Celebrating Pandemic Workers and Volunteers
Edited by Joseph Montebello
Instead of our annual list of the 25 Most we are shining the light on those who have been at the forefront helping others during the pandemic. This is but a sampling of the many local people who deserve our gratitude and appreciation for rallying during these troubled times. We thank you all.
Heidi Johnson, assistant chief of Washington Ambulance Association, led the all-volunteer Emergency Medical Services through the protocols and training to safely respond to the pandemic. Additionally she continued to work as an EMT in New Milford.
Dr. Paul Nee, infectious disease specialist at Nuvance Health, which includes Sharon and New Milford Hospitals, treated the first COVID-19 patient in CT and has been working 24/7 ever since. He has directed patient care and led all efforts to properly protect hospital staffs.
The Litchfield Community Center never closed its doors. Berta Andrulis Mette and her staff organized and collaborated with fellow organizations and volunteer groups to collect and deliver food and essentials to needy families and the elderly.
Owen Quinn, Director of the United Way of Northwest CT and former mayor of Torrington, took on the leadership of organizing the overflow of the homeless in shelters and arranged housing in the former St. Mary’s school building, offering them solace, safety, and food.
Litchfield Distillery co-owners and brothers Jack, David, and Peter Baker decided early on to pivot from spirits to producing hand sanitizer and donating over 100,000 bottles. They set up a donation jar and raised over $41,000, which was donated to FISH.
Maria Gonzalez is Director/Manager of Community Services at New Opportunities and was key in working with the homeless and hungry/food insecure, especially for the Spanish speaking population.
Dr. Kenneth Blazier, anesthesiologist at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, has been treating COVID-19 patients who have suffered from the harrowing effects of the virus. He has been on the frontline of care and service round the clock, experiencing both death and recovery.
Kathy Minck started a Food Rescue program in Northwest CT in 2016. To date she and her team have delivered 1.3 million meals to needy individuals. During the pandemic her donations to local food banks have been a godsend to many neighboring communities.
Rosamond Quay has served as volunteer coordinator for The Pantry at St. Michael’s in Litchfield since its inception in 2017. During the pandemic she and her team worked tirelessly to feed those in need, relying on donations from the community.
Shelby Newkirk, assistant nurse manager for critical care at Danbury Hospital, made it her mission to keep patients in touch with their families via facetime and printing and laminating photos of patients with their families to quell loneliness and fear.
Michael Lyn Cappello serves as Litchfield’s Social Services Coordinator. During the pandemic she worked as a CERT volunteer distributing food boxes and grocery shopping for high-risk residents and assisting with vaccination schedules.
George Noujaim, owner of Noujaim’s Bistro in Winsted, created meals for FISH shelter and residents who were in desperate need of food and supplied the necessary ingredients to keep up the demand for meals.
Christopher Leone, Superintendent of School for Regional School District 6 and Litchfield Public Schools, orchestrated the reopening of schools and provided more in-person education than nearly every other school district and at the same time providing safety to students.
Deirdre Houlihan DiCara, executive director of FISH, kept the frontline services going and explored new sources for food and housing support despite a steep increase in requests and made sure that everyone who needed food and shelter received them.
High Watch Recovery, recognizing a need for vaccine distribution in the Northwest Corner, obtained licenses and approvals, bought proper refrigeration, and opened a clinic in Kent Barns, which vaccinated nearly 400 people each day.
Nancy Heaton has been Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Community Health in Sharon since 2004. During the pandemic, in addition to the usual services, she arranged and orchestrated grants to support the needs of people affected by COVID.
David and Deborah Brenner, of Bantam Market and Northfield Market, supplied free masks and gloves for the safety of their shoppers. They partnered with Food Rescue US NWCT and were the largest donors contributing fresh food to all the local pantries.
John VandenBosch, owner of G.W. Tavern in Washington Depot, gave away free dinners on Tuesday nights at the beginning of the pandemic and later offered a free dinner with purchase to share with a needy family.
Michele Martyn, working at a New Milford pharmacy, which is essential to the health of the community, made sure that everyone who required COVID assistance received it and answered questions and offered solace as needed.
Lori Kibbe Lindenmuth, clinical liaison for Elara Caring in Torrington, became a CERT volunteer and created a sewing group to make masks for hospital and front line staff. Her goal was 100; to date they have completed more than 5000.