, Foothills Visiting Nurse and Homecare and The Housatonic Valley Association.
Since its inception, the Fund has provided more than $900,000 to 24 Litchfield County non-profits supporting conservation, emergency services, health care, medical research, and the arts.
The Community Foundation distributed 157 gently used laptop computers valued at more than $76,000 to nonprofits in Northwest Connecticut. More than 50 nonprofits responded to the Community Foundation’s invitation to apply for the laptops, which were donated to the Foundation anonymously for distribution to nonprofits in Northwest CT.
Nonprofits received one to five laptops based on their needs. The following nonprofit organizations received laptops through the Community Foundation:
Aton Forest, Inc.
Canaan Child Care Center
Chore Service, Inc.
Colebrook Senior & Community Center
Cornwall Child Center
ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities)
Falls Village Senior Center
Family Strides, Inc.
Friendly Hands Food Bank
Friends of Brodie Park LLC
Future Foundations Child Care Center
Greenwoods Counseling Referrals, Inc.
Grumbling Gryphons Traveling Children's Theater
Harwinton Library Friends Inc.
Hotchkiss Library of Sharon
Housatonic Youth Service Bureau
Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center
Licia and Mason Beekley Community Library
Litchfield Community Center
Litchfield Hills Food Systems, Inc.
New Beginnings of Northwest Hills Litchfield County Inc.
New Hartford Volunteer Ambulance
Norfolk Senior Housing Corporation
Northwest Community Collaborative
Northwestern CT YMCA
Pine Meadow Fire Company
Pleasant Valley Children's Center
Salisbury Visiting Nurse Association, Inc.
School on the Green
Sharon Land Trust, Inc.
Sharon Woman's Club
St. John's Episcopal Church
St. Peter/St. Francis School
Susan B. Anthony Project
The Falls Village Children's Theater
The Falls Village Day Care Center, Inc.
The Falls Village-Canaan Historical Society, Inc.
The Little Guild of Saint Francis
The McCall Foundation
The Sullivan Senior Center
Theodore A. Hungerford Memorial Museum
Time Out Foundation, Inc.
Torrington Child Care Center Inc.
Torrington Historical Society
TriArts Sharon Playhouse
Washington Art Association
Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust
Winsted Area Child Care Center, Inc.
Women's Support Services, Inc.
Born and educated in London, England, Khurshed graduated with a business degree from Rutgers University and a law degree from Columbia University. An attorney by profession, Khurshed retired in 2002 from a successful career in capital and real estate development.
“Khurshed had a rare ability to unite those he worked with. He would listen attentively to a variety of viewpoints, identify common ground among them and quickly build consensus. It was a remarkable talent, one of many for which we will remember him fondly,” said Tom Bechtle, Chairman of the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors.
He settled in Sharon, Conn. with his wife, Evelyn, and began what was to become a long list of volunteer accomplishments that both defined who he was and the standard of conduct he expected of himself and others.
Some of these accomplishments include serving as the president of The Little Guild of Saint Francis for the Welfare of Animals and on the board of the Hotchkiss Library of Sharon, where Khurshed was instrumental in the library’s expansion and helped to generate nearly $75,000 in sales as co-manager of the library’s art shows and events.
Khurshed was a vital member of the Sharon Land Trust, the Town of Sharon’s Conservation Commission, the Sharon Web Site Committee and the Sharon Energy & Environment Commission. Lawrence Powers, president of the Sharon Land Trust remarked: “Khurshed was a gentleman with keen intelligence, great judgment and a deep dedication to public service. “For the Sharon Land Trust, he was our Treasurer and a key player in our successes over the years.
“Above all, Khurshed was a good friend to all who knew him. He will be greatly missed.” Khurshed also served on the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation for three years. As the chair of the Foundation’s Governance Committee, he spent countless hours ensuring that the Foundation’s policies and procedures embody its fiduciary obligations and model exemplary practices for other nonprofits to emulate.
“Khurshed believed in what the Community Foundation is doing,” said Community Foundation board member Attorney Douglas O’Connell. “He believed that we are making a difference in Northwest Connecticut, and he wanted to support those efforts.”
And support them he did. Before Khurshed passed away, he set established the Northwest CT Community Foundation Khurshed Bhumgara Fund. Established through a bequest, the unrestricted and endowed Fund will serve his beloved Northwest corner through grants to nonprofits.
“Khurshed entrusted his philanthropy to the Community Foundation because he believed in the power of an endowment and its potential to serve community needs in perpetuity,” said O’Connell.
“Khurshed loved his community and derived the greatest pleasure from helping those less fortunate, especially children and animals,” said Community Foundation President Guy Rovezzi.
“He will surely be missed, by his family, his friends, all of us at the Community Foundation and his community, but his legacy is one of promise and goodwill – one that honors his integrity and his giving spirit and ensures his life will continue to touch all Northwest Corner citizens for generations to come.”
Established in 2008 as an open and flexible community resource, the Northwest CT Community Foundation Northwest Connecticut Philanthropy Fund was created as an easy and cost effective way for the general public to be a part of the local philanthropic experience. The Fund provides a platform for making the charitable wishes of local citizens come true.
The Community Foundation encourages gifts of any size to the Fund from individuals, families and businesses. Many gifts are in honor or in memory of a loved one. Often, Northwest Connecticut Philanthropy Fund contributors use this as an attractive alternative to creating a permanent named fund and may use it to remain anonymous. Their gifts are pooled with others to support vital needs that are personal, unique and local.
Amazingly, the Fund has received contributions from more than 70 donors to date and provided more than $65,000 in support of local causes.
