Community Builders banquet going virtual this year

Published on Sunday, 13 September 2020 17:44
Written by Erica Drzewiecki


United Way of West Central Connecticut will present its Community Builders’ Awards in a virtual format this year.

The 18th annual Community Builders Award Reception will launch Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m. on UWWCC’s website, celebrating eight individuals and groups from Bristol, Plymouth, Plainville and Burlington making a difference in their home communities.

Community Builders Awards are usually presented during a formal banquet at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bristol, but due to the pandemic, the awards show will take place in a 30-minute film people can view online from home.

 “We’ve sort of modeled it after a late night talk show and interviewed all these individuals,” Resource Development Coordinator Judi-Ann Lausier said. “Hopefully their family and friends who would normally attend will tune in and watch it at their leisure.”

The 2020 Change Maker Award is being presented to Plymouth Keys for Kindness, an organization founded in 2015 by the University of Connecticut, in partnership with the Plymouth Family Resource Center and United Way. Participants led projects to better their community, promoting kindness and helping others.

Their work grew to the point where Plymouth Mayor David Merchant designated a town-wide Day of Kindness this past April.

The Collaborative Excellence Award will go to the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame, honoring the city’s rich history in athletics. Since being founded in 1997, the organization has honored more than 60 local athletes whose record-setting achievements have made long-lasting impacts on and off the playing field.

“They really have a way of reaching out and mentoring student-athletes to get them prepared to be role models and leaders,” Lausier said of this group, which collaborates with schools in town to select individuals worthy of recognition.

The Rising Star Award is going to Agape House, a faith-based organization that serves the homeless out of a non-denominational church on School Street in Bristol.

Christine and Eugene Thebarge sought to fill in the gaps in services for people living in encampments and on the streets of Bristol when they founded this non-profit center. The Agape House provides everything from clothing to coffee to job-seeking assistance and budgeting advice to help those in need get back on their feet.

The late Sheila Kelley is this year’s Spirit of Caring Award recipient. Kelley, who worked at Webster Bank in Bristol, passed away April 28, 2019 just a few weeks after finding out she had terminal cancer. Kelley volunteered at many United Way fundraisers and organized Bristol’s annual holiday lights program. She is remembered by many who knew her as caring, knowledgeable, funny and fiercely loyal individual.

“She touched a lot of people over the years,” Lausier said. “With her infectious smile she is truly a spirit of community.”

Finally, the Youth Live United Award is being presented to four youngsters in United Way’s Kids in the Middle program from schools across the region.

The recipients are Rachel Griffin, of West Bristol School; Greyson Borra, the Middle School of Plainville; Nathan Misluk, Har-bur Middle School, Burlington; and Jenna Wildman, Eli Terry Jr. Middle School, Plymouth.

Through their participation in the KIM initiative, these four students have made an impact on their school communities. The award is sponsored by Webster Bank and the Barnes Group, Inc.

The 2020 Community Builders Awards Show: “Let’s Talk United” will be hosted by Jena Doolittle, a longtime volunteer and youth advocate. Tune in Sept. 22 at

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth on Sunday, 13 September 2020 17:44. Updated: Sunday, 13 September 2020 18:08.