Sterling House honors volunteers

Sterling House Community Center recently celebrated its Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at Vazzano’s Four Seasons while also remembering two special teens, Debbie Diaz and Erin Jockers.

The Stratford-based not-for-profit community service agency also presented the Mary Hardy Award to one of its own — Board of Directors member Beth Benson for volunteer service “above and beyond.”

Sterling House Executive Director Amanda Meeson welcomed the contingent or more than 150 persons with praise and thanks for the service of the hundreds of volunteers. “You are what makes Sterling House what it is — a Stratford community asset.

“Tonight, we recognize a special selection of our volunteers in memory of three incredible females in Sterling House history: Debbie Diaz, Erin Jockers and Mary Hardy — all of whom embodied the spirit of community service and helped forward the mission of Sterling House,” Meeson said.

“And what has been the impact of volunteers at Sterling House?” she asked.

  • More than $180,000 has been raised via special events
  • More than 10,000 volunteer hours recorded serving programs

In all, volunteers have impacted “more than 8,000 people,” including 1,000 in athletic programs, 1,000 in child development and youth programs, 1,000 who support and participate in our annual events, more than 1,000 in visitors and community groups who utilize the house, and more than 4,000 people served by the Food Pantry and Resource Connection program, she said.

Sterling House Board Chair Jamie Millward then took to the podium to thank the volunteers and to then ask the audience to close their eyes and imagine a few things.

Imagine all the Sterling House youth teams without its volunteer coaches.

Imagine the Sterling House Food Pantry without its volunteer food contribution and workers.

Imagine no summer day camp.

Imagine no youth volunteers helping homeowners rake leaves in the fall and shovel snow in the winter.

Imagine our community without Sterling House volunteers, Millward continued.

Simply put, he said, without its volunteers there would be little left of Sterling House.

“You are Sterling House,” he concluded, thanking everyone “for your continuing community service.”

The evening also featured the presentation of the annual Diaz Awards in memory of Debbie Diaz who was lost at the age of the 16 in a car accident in 1993, presented by members of the Diaz family and Sterling House Senior Director Bill O’Brien. Award winners included:

Chris Gallant — Basketball Coach

Doug Planker — Soccer Coach

Jenis Peques — Basketball Referee

Kevin Quiles — Basketball Coach

Lenny Gonzalez — Soccer Coach, Sterling House Association

Luca Servino — Basketball & Soccer Coach

Matt Holmgren — Soccer Coach

Miquel Pamias — Basketball Coach

Mike Madar — Soccer Coach

Rafiqah Akhdar — Soccer Referee

Four area business and individuals — Encon, Stop & Shop, and Dave Estrella and Joe Mulligan from the Sterling House lacrosse program – were recognized with the Erin Jockers Friends of Sterling House Awards in memory of Erin Jockers, who was also killed in the car accident that took Debbie Diaz’s life.

Sterling House program and department staff then rose to recognize and ask to stand volunteers for their own programs, respectively, including for the front office, resource center/food pantry, youth programs, special events and athletics.

Last but not least, Sterling House Board Treasurer Beth Benson was called upon to accept The Mary Hardy Award for her many volunteer contributions during the last 12 months, Meeson said.

Any number of volunteer titles could be bestowed upon Beth, Meeson noted, among them: ice cream scooper, wallpaper stripper, house painter, museum-quality framer, Board treasurer, substitute bookkeeper for three months, event co-chair on the 85th anniversary committee, “a nurturer, advisor and cheerleader.”

“She brightens every room, her heart beats for Sterling House and she continues to be a living example of what commitment and service looks like – not only to us but in all the ways she lives her life.”

The award is named for former Sterling House executive director Mary Hardy who worked at Sterling House from 1933 until her retirement in 1978. Hardy died this past January in Stratford at the age of 101.

Longtime Sterling House volunteers Debbie Higgins and Mary Semedo.

Longtime Sterling House volunteers Debbie Higgins and Mary Semedo.

Beth Benson accepts the 2018 Mary Hardy Award from Sterling House Executive Director Amanda Meeson.

Beth Benson accepts the 2018 Mary Hardy Award from Sterling House Executive Director Amanda Meeson.

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