There’s an old Portuguese proverb that has deep relevance to the work of United Way. And, over the last few years, as United Way of Western Connecticut (UWWC) has focused their work on hard-working, struggling households called ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), that proverb has taken on new meaning.
“A caridade bem ordenada, por nós é começada.”
Simply translated, the proverb means “charity begins at home.” Home. To many immigrant and first-generation families like mine, home is sometimes hard to define. There is a deep love for where you are now, but an equally deep sense of pride and commitment to where you came from. To me, home is my family, my friends, my neighborhood, my community, my heritage.
When immigrants settle in towns, they seek the comfort of a welcoming community that will accept and embrace them, and help them in their times of need. That is the community that United Way seeks to strengthen and support.
United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. They support short-term, intermediate and long-term solutions to the challenges facing our neighbors living paycheck-to-paycheck through various programs, including a Mobile Food Pantry that provides fresh, healthy foods to working families, an ALICE Enrichment Fund that pays for out-of-school activities like sports and arts that help children learn important skills and a Financial Opportunity Center that pairs households in need with volunteer financial coaches to help families create a household budget, repair credit and build savings. United Way mobilizes our community’s best resources and trusted partners to help ALICE.
This important work that benefits all members of our local community, can only exist with support from everyone. We are grateful to all who help fund United Way’s work – generous corporate partners, local businesses, individual donors and volunteers. And we are grateful to all in the community who go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of others through philanthropy and volunteerism.
Each year, United Way hosts the Hometown Heroes Benefit Dinner to honor unsung heroes who give their time and treasure to make our communities wonderful and vibrant places to live. We celebrate their ceaseless spirit of giving back, their never-ending quest to find another way to raise up the lives of others and their desire to constantly reach out and touch the lives of those in their community.
This year, we are especially pleased to honor the leadership of Tribuna Newspaper and The New American Dream Foundation: Celia Bacelar-Palmares, Emanuela Palmares and Angela Barbosa. They are committed community leaders and advocates. Through Tribuna Newspaper, the largest trilingual publication in the state, they empower their immigrant and New American readers to become well-informed and civically engaged. They have since also established a nonprofit foundation, The New American Dream Foundation, which celebrates the cultural, social and economic contributions of all immigrants, while expressing the core American values of equal opportunity, progress and freedom in the areas of education, health and civic engagement. In all they do, Celia, Emanuela and Angela act as advocates for the immigrant experience, diversity, inclusion and American culture.
We are also pleased to honor Elmer Palma with the Small Business Hero Award at Hometown Heroes. A successful restaurateur, Elmer embodies the ethos of the American Dream. He has worked hard for his success, and in equal measure, gives back to his community in so many ways. We admire immensely his regular philanthropy on behalf of Danbury’s youth, including providing school supplies for children in need at the beginning of each school year. He serves on the Executive Board of Jericho Partnership, helping drive that organization’s great work. In addition, he serves as a member of the Danbury City Council, just one more example of his commitment to the citizens of the City of Danbury.
These are just some of this year’s Hometown Heroes who inspire us to give of ourselves, share what we can and help our neighbors and strangers alike.
As we approach the holiday season, there are so many opportunities to give back to those who have given to us. We encourage you to think about our Hometown Heroes and all the unsung heroes of our lives, make a commitment to give back in whatever way you can and find a way to knit yourself into our community’s indelible fabric. Charity begins at home, but ripples through a hometown, spreads exponentially through a community and inspires everyone it touches.