The Kennedy Center Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting celebrated “Empowerment: The Power of Your Voice,” For over 66 years, this nationally accredited rehabilitation agency has been successfully empowering thousands of individuals with disabilities to lead more productive lives.
Gian-Carl Casa, the President and CEO of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, was the event’s keynote speaker. He presented an eye opening overview of how nonprofits such as The Kennedy Center benefit all of us and provide cost-effective programs and services.
The highlight of the evening was the awards ceremony, when area employers, and Kennedy Center clients and volunteers were recognized for outstanding achievements.
The Corporate VIP (Very Important Partner) Award was presented to Pullman & Comley, LLC, for their ongoing support and commitment to The Kennedy Center and to the individuals with disabilities they serve. This award is given to a business, service provider or agency that has demonstrated long term commitment to The Kennedy Center and its clients in the form of employment opportunities, pro bono services and/or support. This year’s recipient has provided The Kennedy Center with invaluable pro bono legal services in all capacities for approximately 40 years. Several of their associates have been members of our Board of Directors, served as Chair of our Board, as well as in leadership positions on our Investment, Nominating, Board Advisory and Personnel/By-Laws Committees.
One of the other highest honors, the Evelyn Kennedy Silver Bowl Award, was bestowed upon Robert D. Chessin, M.D. of Fairfield. Over the past 35 years, he has severed as a volunteer, advocate, and advisor to The Kennedy Center. His contributions have included serving as a member of the Board of Directors, Chairman of the Legislative Committee, a member of the Marketing and Strategic Planning Committee, while regularly sharing ongoing medical expertise for the individuals we serve. This accomplished awardee is an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Yale University School of Medicine. At Bridgeport Hospital, he is Chief of the Section of Child Development and Director of the Learning and Developmental Disability Clinic; and since 1978, has been in private practice with Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Bridgeport and Huntington.
Electri-Cable Assemblies of Shelton was named Supported Employer of the Year for providing Kennedy Center clients with the opportunities to learn and gain useful skills in a positive and constructive work environment. The Kennedy Center clients are always treated with great respect and dignity, plus are included in many employee activities.
Since 2011, the Bridgeport Bluefish has been working with The Kennedy Center. This baseball team received the Competitive Employer of the Year Award for finding competitive employment for Kennedy Center clients as well as seasonal work. This generous employer also donates an area of their concourse every May to The Kennedy Center to promote mental health awareness and Kennedy Center Employment Services.
Shaileen Ramirez of Bridgeport was recognized as the Supported Employee of the Year for her strong work ethic and respect for others. She is always on task, takes initiative and demonstrates a willingness to work at different job sites. She is a dedicated employee and supportive colleague.
Michael Lombardo of Trumbull is the deserving winner of the Competitive Employee of the Year. After graduating from Trumbull High, he participated in transitional services through The Kennedy Center’s Partner’s Program and then was transferred to The Kennedy Center’s Placement Services. He has been working at several Chip’s Restaurant for four years.
Vera Gjidoda of Ansonia, a remarkable individual who embodies perseverance and hope, received the James Rebeta Client Achievement. After sustaining a traumatic brain injury from a tragic accident in 1982, her family cared for her for 30 years. In 2015, she was referred to The Kennedy Center’s Acquired Brain Injury Department, where she regained a level of independence, increased her vocabulary and relearned skills of daily living. She now volunteers at My Sister’s Place and My Sister’s Attic of Ansonia.
The Bob Brown Volunteer of the Year Award, in recognition of an extraordinary man and an exceptional volunteer, was presented to Sandye Mann of Fairfield. This selfless volunteer provides pet therapy to Kennedy Center clients at over ten programs with the help of Bosun, her chocolate Labrador retriever. This special volunteer and her loveable four-legged-friend start their day by meeting and greeting program participants with warmth and compassion.
The recipient of Youth Volunteer of the Year Award was Brendan Flynn of Fairfield. He has dedicated the last four years to working with children in the Autism Project and Lighthouse After-School Program. He has become a peer mentor, assisting students with homework and other social, academic and recreational activities. He has proven himself an excellent role model by demonstrating reliability, commitment and consistency to the children he mentors.
Alan White of Trumbull is a dedicated person who has fulfilled various needs of The Kennedy Center because of his strong desire to help those with disabilities. As winner of the Community Service Award, he has hired Kennedy Center clients to work for the Town of Trumbull and secured contracts for The Kennedy Center’s scanning and cleaning businesses.