United Way honors community builders

The United Way of Milford presented its community builders awards at a dinner Wednesday at the Costa Azzurra, honoring people who are making a difference in Milford.
Champion of Caring
Jorge Santiago, senior vice president of the Milford Bank, received the Champion of Caring award.

Santiago has been active in the community since he started working for The Milford Bank in 2005, participating in the bank's efforts to raise money for the Food 2 Kids program and for local veterans support organizations.

He serves on the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Club, he’s treasurer of the Get In Touch Foundation and was chairman of the Stratford Chamber of Commerce. He’s also past vice president of the Milford Education Foundation, and volunteered with the United Way to help with grant distribution as part of the City's Long Term recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy.
Meeting Critical Needs
Kevin McGrath received the Meeting Critical Needs award.

McGrath has been a leader of the Milford Democratic Town Committee and has volunteered for Milford Hospital, the Milford Board of Education, the Milford Kiwanis Club, Keeping Milford Warm and other organizations.

“It is about the time and energy that he has devoted to the Keeping Milford Warm program that Kevin has been nominated for a Community Builders Award for Meeting Critical Needs,” states a write-up about the awards. “In 2012, Kevin, as then-president of the Milford Kiwanis Club, became aware of the Milford Salvation Army Service Unit's emergency fuel assistance program. Some of the funds raised in Milford by the Milford Salvation Army Service Unit were dedicated to the families who were identified as in need of emergency home heating oil. Emergency calls were received in the fall during the first cold days when seniors and or families with children ran out of oil and had no resources available to keep themselves and their families warm.

“Through Kevin's efforts, the board of the Kiwanis Club approved participating with the Milford Salvation Army Service Unit in assisting Milford residents who were struggling to keep warm during the fall and winter months. Under Kevin's leadership, Keeping Milford Warm has gained its non-profit status.”
Lifetime Achievement award
Marcy Winkel received the Lifetime Achievement award.

Winkel has been working at Milford Hospital for the past 22 years as the director of social work, responding to needs when other community agencies look for help with health care requests.

The stories of her daily life demonstrate her compassion.

“When faced with a youth on life support she responded with compassion to the family while offering empathy at this critical time so necessary when sympathy would not be enough,” wrote one of her associates.

“If patients come into the hospital with young children, and relatives and friends are not available to care for the child, Marcy reaches out to the community to meet this singular need of a patient, so that a devoted husband can remain at the bedside of his wife.”
Strengthening Families
Joan Canavan received the Strengthening Families award. Canavan has been volunteering as the treasurer of the Salvation Army Milford Service Unit for the past 10 years.

As a member of the Parent Leadership Training Institute class of 2014, Canavan’s community project was to reorganize and streamline the United Way’s annual backpack program.

“As anyone who walks into the United Way office during the month of August will know, Joan spends countless hours collecting and sorting school supplies and filling hundreds of backpacks which are then distributed through the Board of Education and the Milford Human Services Department,” according to a United Way write up about the award.

For the past six years, Canavan also has been a volunteer for the Emma Davis Medical Equipment Ministry, which provides free used medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and hospital beds to people in need from all over the state.
Nurturing Children award
The United Way also recognized the Milford Food 2 Kids program with the Nurturing Children award.

Milford Food 2 Kids was created at the First United Church of Christ to help bridge a gap by feeding the neediest children. It serves more than 160 students from 13 schools, making sure children go home with kid-friendly bags of food to last through the weekend.
Spirit of Milford award
Roberta Nestor received the Spirit of Milford award.

In 2014, Nestor Financial created a program called "birthday wishes" for the Boys and Girls Club of Milford. Nestor learned that some of the children never had a birthday cake due to their family situations.

“She thought, wouldn't it be great if every child had a home­made birthday cake,” according to the United Way.

Since then the staff at the club notifies her of a child's upcoming birthday as well as their age. Her clients bake the cakes and she supplies the cake mix, icing, boxes of candles, cards and decorations.

Also, for the last 13 years Nestor Financial has supported "a billion acts of green" for Earth Day by holding a shred day, Chemo Caps for Kids, and collections for troops stationed overseas.

“Roberta deserves this award because it is commendable for a business leader to put this much effort into giving back to those in need,” wrote a colleague in support of the award.
Distinguished Service award
Susan Patrick received the Distinguished Service award for her impact on the Walnut Beach community.

Patrick moved to Milford in 1994.

“I fell in love with the town and started getting involved in different groups such as the Get In Touch Foundation, the Economic Development Commission and Milford Respect,” she said. “All that time I would bring my children to the Audubon Center and drive past the old post office on Broadway. When the building went on the market I decided to open the Walnut Beach Creamery in 2007. It's been my great pleasure to work in this neighborhood.”

She serves on the board of the Boys & Girls Club and the Walnut Beach Arts & Business Association, which just received its non-profit status.

“I'm looking forward to many more years living and working in Milford,” Patrick said.