“The concept of pooling charitable resources is the cornerstone of community foundation work and the Northwest Connecticut Philanthropy Fund is one of the best examples of how powerful this concept can be,” said Community Foundation President Guy Rovezzi.
The Fund is unrestricted, which means that donors to the Fund can suggest the charitable purposes to which their gifts are applied, and the amounts distributed are not limited to earnings or appreciation as they would be with an endowed fund. In many cases, the entire gift is put to work within months as a grant to a local charity with a specific purpose or program. Grants from the Fund receive the same care and due diligence as any other grant made from the Foundation.
An anonymous donor to the Fund perhaps said it best. “I trust the Community Foundation leadership to deploy my charitable gifts to worthy organizations, like Covenant to Care, whose moral imperative is to convert critical support into immediate results.”
Providing Safe Warm Beds
Covenant to Care, a nonprofit that assists children experiencing neglect, abuse and poverty, contacted the Community Foundation with a request for beds for children living in poverty in our Northwest Corner. With support from the Fund, the children were provided with clean, warm and safe beds.
Inspiring Innovation and the Arts
In 2013, the Northwest Regional High School Robotics Team built a robot that earned them the Rookie All-Star Award at the Hartford Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. The Fund supported the team in its purchase of a covered trailer that protects their robot from the elements and enables students to wheel it into the trailer for safe transport.
The Fund has supported scholarships for children to attend classes and workshops with the Falls Village Children’s Theater Company and supported children's arts and culture programming at the Scoville Memorial Library in Salisbury.
Protecting Our Rivers
In 2014, the Northwest Connecticut Philanthropy Fund, in memory of Robin Connor, supplemented a grant from the Eva M. Coty Fund to support the Farmington River Watershed Association in its efforts to work with students from Northwest Connecticut Community College to detain polluted water through the installation of landscaping features before it pours into the Farmington River.
“Stormwater runoff stewardship projects go hand-hand with stormwater education programs,” said Eileen Fielding, Farmington River Watershed Association Executive Director.
Gifts to the Northwest Connecticut Philanthropy Fund have come from all communities represented by the Foundation’s service area. Grants are made at the discretion of the Foundation Board and no grant from the Fund is less than $250.
Donors Support Causes, Community
The Harriet F. Dickenson Foundation gave to the Fund to support programs and services that benefit residents of Cornwall, Conn.
Barron Financial Group has provided an unrestricted gift to the communities of Northwest Conn. in honor of its clients for four consecutive years.
The Bono Family Fund of the Fairfield Community Foundation made a gift to support Hope and Love Option of Bethlehem, Conn.
Margaret D. Reventlow provided for an unrestricted gift to support the communities of the Northwest Corner through the Margaret D. Reventlow Charitable Remainder Trust.
An anonymous donor family provided a generous gift in support of local children’s causes. Maria and David Mazzarelli gave an unrestricted gift to support the communities of Northwest Conn.
The Fund has served as a home for contributions to honor the lives of beloved family members: Lawrence Cianciolo, Robin Connor, Thomas LaPorta, Richard DiChillo Jr., Grace Banelli, Rita Toce, and Margaret Mazzarelli to name a few.
“All contributions to funds of the Community Foundation are powerful catalysts for good in their support of specific nonprofits and fields of interests,” said Rovezzi. “Unrestricted giving, such as to the Northwest Connecticut Philanthropy Fund, provides for unlimited potential and enables flexibility to provide support and fuel improvements for needs within our Northwest corner now, and far into the future whenever and wherever they are needed.”
As the Fund grows, so will the impact it has on the vast array of needs presented by our communities.
None of this would be possible without the gracious benevolence of people like you. Please consider making a gift or including the Northwest Connecticut Philanthropy Fund in your estate plan. For more information contact Bradford Hoar, Vice President of Philanthropic Services at email@example.com.
For years, Sandy Slemmer of Winsted enjoyed a career as a scientific researcher and later an information technology professional. She worked in programming and database management for several large corporations in New Jersey and Westchester County, New York. The work was creative and satisfying, but there was something missing. Sandy felt a daily pull toward the natural environment beyond the walls of the corporate park.
“I found that I kept looking out of the window,” said Sandy. “If I was in a conference room, I’d position myself so I could look out the window; I just wanted to be outside.”
When she could, Sandy and her husband, David, explored the Appalachian Trail in Kent, Great Mountain Forest in Falls Village, and the Housatonic River, and the surrounding areas. The two began to bicycle on the trails. They found new places, and began exploring the river with kayaks.
“It was quiet and peaceful,” said Sandy. “And, we discovered places, environments, country roads that we wouldn’t have visited in a car. “When people feel stress, the ability to go for a hike or find a quiet spot makes a difference,” she said. “People need natural areas. Maybe it’s just a fishing pond, but taking the time to go out and go fishing or hiking—it’s important.”
Eventually, Sandy answered the call of the wild, leaving her corporate office. She completed a master’s degree in environmental sciences at Western Connecticut State University and joined Sharon Audubon as a volunteer in the aviary.
At the Sharon Audubon, Sandy helps rehabilitate raptors, a job she says is most intense in the summer when the aviary is full of babies in need of attention. She also works on the organization’s stewardship board and volunteers for events. A volunteer for more than 16 years now, Sandy has cared for thousands of birds. Some remain at the Audubon for educational reasons, but most are rehabilitated and released into the wild.
In May of 2007, Sandy and David Slemmer established Northwest CT Community Foundation Elson-Slemmer Fund for the Environment. The Fund has supported the Sharon Audubon in the construction of new aviaries, supported technology upgrades to the weather station and internship program at Great Mountain Forest in Falls Village, and supported the Housatonic Valley Association in the development of trail maps for towns along the Housatonic River.
