Happy Independence Day, time for family, honoring service members

July 4, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

This week, here in Middlesex County and around our great country, we celebrate Independence Day. The Fourth of July holiday is synonymous with patriotism, fireworks, and enjoying the summer weather with family and friends. While we enjoy these celebrations and take pride in our national heritage, we should all take a moment to recognize the servicemen and servicewomen of the United States Armed Forces who protect this independence on a daily basis. Over two centuries ago, the predecessors of our service people battled to assure this country’s freedom. The servicemen and servicewomen of today have taken on the responsibility of defending our freedom at home and around the globe. I know that Memorial Day and Veterans Day are dedicated to those we lost and to those who have served, but we must also honor them on the day that we celebrate the birth of our nation. I hope that we all keep our servicemen and women in our thoughts and prayers, not only today, but every day. I wish everyone in Middlesex County a safe, happy and healthy Independence Day, because America is certainly worth celebrating.

The 2016 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program will begin next Monday, July 11 with the work experience portion of the program. We are proud to once again put over 80 kids to work this summer in constructive employment environments throughout the city. Last Thursday featured two separate orientation sessions which introduced program participants to the important concepts of tax withholding forms, work time recording sheets, signing an employee code of conduct contract, and professionalism in the workplace. Liberty Bank Community Outreach Officer and AVP of Community Development Rosa Carrero gave a financial literacy presentation to the students and offered tips on best practices for cashing or depositing a paycheck and setting up bank accounts. Over 45 businesses and organizations in Middletown will serve as host worksites this summer. It is, of course, critical that we have host worksites stepping up to the plate to provide the work and supervision that is necessary to truly make this an effective workforce development initiative. I would like to thank all of our host worksites for being a part of this program and for their ongoing support. Clearly, this program would not be possible without the strong support of our funding partners. I thank all of them on behalf of the chamber for their unbelievable support of the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program, and the many other community initiatives that they support throughout the year. Our 2016 team of funding partners is as follows: Workforce Alliance, under the leadership of President & CEO Bill Villano, the City of Middletown, under the leadership of Mayor Dan Drew and the Common Council, Peach Pit Foundation, under the leadership of Sharon Griffin, Community Foundation of Middlesex County, under the leadership of President & CEO Cynthia Clegg,  Liberty Bank Foundation, under the leadership of Executive Director Sue Murphy, Jarvis Products Corporation, under the leadership of company President Vin Volpe, MiddleOak, under the leadership of CEO Gary Vallo, Pegasus Manufacturing, under the leadership of company President Chris DiPentima, Greenwald Industries, under the leadership of Managing Director Len Samela, Guilmartin, DiPiro & Sokolowski, under the leadership of Mike DiPiro and a wonderful team of partners, Middlesex United Way, under the leadership of President & CEO Kevin Wilhelm, and Season’s Federal Credit Union, under the leadership of President & CEO Keith Wiemert. All of these local supporters are providing a quality work experience to youngsters who need it, and in most cases, it is their very first work experience. As I have noted in the past, this program is truly developing the future of the workforce. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the efforts of Program Coordinator and chamber Workforce Development Director Lorenzo Marshall. This program is a major project with a lot of moving parts. Lorenzo has a history of leading community-based initiatives that support the young people of Middletown and the surrounding areas. I appreciate his good work and thank him for service to the chamber.

The chamber’s Central Business Bureau will meet this Thursday, July 7 at 8:00 a.m. in the chamber conference room. Mayor Dan Drew and a number of City of Middletown Department Directors will give reports on the many issues of importance to the downtown business community. The Central Business Bureau continues to be an effective way in which we connect downtown businesses to key city officials and other community leaders. Thursday’s meeting is sponsored by The Hop Knot.

The chamber will host two sessions of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training on Tuesday, July 12. The first session will begin at 8:00 a.m., and the second session 10:15 a.m. The definition of sexual harassment, liability (your own and your organization's), and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace will be discussed. Attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis, LLP will demonstrate how to limit your company's exposure to charges of sexual harassment. This session meets the State of Connecticut's requirement for two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for supervisors and managers. This session is a key component of our First Niagara Workshop Series which has been very successful, and I want to again thank our friends at First Niagara for their support of this important series for our members.

On Monday, July 18, the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell will host a members-only Business After Work networking reception from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. We expect a nice crowd for what is sure to be a fun night of country fair themed networking and festivities. As I noted last week, the Courtyard team always does a terrific job with this annual networking event which will feature a great spread of food and drinks, and outstanding summer networking for our guests. Chamber members should also save the date for our August 16th Business After Work Networking reception at the Water’s Edge Resort and Spa in Westbrook.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce 2016 Women in Business Leadership Conference, Luncheon, and Health & Wellness Fair will be held on Thursday, July 28 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Sponsored by Citizens Bank, the event will feature Keynote Luncheon Speaker Faith Salie who appears on CBS News Sunday Morning and is the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Approval Junkie.” The program will also feature Gina Barreca, the brilliant weekly columnist from the Hartford Courant, Grace Killelea, “The Confidence Effect” author and highly sought after keynote speaker who is appearing at the conference thanks to the support of Comcast, and Kara Sundlun, two-time Emmy award winning news anchor for WFSB. The event will kick off with a networking breakfast buffet followed by remarks from Master of Ceremonies Kara Sundlun. Gina Barreca will then lead an interactive discussion titled, “Smart, Loud, Funny Women: The Importance of Getting loud, Getting love, Getting ahead, Getting the first draw (or the last shot)”. Two exciting breakout sessions will follow Gina’s presentation. Grace Killelea will lead a session which will explore “The Confidence Effect.” The discussion will center on reputation, relationships, results and resiliency. Kara Sundlun will lead a session titled “Know it… Own it… Rock it… with Kara.” Kara is a terrific local reporter and I appreciate that she has agreed to once again participate in our Women in Business Conference. Both of these breakout sessions will run twice, at 9:45 a.m., and at 10:45 a.m., so all attendees will have the opportunity to experience both. The Keynote Luncheon and Book Signing featuring Faith Salie will begin at 12:00 p.m.  Faith is an Emmy-winning contributor to CBS News Sunday Morning and a panelist on NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! She also hosts the PBS show, Science Goes To The Movies. As a commentator on politics and pop culture, she's been interviewed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Bill O'Reilly, and Anderson Cooper. As a television and public radio host, she herself has interviewed newsmakers from Lorne Michaels to President Carter to Robert Redford. “Approval Junkie” is a collection of daring, funny essays chronicling the author's adventures during her lifelong quest for approval. We are already experiencing strong interest in our 2016 Women in Business Leadership Conference, Luncheon and Health & Wellness Fair, and I thank our friends at Citizens Bank for sponsoring. For more information or to register online, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.

I want to close this week’s column by acknowledging the passing of Sebastiano J. Santostefano who passed away recently at the age of 80. Sebastiano was the proud owner of Santostefano Auto Body in Middletown for over 40 years. His granddaughters, Adriana and Sabrina Indomenico, now run the business and we appreciate their membership in the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Sebby was a fine local businessman who loved many things in life but nothing more than his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family and his vast network of friends at this difficult time. Sebastiano J. Santostefano will be missed.