TORRINGTON — In honor of International Women’s Day, the United Way of Northwest Connecticut’s Women’s Leadership Initiative has named Maria Gonzalez as 2019 Woman of the Year.
The award is given to a deserving member of the community who has displayed tireless commitment and has made a considerable impact to the Greater Torrington area.
Gonzalez is the director and manager of Community Services of New Opportunities, an organization that seeks to improve the quality of life for economically disadvantaged individuals, according to the company website. Through her work with New Opportunities, Gonzalez collaborates with multiple agencies such as Friends In Service to Humanity, Girl Scouts of Connecticut, and the Youth Service Bureau, providing assistance to people in need.
Gonzalez serves on the board of directors of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut. She is also a founder of the Northwest CT Latina Women’s Association and works with Latino youth in Torrington and Winsted.
She is the developer of the Youth Opportunities Program, which includes tutoring, dance, and recreational activities for middle and high school students. She also created a new mentoring program at Torrington High School alongside the Multicultural Club, in addition to working with the Torrington Police Athletics League to organize back to school camps.
“I always enjoy working with Maria on community initiatives,” said Deirdre Houlihan DiCara, executive director of FISH and a member of the Women’s Leadership Initiative. “She was instrumental in the Working Cities Challenge spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce. She is a leader and role model in our community, always with a smile, caring nature, generosity, and willingness to create opportunities for others. She is most deserving of this award.”
The Women’s Leadership Initiative is giving two additional awards: Organization of the Year and Best Supporting Woman in the Role of Fellowship and Service.
The Organization of the Year is being awarded to The Women & Girls Fund of the Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut. Established in 1999 by a small group of women who shared a concern for the real-life needs of local women and girls, the Women and Girls Fund has grown to more than 200 supporters who help women and girls develop economic self-sufficiency by means of education, financial literacy and social services. This past year, the Women & Girls Fund contributed an estimated total of $10,000 in grant funds to benefit local women and girls.
The Best Supporting Woman in the Role of Fellowship and Service is awarded to Gail Marchand, a former educator and lifelong volunteer. Marchand spent much of her time impacting those around her when volunteering with the Visiting Nurse Services, Friends of Hospice, Friends of LARC, the Festival of Trees, Brooker Memorial leading the Angel Tree project and a Member of the Board of Corporators, Miles for Moe, and the United Way. She has been an advocate for the Girls Scouts of Northwestern Connecticut, where she served on the Board of Directors for more than 20 years and acting as a Girl Scout Leader to many young women in the community.
“Gail Marchand exudes the true meaning of an unsung hero, one who graciously gives to others through good deeds while impacting our community. Her continuous acts of kindness and compassion for others over the years have been significant yet she is selfless in her own right,” said Kara Paganini-Muth, co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Initiative.
All three will be honored at the seventh annual Woman of the Year Gala and Fundraiser, held on May 10th at the Torrington Country Club. For tickets, visit https://woy2019.eventbrite.com or call the United Way office at (860) 489-4131.
Funds raised from the gala will support the annual Girl's Leadership Summit, held in October. This program for 200 eighth grade girls from the northwest corner, is designed to teach skills for navigating the teenage years, to build self confidence and self-esteem, and to inspire them to set goals so as to achieve their dreams.
In 2012, the United Way of Northwest CT created the Women's Leadership Initiative, a strong team of women with a clear mission to mobilize the power of women to advance the Common Good in our communities. Members include: Co-chairpersons Kara Muth and Lisa Ferris; and members Kathy Briggs, Angela Calabrese, Emily Cole, Cathy Coyle, Lida Currier, Deirdre DiCara, Meghan Giampaolo, Margaret Kwasniewski, Katlin Marchand, Candy Perez, Jenna Reichen, Chelsea Rimbach, student Ambassador, Colleen Sullivan, Carla Dubois and executive director of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, Owen Quinn.