Photo by Fred Ortoli

The Valley Council for Health and Human Services presented the following 2015 Awards:

 This year’s Program of The Year Award will be presented to Masters Table Community Meals Program. James Fedak Jr’s mission is to feed all who are hungry and while growing up and volunteering at various soup kitchens, Jim Fedak, had a vision of someday opening his own. Jim shared his vision with some close friends and they agreed the valley needed a community meal program. Established in 2011, Ansonia, Ct., Masters Table Community Meals provides meals and clothing one Sunday a month at Assumption Church. It is sustained by committed and compassionate volunteers and also, by the generous contributions of donors. Master’s Table provides hope for a better future.

The Lewis Savitsky Staff Excellence Award, named in honor of a long-time Valley United Way employee and community leader, is presented to individuals for excellence in their roles as employees in the nonprofit community. This year’s honoree is Life-long Valley resident, Nick Gentile, who has been serving our community for more than four decades. His service began in 1973 when he became a volunteer firefighter in Ansonia’s Charter Hose Company of which he is still a member. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s Nick served on Ansonia town committees including the Zoning Board of Appeals and on the Housing Authority, including serving as its chairman. Nick also worked with Ansonia children as a school-based mentor.

Since 2013 Nick has been working as a Workforce Specialist for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program of The WorkPlace. He has combed woods, streets, and vacant buildings to locate and engage homeless veterans into this rapid rehousing program. He also helps the unemployed and under-employed veterans connect with employment and services that will support their becoming stably housed.

However, Nick, a veteran himself, does not stop there.  He is committed to learn about all possible resources to help veterans. While his job is not case management, case management begins in his initial meetings with veterans.  He connects them with needed resources, guides them through application processes for VA and public services, orders their veteran status documentation, etc., so that by the time the veteran meets with the case manager, they have already begun application processes to receive benefits and services.

In addition, Nick participates in community activities after hours and on weekends still wearing his veteran-service hat networking and doing outreach.  He established a Veteran resource fair at his own VFW post, inviting local service providers and spreading the word through organizations serving the Valley’s veterans.  He also volunteered to become certified to conduct the eligibility assessment for other agencies to expedite application processing for his veterans’ receipt of services.

Nick is very committed to providing the highest level of quality, effective services homeless veterans that are significantly above and beyond his job description.  He is the kind of staff member that every program manager dreams of, but few have the good fortune to work with.

The Richard O. Belden Community Service Award, named in honor of late State representative Richard O. Belden, is given to an individual or group whose efforts have made a significant contribution to improving the quality of life of Valley residents. The Council will present the 2014 Belden award to Harry Burlakoff, who immediately after opening his business Minute Man Press in 2009 began giving back to the community. He joined his local Chamber, along with the Seeds to Leads Networking Group. Harry is an active member of the Valley United Way’s Corporate Volunteer Council as well as the Shelton Exchange Club. Giving is truly in his nature and he truly cares about our Valley. He goes above and beyond assisting countless non-profits in our region. He is a member of the Leadership Greater Valley Class of 2015 and recipient of the 44th Annual Gold Seal Award for outstanding community service.