“Organizations that work to protect the natural environment and the wildlife require a lot of money and resources,” said Sandy. “If the Fund can help an organization by supporting an educational program or in another way, I’m all for that.
“Everything relies on something else, even at the soil level—the rocks that make up the soil, the insects and the nematodes. Without them, we wouldn’t have the plants and the animals that feed off of the plants. If we don’t preserve our natural resources, we, ourselves, will be affected.
“Everything is connected, and we need that connection–to understand the importance of what we have out here–to protect it.”
The Litchfield Community Center has served as a hub of Litchfield since it opened its doors in 2000. The Community Center offers constant and innumerable activities that bring the community together, including movies, fitness, arts classes and a teen center. Some of the most popular events at the Community Center are the music events inspired by former Litchfield resident Daniel North.
In the late 1990s, Mr. North was a frequent participant in music programs held at the Bantam Inn. After his wife’s death, he and his friends would gather at the Inn on Sunday afternoons for jazz, swing and Dixieland programs. Soon, Mr. North was hosting music sessions.
“It gave him a chance to overcome a lot of sadness after his wife died,” said Berta Andrulis Mette, Litchfield Community Center Executive Director.
The music programs continued to grow, and when the Community Center was built in 2000, Mr. North wanted to use the opportunity to make music available to more people in the community. In 2002, he established the Northwest CT Community Foundation Litchfield Community Center Music Fund to support various music programs at the Community Center.
“With the opening of the Community Center, more people could come and enjoy music together,” said Berta. “Dan wanted to be a part of making that happen.
“He gave us freedom in our program choices, knowing that people like all kinds of different music. We’ve continued dixieland, swing, rock, bluegrass, classical, everything really.”
Mr. North passed away in 2008, but the Litchfield Community Center Music Fund continues to support programs that bring the community together. In 2015, the Fund supported youth and teen programs: DJ Music, Red Hot Chili Slam & Bands, Friday Feast & Dancing Feat, Enzo Boscarino Serenade, and Irish Music & Coffee House.
After 15 successful years of bringing the community together through events and programs, the Community Center began looking toward long-term financial planning. Staff started to notice that children who had attended programs at the Community Center were returning as teenagers and young adults.
“Kids who were here when they were teenagers are now in their late 20s and early 30s,” said Berta. “Their kids are coming back for programming. This is what we hoped for.”
Community Center board members and staff wanted to establish a fund that could be used for unplanned circumstances or big expenses beyond the yearly budget, a fund that would ensure that the Community Center would be bringing the Community together forever.
In 2014, the Community Center established the Northwest CT Community Foundation Litchfield Community Center Reserve Fund.
“Our hopes are to let it grow and encourage people to contribute,” said Berta. “The Fund provides security. There’s no doubt that for our organization and the Community Foundation, we’re on a parallel path of serving Northwest Connecticut in perpetuity.
“We know we can continue to serve as a hub of Litchfield, a place where the community comes together, as our town changes, as our area changes, as our state changes, as our world changes.”
“The Center is an incredible resource for people of all ages, as well as organizations and businesses, throughout the Northwest Corner and beyond. It is reassuring knowing we can continue to be a hub where the community comes together. We intend to do our best to meet the needs and interests of those we serve.”
Local author Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Rivera enjoyed many years working as an administrative assistant at the Anaconda American Brass Company, but writing and volunteering in her community were her passions.
A life-long resident of Torrington, Betty grew up in a home on Taylor Street with her brother, Ted, and her sister, Catherine. Close siblings, the three lived together throughout their adult lives in a home on Cook Street. Ted worked for many years at the Torrington Company. Catherine worked for Western Union. The three frequented antique shows and co-authored articles about antiques. Ted and Betty co-authored “Inkstands and Inkwells, a Collector’s Guide,” published by Crown.
Betty published many articles in magazines, including Architectural Digest, Better Homes and Gardens, and Country Living, and in newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. Betty’s poetry was published in many religious, literary and poetry magazines, and her children’s stories and poems were published in numerous popular children’s magazines.
Betty was a member of the Torrington Historical Society, the Torrington Historical Preservation Program, the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital Auxiliary, the Connecticut ARCO Retirees, the University of Connecticut Litchfield County Writer’s Project, and the Quota Club. She was a past President of the Torrconn Woman’s Club and the Torrington Council of Catholic Women.
“Torrington was their life,” said Susan Yost, a second cousin and close friend. “They were passionate about art and music.”
In 1995, Ted passed away, leaving his estate to Betty and Catherine. And, in early 2014, Catherine passed away, leaving the remainder of her estate and her half of Ted’s estate to Betty.
In the Spring of 2014, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Rivera passed away, but she left a legacy that continues her creative life’s work and honors her brother and sister. Through bequest language in her will, Ms. Rivera established Northwest CT Community Foundation Rivera Family Fund for Arts and Music, an endowed scholarship fund that will support art and music students in the Northwest Corner forever.
When Emil “Moe” Renzullo Jr. was five years old, he bounded out of Emil and Colleen Renzullo’s car for his first day of summer camp at Camp LARC. After having spent the first five years of his life in and out of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center recovering from surgeries to treat a series of intestinal medical issues, Moe was a happy and boisterous little boy ready to have some fun.
Moe attended summer camp through the Litchfield Arc (LARC) for two weeks that year. Although his parents, Emil and Colleen Renzullo, were apprehensive about sending him to summer camp, every day when he came home, happy, tired and dirty, Moe would ask, “When can I go back to my camp?” From that summer on, Moe attended Camp LARC all eight weeks of the summer: swimming, skateboarding, and more often than not, leading campers in their morning cheer.
