STAMFORD, Conn. — The United Way of Western Connecticut gave thanks to those who give back during its annual Volunteer Day awards ceremony in Stamford on Friday.
More than 30 Stamford residents — ranging in age from high schoolers to seniors — were recognized for their volunteer contributions to the Stamford community.
Mayor David Martin said Stamford is “blessed” to have so many volunteers. “(They) make all the difference in the world,” he said.
United Way Executive Vice President Bridget Fox said Stamford residents “truly care about their neighbors and the community.” The volunteers help others throughout the year — not just in times of crisis.
With all the dedicated volunteers in Stamford, the selection committee had a difficult time choosing who to honor.
“This year we struggled over this excellent batch of nominees,” said Sandy Weinberg, who was on the awards committee. “All of you should be very proud.”
The highest award went to Donald Axleroad, who was named volunteer of the year. Axleroad volunteers with ARI of CT Inc., a nonprofit that helps those in the community with disabilities.
He is no stranger to those at ARI. “If something is going on at ARI, Don is somehow involved,” ARI’s Manager of Development and Recreation Gerard Gasparino said.
Axleroad has welcomed ARI art students into his home studio for years, where they create art that often goes on exhibit in local galleries. When Axleroad started volunteering, he hosted a few people in the studio. Now, he hosts close to 20.
Axleroad said he has seen the personalities of many ARI students change for the better after visiting his studio. One client in particular would only draw straight lines, but one day Axleroad encouraged him to draw triangles to make a sailboat. Today the student draws many different shapes, including the one of the furtherest from a straight line — an oval.
Axleroad said his studio creates an upbeat atmosphere. They go out of their way to compliment each other on their work.
“These students are delightful, and they’re loving,” he said.
Axleroad — and the nearly 30 other award recipients — were nominated by community leaders for achievement and commitment to the Stamford community. All deserve the honor, CEO of United Way of Western Connecticut Kim Morgan said.
“It is so important to recognize the helpers amongst us who diligently and quietly work to meet the needs of the community,” Morgan said.
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