Chernecky to be honored as Bethany Citizen of the Year

If you think a mother of four has enough on her hands, you haven't met this year's Bethany Citizen of the Year, Kim Chernecky. A passion for caring and a commitment to action garnered Chernecky the award. She will receive the honor at the annual spaghetti supper scheduled for Saturday, April 1 at the Bethany Town Hall. Chernecky has asked that all those attending bring a nonperishable food item to the event.

"Kim is being honored for her tireless efforts on behalf of those struggling with poverty, abuse, illness and misfortune," says citizen of the year nominating committee chair, Steve Thornquist. "Kim is a self-starter who combines the Yankee virtues of independence and ingenuity with a sense of neighborly caring that is hard to miss", he adds. "She doesn't waste time worrying about obstacles. She just gets in there and does it."

In 1988 spurred by her own experiences, Chernecky decided to do something to help the less fortunate and founded Concerned Citizens to Aid the Needy, a group she still leads. With a corps of approximately 12 volunteers, Chernecky collects clothing, toys, food and housewares which are distributed both to families in Bethany and to the Christian Community Action family shelter in New Haven.

Trained as travel agent, the mother of four is a certified Disney expert (a graduate of "The College of Disney Knowledge") who specializes in family vacations and leisure travel. Chernecky also works four days a week in the office of Dr. George Tzepos in Seymour. "But you only have to talk to Kim for a few moments to realize that her real passion is caring for those in need," comments Thornquist.

Despite all her responsibilities, Chernecky spends hours each week helping those who are struggling. "I just think that if people need help, we should help them," she says. Chernecky, who lived in Bethany for several years as a teenager, returned to town as a young bride and has been busy ever since.

She regularly spends her day off picking up, sorting and delivering items. Whether it is clothing, food, a birthday gift, a ride to a court date or just a friendly phone call, Chernecky is never too busy to lend a hand.

Chernecky is also a board member and active volunteer with Mothers Protecting Children in Ansonia. Named one of the Points of Light organizations by President George Bush, the group advocates on behalf of parents and children who have been abused. Making phone calls, referrals and helping with court contacts, the group has been focusing recently on legislative action. "We finally realized that we could have the most impact by trying to change and strengthen the laws involving child and spousal abuse," says Chernecky.

One of her four children, Janice, Jennifer, Johnny and Jason - often accompanies Chernecky on her rounds. "I think it is important for children to start thinking about others at a young age," she says. "When two of my children wrote that they wished for would peace and an end to hunger in the new millennium, I was so proud of them," she adds.

In keeping with this spirit, Chernecky has involved classes from the Amity Junior and Senior High School and from the Bethany Community School in projects ranging from food drives to collections of children's socks and underwear. She also solicits gifts from stores as well as from individuals.

At Christmas time, CCAN, matches approximately 100 needy children with sponsors who insure that every child gets a gift. For the past several years, Chrenecky has worked with a group that solicits sponsors from among the employees of Bic Corporation in Milford.

Items are also donated to Silver Shields, a program run by minority officers in the New Haven Police Department who distribute toys throughout the underprivileged community.

Anything extra, Chernecky stores for the next year. Her garage, basement and van are filled with items waiting to be cleaned, pressed and/or packaged for delivery. In fact, according to Chernecky, one of her biggest needs is a place to store everything. "I could really use a space to store and sort all of the items we receive, "she says. "With four children, I run out of space fast, especially at Christmas time."

Chernecky would love to find a location either in a private home or garage, or in a local business where she could store items. She also needs volunteers to help sort and package donations on a regular basis. Anyone interested in helping out can give Kim a call at 393-3728.

The 20th annual spaghetti supper will take place at the Bethany Town Hall Saturday, April 1. Doors open at 6 p.m. There will be a wine and cheese hour with a big screen television for viewing the final four. The event is sponsored by the Bethany Democratic Town Committee. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for children under 12 and $50 for patrons. Table reservations are available. For information or to make a reservation call 393-1184.