“Moe was known for his enthusiasm, love and caring ways,” said Katherine Marchand-Beyer, Camp MOE Director and LARC Director of Community Support.
After seven years of good health and happy summers with his friends, Moe was diagnosed with leukemia. He was admitted to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for treatment. Eight weeks later, Moe was gone.
“Emil [Moe] was a bright light,” said Emil Renzullo Senior, “…always happy, always smiling. He had an amazing ability to draw people together, to make friends, anywhere with anyone.”
Moe passed away at the age of 12, but his light spread through the Northwest Corner bringing together parents, teachers, camp counselors, friends and family who wanted to honor his life. Cycling enthusiasts scheduled a cycling fundraiser, which quickly became a bike, run, and walk fundraiser as community members were drawn to the event and its goal—to raise money to send kids to Moe’s favorite place, Camp LARC.
That first year, in just a few months, the community raised more than $25,000 for camperships for Camp LARC. Emil and Colleen quickly worked with Community Foundation staff to establish the Miles for Moe Fund.
Simultaneously, LARC launched the first independent reverse-integrated summer camp in New England. To honor Moe and the community that loved him, LARC named its new summer camp Camp MOE.
“Moe always called Camp LARC ‘my camp,’” said Emil Renzullo. “Now you see signs all over town for Camp MOE. It really is his camp.”
Camp MOE has grown from 50 campers to hundreds of campers each summer. The Northwest CT Community Foundation Miles for Moe Fund continues to grow as well. Established as a donor-advised fund, the Fund continues to support camperships at Camp MOE, as well as other causes affecting children in the Northwest Corner.
Emil, Colleen, and a slew of volunteers manage the annual fundraisers, including the Harvest Fest 5k, held in September, for the Fund that has provided $80,500 in camperships. Grants from the Fund also have supported parents of children being treated for cancer at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, purchased thermometers for the Medical Center’s treatment rooms, and supported the purchase of toys for children having medical procedures at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital.
“The Miles for Moe Fund has become what it is because of the Community Foundation,” said Emil Renzullo. “Anytime we had an idea or a question, staff was there to help.
“Life is short, and it’s about experiences. I want to raise as much money as possible, to make this one of the biggest funds at the Community Foundation — to help as many children as I can."
Edward Diskavich lived a quiet life in a small home on Beverly Rd. in Torrington. He enjoyed a long life, passing away at the age of 94. A financially successful man, he enjoyed living modestly, and managing his investments. But his greatest achievement, his legacy, was his investment in the future of
Northwest Connecticut. Through his estate planning, Mr. Diskavich donated his body to Yale School of Medicine for research and education. His estate, he gave to the future of the Northwest Corner by establishing two endowed funds with the Community Foundation, a scholarship fund and a discretionary fund.
The Northwest CT Community Foundation Edward W. Diskavich Scholarship Fund provides annual scholarships to graduates of Oliver Wolcott Technical High School. In 2016-2017, the Fund awarded $11,750 to 20 Northwest Corner students pursuing college degrees in fields including mechanical engineering, biomedical sciences, and education.
The Northwest CT Community Foundation Edward W. Diskavich Fund provides grants annually to nonprofits in the Northwest Corner. Grants from the Fund will support Northwest Corner nonprofits indefinitely. In 2017, the Fund supported the Winsted Senior Center and Senior Enrichment Program in its efforts to make the senior center a more welcoming, comfortable, and safe place.
Gladys Fingar of Torrington worked in housekeeping for many years at Highland Acres, a nursing home in Winsted. She enjoyed flower gardening and sewing, including making all of her own work smocks, but Gladys was most known for her enthusiastic kindness for others, evident through her many gifts to charitable organizations and her love of animals.
Gladys gave to the Calvary Baptist Church, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, LARC, The Little Guild of St. Francis, and the North Shore Animal League. She especially loved the holidays as evidenced through her collection of festive sweaters and her holiday baking. Every Christmas for years she would collect the wish lists of the residents of the Southbury Training School, sometimes 20 or 30 residents, and purchase every item on their lists. When the Make-A-Wish Foundation was seeking donors to help send a local boy on a trip to Florida, her only question was, “how much do you need?” She then paid for the whole trip.
“Gladys was very generous,” said Sheryl Undari, a close friend of more than 30 years. “She loved to help people. She loved to make people happy.”
Gladys could not pass up a bargain. She enjoyed shopping and would often purchase gifts for her friends and neighbors that she would leave on their doorsteps, ringing the doorbell and running away.
Neighbors and friends were not the only recipients of Gladys’ generous spirit. She adopted numerous stray cats and dogs, sometimes delivering them to The Little Guild of St. Francis, often taking them to her home and caring for them. “Gladys never met a stray animal she didn’t love,” said Sheryl. “She even went to the cemetery weekly to feed the squirrels.”
Gladys passed away in the Fall of 2015, but her care for others and her love of animals continues. In true form, she left surprise gifts to the people and animals of the Northwest Corner. Through her estate planning, Gladys made gifts to the Northwest Connecticut Philanthropy Fund for the purpose of supporting holiday-related grants in the Northwest Corner and to the Critter Fund, a fund that assists with shelter, rescue, and adoption, training,
prevention of cruelty, spaying and neutering, elderly companionship, services for disabled individuals and wildlife preservation.
Described as a gift to our communities, a shepherd of kindness, and a symphony of love, the Northwest Corner recently said goodbye to Roberta Lee August. Roberta passed away in the summer of 2016, leaving behind a community grateful for her life and so much better for her stewardship. “Roberta knew what mattered in life and lived life to the fullest, sharing her talents, time and treasures,” said JoAnn Ryan,” president and CEO of Northwest Connecticut’s Chamber of Commerce. Roberta was often teased about her boundless enthusiasm and seemingly endless care for others.
Her many friends joked that she worked just as hard or harder in retirement than she had in her career as a banker. This certainly rings true of her dedication to the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation. Roberta played a vital role in the success of the Community Foundation. She was a founding volunteer. In the early years, before the community foundation had staff members, Roberta worked as a banking trust officer, shepherding the Community Foundation’s modest initial resources. For years, she acted as liason between the bank and the Community Foundation. As the Community Foundation grew, Roberta volunteered her time, talents, and resources wherever and whenever they were needed. For more than four decades, she dedicated herself to the Community Foundation, serving as board of directors recording secretary, member of the governance and scholarship committees and Community Foundation ambassador, as well as a trustee to the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation.
Roberta’s love of community, loyalty and generosity did not end with the Community Foundation. She volunteered and served on the boards of countless nonprofits serving the Northwest Corner. In addition to playing key roles in the success of programs to improve lives and strengthen communities, Roberta volunteered as conservator for many elderly and mentally ill community members. Over the decades, Roberta’s dedication was recognized in many ways. She was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary. She was awarded the YMCA Legacy Award, the Wisdom House Award and the Northwest Connecticut Chamber Community Leader Award. Prime Time House named a building in her honor, and Cazenovia College awarded her an honorary doctorate in the humanities.
"Roberta considered all of us her family–community members, nonprofit staff and volunteers and those who benefited from their work–and Roberta loved her family,” said Guy Rovezzi, Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation president. “Our community has lost one of its finest,” said JoAnn Ryan, “but the legacy of Roberta’s life–loyalty to a fault, generosity that knew no bounds, deep and sincere concern and unconditional love and compassion for others, courage, optimism and grace–remains in our hearts as we honor her life by continuing to steward the many causes she championed.”
In 1998, with donations from herself and 20 community members, Roberta Lee August established the Roberta Lee August Fund to support literacy and mental health initiatives in the Northwest Corner. Since its establishment, the fund has supported: book giveaways to Winchester elementary school students; the enhancement of an electronic health record system for the Torrington Family Service Center; the purchase of literacy tools and educational materials for children ages 2 through 7 years, as part of the Family Literacy Center at Forbes Elementary School; the Prime Time Houses WISH Progam and the Rural Mental Health Initiative.
An endowed field-of-interest fund, the Northwest CT Community Foundation Roberta Lee August Fund indefinitely supports programs that serve mental health initiatives and increase literacy in the Northwest Corner, two causes Roberta spent much of the last 40 years championing.
A longtime nurse, Cynthia Conklin was well known as a caretaker for the elderly and a nurturer to all who crossed her path. Driven at a young age to care for the sick and the vulnerable, she attended Dana Hall School in Massachusetts, Sweet Briar College in Virginia and the University of New Hampshire earning a Master of Science degree in nursing.
For many years, she specialized in maternity care at White Plains Hospital in N.Y., where she rose to the position of senior nurse. When her parents began finding it difficult to live independently, she moved into their home in Sharon to care for them, and soon realized that several elderly aunts who lived nearby needed caring for as well. She looked after all of them and continued caring for others as a part-time nurse at Sharon Hospital.
She took great pleasure in buying gifts for her grandnieces and nephews. She was known for hiding gifts throughout her house and in her yard, sending the children on treasure hunts to find them with rhyming clues. She made brownies for the post office staff and brought hot coffee and muffins to snowplow workers.
“There was no end to her generosity in every way, of her time, of herself; she was always thinking about others,” said Cynthia’s sister-in-law Carol Pierson.
Caring for so many didn’t keep Cynthia from embracing the Sharon community. She was invaluable to several local nonprofits, volunteering her time and talents to serve on numerous committees. She served on the Board of the Sharon Historical Society & Museum, the Sharon Woman’s Club, and the Sharon Housing Authority.
“She had a way of understanding other people’s problems. She enjoyed helping people,” said Cynthia’s brother, Hank Conklin.
When her parents passed away, Cynthia opened her home to travelers as a bed and breakfast. She planted beautiful gardens and baked countless loaves of bread and sheets of cookies for friends and guests – and cared for stray cats, which she would teasingly complain about, but doted on and often prepared salmon balls for as a treat.
Just before her death, Cynthia fulfilled a life-long goal of gathering her family for a week-long reunion in Maine. Once home in Sharon, Cynthia passed away. But true to her spirit and in keeping with her life’s work, she was not done caring for others.
Through a bequest in her will, Cynthia made possible the Northwest CT Community Foundation Cynthia Conklin & Family Fund For Pets in Need. The Fund continues her life’s work and enhances her legacy of caring for others through grants that support the work of nonprofits that serve animal welfare and alleviate suffering.
In the 1930s, Jo Wang Loi’s father, Chinese diplomat GH Wang, arrived in the United States with the goal of improving cultural understanding between the United States and China. GH and his American-born wife, Gladys Chen Foin, worked for six decades toward their goal, raised four children in
communities in Chicago and New Orleans, and displayed seemingly limitless generosity and compassion toward their friends and neighbors.
As a diplomat, GH refused gifts and recognition—once turning down an acre of land, a common perk for diplomats who wanted to fish the New Orleans bayous—because he said it would be “an outward show
While living in Chicago, GH noticed many of the elderly struggling, living in cold damp basements or garages. He recruited friends and colleagues to form a neighborhood redevelopment association that built low- and moderate-income housing in the Chinatown area. One of the projects was senior housing for the elderly—the construction of warm and welcoming one-bedroom apartments within walking distance of stores, restaurants, and churches.
To ensure continuity in their life’s work, GH and Gladys established The G&G Educational Foundation, an endowed charitable foundation to promote understanding of Chinese culture. For many years, they managed the Foundation themselves, researching programs and organizations, and awarding grants in support of unique and inspiring arts, scientific, and cultural programs. The Wangs’ philanthropic spirit and love of community stemmed from their family tradition. GH and Gladys lived—as the Wang family members still do—by a family code of ethics. This code is noted in the Wang family book of records, which tracks, among many things, births, marriages, accomplishments, and deaths dating from 571 BC. Based on the teachings of Confucius, the Wang family code states that the Wangs display kindness to their family members and others, contribute freely to charities to help the distressed and relieve the poor, judge others fairly, and practice courtesy and modesty.
“My father was amazing,” said Jo Wang Loi. “He would walk down the street in Chicago’s Chinatown, and people would grab his hands and thank him [for the senior housing]. He set the example for all of us. He devoted his life to service and to giving to others.”
In 1999, GH passed away. The G&G Educational Foundation was left to his and Gladys’ children: Edward, James, Jo, and Nancy, with Jo serving as secretary-treasurer. Jo managed the Foundation from her home in Lakeville, Connecticut, determined to continue her parents’ legacy. Jo and her brothers and sister worked diligently to research nonprofit programs and award grants, while maintaining the Foundation’s endowment.
“We wanted to continue what dad had set up with my mom—to further promote understanding between the West and China,” said Jo.
Every year, Jo would allocate five percent of the Foundation’s fund balance for grants. She and her siblings, with the help of their children, chose the most worthy grant recipients. In December of each year, Jo would write more than 30 grant letters with checks. As the Foundation grew, so did the work. Jo and her siblings struggled to find a workable succession plan. How could they keep their parents’ legacy alive in perpetuity? By 2016, Jo found a solution that not only made the work of The G&G Educational Foundation more manageable, but also secured its future. That solution was the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation.
The G&G Educational Foundation was transferred into four donor-advised funds with the Community Foundation, each with the same goal as the G&G Educational Foundation, each with a sibling serving as a donor-advisor with two generations of successor advisors.
“Working with the Community Foundation was a very natural way to proceed,” said Jo. “Community Foundation staff explained the options very clearly, enabling a smooth transition. I am so indebted to them. It has been nice to be relieved of all the administrative duties. All I have to do now is go to the Community Foundation website, log into DonorCentral, and choose where I want grants awarded.
“I am grateful for the Community Foundation. It has solved the problem of what happens next when this generation passes, knowing there will be two more generations as successor advisors. My parents’ vision, the family code, everything my parents wanted to accomplish with the G&G Educational Foundation, will continue long after we have faded away.”
As one of four funds created from The G&G Educational Foundation, Northwest CT Community Foundation G&G Educational Foundation-Jo Wang and Kiau Loi Family Fund supports initiatives, scholarships and programming that deepen the knowledge and understanding between China and America and address the human-service needs of Asian people and communities in the United States.
Recent grants include support for Running Start, a non-partisan organization that brings young women into politics by inspiring and training them to become political leaders; and Oberlin Shansi, an organization dedicated to building mutual understanding and respect through educational and cultural exchanges; and individual projects with universities and non-governmental organizations in China, India, Indonesia, and Japan.
“Giving was ingrained in me growing up,” said Jo. “I truly feel that if we live in a community, we have to be willing to give up some of our individual wants and needs for the benefit of the whole. It’s a crucial part of being a citizen of the U.S. and of the world.”
Steven L. Garbin grew up in Torrington the only child of Mario and Helen (Balogh) Garbin. He translated a love of cars and driving into a business, owning Triumph Taxi in Boston for more than 20 years. But when he was ready to retire, he came home to the south end of Torrington. Steven owned several antique vehicles, and frequented antique shops and flea markets looking for unique items.
He played cards with longtime friends and visited with his mother at her final resting place in St. Francis Cemetery. When he felt he couldn’t take care of himself any longer, he moved into Wolcott Hall Retirement Center, still frequenting Scarpelli’s, one of his favorite restaurants. Steven passed away in early 2017 at the age of 84.
Through estate planning, he left an enduring gift and a legacy of compassion and kindness. Steven established an endowed fund named in honor of his parents. The Northwest CT Community Foundation Helen and Mario Garbin Scholarship Fund provides scholarships to local students, and will continue to do so, forever.
“Steve was a kind and generous person,” said Egidio Recidivi, a longtime friend. “Steve’s generous gift is a testament to his love of Torrington.
In the summer of 2019, the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation and our Northwest Corner lost someone near and dear to us. James A. Garfield or “Jim” as most everyone called him, passed away at his home in Fort Myers, Florida with his wife, Nancy, by his side.
Jim and Nancy were the impetus for immeasurable positive growth in Northwest Connecticut. Long-time Torrington residents, they were deeply connected to the community and especially immersed in the arts. Jim sang in the choir at the Trinity Episcopal Church, and he and Nancy served as chaperones for the young Chorus Angelicus singers of Joyful Noise as they traveled across New England for performances.
For more than 40 years, Jim worked in banking. It was through a position as senior vice president, trust administration with Bank of America that he began his involvement with the Community Foundation, and changed Northwest Connecticut for the better. At the time, the Foundation Trust—which under Jim’s leadership would grow to become the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, had assets invested at several Northwest Connecticut banks. Trustee officers from those banks managed the funds. Grants were awarded with the help of dedicated volunteers.
In 1996, when Jim retired, Foundation volunteers asked him to take the reins and serve as the then named Torrington Area Foundation for Public Giving’s first staff member and first CEO/Executive Director.
Jim gave the Foundation its first physical office, created a corporate form of the foundation called the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, and expanded the foundation’s territory from Torrington and the surrounding communities to 12 towns in Northwest Connecticut.
He and Nancy helped establish the Women & Girls Fund, the Community Foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy Initiative, and the Northwest CT Arts Council, which has grown to become a hub for all aspects of Northwest Connecticut cultural information and resources.
Jim worked tirelessly alongside volunteers and professional advisors to increase bequests to the Foundation. Under his leadership, Community Foundation assets grew from $2.5 million to about $10 million, and grants and scholarships awarded annually grew from $113,000 to $473,648.
Art, Community and Caring
Jim and Nancy Garfield established two funds with the Community Foundation, the Northwest CT Community Foundation Jim & Nancy Garfield Fund for the Arts and the Northwest CT Community Foundation Jim and Nancy Garfield Compassion Fund. As a celebration of their love for the arts, theater and music, the couple established the Jim & Nancy Garfield Fund for the Arts in 2002. The Fund supports arts organizations and programming within Northwest Connecticut.
In 2016, through their estate planning, Jim and Nancy established the Jim and Nancy Garfield Compassion Fund. The Fund, which will be funded through their estate, assists the most vulnerable citizens of Torrington by supporting immediate basic needs, including rent, food, heating, utilities, elderly and child care, medical expenses and disaster-recovery assistance.
Recent Grants from the Jim & Nancy Garfield Fund for the Arts
The American Mural Project
KidsPlay Children’s Museum
Northwest Connecticut Arts Council
Jeff and Susan Lalonde have lived and worked in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut for many years, Jeff as president of Torrington Savings Bank and Susan as owner of a graphic design business. Devoted to community and highly involved with local nonprofits, they met each other through their service on the Board of the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce and the Torrington-Winsted Rotary.
"The community provided a livelihood for us," said Jeff. "And, it’s provided a good life for us, friends and relationships."
In 2005, Jeff and Susan were newly married and settling into a new home in Goshen. They found that they had the means and the desire to give back to their community and the nonprofits that had brought them together.
"We had always given our time," said Jeff. "And, that’s valuable too. But, now we were in a position to make a one-time financial contribution. Instead of giving it to one organization, we thought we would establish a fund, so we could give to many organizations for years to come."
The Lalondes established the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation Jeffrey and Susan Lalonde Community Betterment Fund.
Like the many donations of time and talent the Lalondes shared with their community for many years, the non-endowed donor-advised Jeffrey and Susan Lalonde Community Betterment Fund supports a wide range of programs that improve life for the residents of Litchfield County.
"There are so many good people in this community, and they have so much to offer," said Susan. "We admire those who come forward and work hard and are so passionate about working within local nonprofit organizations."
Since it was established, the Jeffrey and Susan Lalonde Community Betterment Fund has awarded more than $35,000 in grants to 25 nonprofits providing emergency services, assisting veterans, supporting the arts, enhancing life for special needs adults, and assisting those struggling with hunger.
Through on-going gifts and prudent investment, the balance of the fund has continued to grow, enabling more grants each year.
"There are veterans and young mothers who come to organizations like FISH of Northwestern Connecticut for help because they are down and out, and they need to get started in their lives," said Susan. "To be able to support them is such a gift. There are happy endings to a lot of sad beginnings."
"Torrington has growing challenges, and there is more than enough need here and in the surrounding communities." said Jeff. "We hope that the Community Foundation continues to grow and attract donors who can help meet those needs."
Sally Vaun spent much of her childhood playing in the rolling farmland of Pennsylvania. She worked on her family’s farm tending to chickens, turkeys and sheep. Living in a close-knit community of farmers, Sally often helped her friends with their chores, feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, so they could run off to play or sneak a ride on a nearby cow, climbing up on its bony back and trotting around the pasture to wild giggles.
By the 1960s, Sally was working as a volunteer at Hartford Hospital in the emergency room: cleaning and prepping gurneys, greeting patients, getting them blankets, and helping family members navigate the hospital. It was there that she met William “Bill” Vaun, a young doctor completing his residency. A year later, they were married. Bill had grown up in Hartford, the son of Greek immigrants. His father died young of throat cancer. “Bill’s family lived modestly,” said Sally. “His mother was not sure he should go to college at all.
I think it was losing his father that inspired him to become a doctor. He wanted to help people experiencing illness.” Bill received the Jacob L. and Lewis Fox Foundation Scholarship to attend Trinity College as an undergraduate and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he joined the United States Air Force and worked in The Pentagon. Throughout his career, Bill practiced internal medicine, specializing in endocrinology. He taught at St. Luke’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, the Hahnemann University Hospital in Pennsylvania, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, focusing on the future of medicine, including Alzheimer’s research and education
“Bill was meticulous as a physician and a brilliant diagnostician,” said Sally. “Colleagues brought him the most difficult cases.” Wherever they settled, Sally was busy caring for animals, adopting retired racehorses and volunteering. In New Jersey, Sally organized a horseback riding program for children with physical and developmental disabilities and volunteered with the Junior League. “It was just so heartwarming to see children, who were often in a wheelchair, riding, being so active and feeling more confident. You could see it in their faces. Their teachers would tell me, ‘He is so assertive now. Before he was reluctant to do things. Now he partakes much more in the school.’”
When Bill retired, they settled in Norfolk. Sally began to volunteer at the Norfolk Historical Society and the Norfolk Community Association. She served on the Alumni Board of Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury. In 2014, Bill passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s, a disease he had spent years researching. In 2021, after speaking with her professional advisor and considering the needs of her local community, Sally Vaun established the Northwest CT Community Foundation William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund. The fund awards scholarships to students pursuing degrees in medicine and healthcare for both humans and animals and to students pursuing degrees in environmental studies, specifically ecology and environmental sciences. “Bill and I always knew we wanted to give back, and we were fortunate to be able,” said Sally. “If everybody would give a little, the world, and our little corner of it, would be so much better.”
As an endowed fund, the principal of the William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund will continue to grow through prudent investment, while annual scholarship awards support local students and strengthen education in the Northwest Corner forever. “There is a need for medical professionals serving people and animals,” said Sally. “It’s important that we help young people become educated, to see what’s happening and to be able to make things better. People and animals need to be cared for.”
In the early 1900s, Winchester was a very different place. Horse wagons lined packed dirt roads. Men in dark suits and Derby hats swept store fronts, and young men peddled fresh fruit and fish from wooden carts. Wool was big business—Winsted Hosiery and the New England Knitting Company factory buildings stretched over Still River, providing ladies and men’s undergarments and steady employment for hundreds. By 1914, the United States was at war, and the women of Winsted were an integral part of the war effort.
During WW1 the New England Knitting Company, like many American factories had shifted its production to benefit the war effort, allocating more than 80 percent of production to manufacturing wool garments for the United States Army. With most of the men deployed in the war, the bulk of that work was done by the women of Winchester. The dedication and hard work of those women was not lost on Leverett W. Tiffany, co-manager of the New England Knitting Company, who created a trust to benefit the women of Winchester. As a testament to his appreciation for the hard-working women of Winchester, the trust made available financial assistance to any woman who was experiencing economic hardship or illness.
In 2020, the trust came under the management of the Community Foundation as the Northwest CT Community Foundation Leverett W. Tiffany Fund. True to the wishes of Leverett W. Tiffany, the fund will continue to benefit Winchester women experiencing financial hardship.
Barbara and John Pudlinski created a home environment where their children thrived on curiosity and creativity. Both educators at Torrington High School, Barbara and John instilled in their children a love of math and science that inspired their son Christopher to earn a doctorate and become an educator. Their daughter Jill, an avid mathematician and science scholar, passionately pursued a career in the scientific research of the natural environment, an extension of her love of all things that swam, skittered or trotted in the water and over the land.
“Jill was known for her intelligence,” said Barbara. “She was a curious kid who loved nature, insects, critters, dogs and marine life. She was skilled in science and math, but she also loved the arts, participating in drama and band. She had so many interests. Jill’s mind was always going.”
As a young adult, Jill worked as a lifeguard, and SCUBA diver. She studied Marine Biology at Colgate University, spending a semester at sea learning how to captain a ship off the shores of Cape Cod. After graduation, her love of nature led her to a science research position at Smithers, where she worked for 18 years conducting environmental, marine and clinical trials for pharmaceuticals, and as a senior reporter for the lab She lived on the shore on West Island Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Her friends on the island consisted not just of human residents, but the wild foxes and rabbits she often befriended.
“She called it her ‘island paradise,’” Barbara recalled. When she wasn’t working, Jill was exploring. She visited Hawaii and the Bahamas, travelled through the Panama Canal, and most recently, visited Iceland with Barbara and John. In June of 2020, Jill unexpectedly passed away. Friends from near and far reached out to each other. They shared memories of growing up together in Torrington—fun-filled days at Mother Goose Preschool, laughing and learning in the classrooms and in the halls of Torrington High School.
They decided the best way to honor Jill’s curiosity, intelligence and love of learning was to establish a scholarship in her name. They collected donations in Jill’s honor and reached out to Barbara. In late Spring, Barbara Pudlinski established the Northwest CT Community Foundation Jill Pudlinski Tavano Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is awarded to graduating seniors of Torrington High School who have demonstrated achievements in math and science.
“We wanted to work with the Community Foundation because we want Jill’s legacy to continue indefinitely,” said Christopher. “We know under the management of the Community Foundation that Jill’s fund will continue to grow and award scholarships in her name long after we are gone.” “There is so much more research left to do,” said Barbara. “The recipients of Jill’s scholarship will continue on—they will continue the great work that she would have done had she lived.”
For decades Karen O’Connor was a beloved teacher and coach at Lewis Mills High School. She was a three-sport athlete at Southern Connecticut State College, where she received her Bachelor's Degree. She received her Master's Degree from Springfield College in Mass.
A life-long sports enthusiast Karen taught physical education and coached countless students participating in hockey, basketball, cheerleading, badminton, and tennis.
Karen was named National Coach-of-the-Year for Girl's Sports in District 1 in 1978 and received multiple Coach-of the- Year awards from the Connecticut Coaches Association.
In 1983, she was named the first female president of the 3,000-member Connecticut High School Coaches Association, and in 2006, she was inducted into the Ken Hoagland Lewis S. Mills Athletic Hall of Fame.
Karen eventually retired to Vero Beach, Fla. where she served as President of the SeaWatch Condominium Association and was a member of the Quail Valley Golf Club, but she never forgot her deep connection to Northwest Connecticut.
“Karen’s roots were in Norfolk, where she grew up,” said Margo O’Connor, Karen’s sister-in-law. “She was a friendly, amicable person.
“She knew how much good local nonprofits were doing in her community. She wanted to help.”
Through her estate planning, Karen established the Northwest CT Community Foundation Karen M. O'Connor Fund. The Fund supports elderly and disabled care for residents of Norfolk, Winsted and Torrington. It also supports local nonprofits when and where it’s needed the most.