The Community Fund of Darien honored 52 volunteers for their continued service dedication the town on Friday, May 17, at the 34th annual Darien Volunteer Recognition Day.

For some, like Carrie Bernier, participation in the event was new.

Bernier is six weeks into her new role as the executive director of the Community Fund of Darien.

"I thought it was a fantastic day to celebrate all the volunteerism in Darien and to recognize all the works being downtown-wide to support important causes," Bernier said. Though Bernier has not received a volunteer recognition award, she hopes to someday. For now, choosing who to recognize can have its challenges.

"The hardest thing is there are so many wonderful people," Bernier said. "It's hard to narrow it down from each agency and you wish you could give it to everyone."

Each year, agencies in town nominate a member from within the agency to receive the volunteer recognition award.

Volunteers from groups such as the Darien Arts Center, the Garden Club of Darien, the Open Door Shelter and many others received awards.

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Honorees of the 34th annual Darien Volunteer Recognition Day:
Rick Brook, A Better Chance in Darien;
Peter Eder, Aging in Place+Gallivant;
Mary Waller, AmeriCares Free Clinics;
Matt Pettit, Carver Foundation of Norwalk;
Carol Glassmeyer, Darien Arts Center;
Oscar Ruiz-Diaz, Darien Book Aid;
Laurie Griffith, Darien Chamber of Commerce;
Chris Filmer and Sig Buchmayr, Darien Community Association;
Catherine Ellis, Darien EMS-Post 53;
Kristin Edwards, Darien Foundation;
Tammy Sload, Darien High School;
Erika Morro, Darien High School Parents Association;
Nancy Lione, Darien Historical Society;
Jennifer Geddes, Darien Human Services Department;
Charlie Goodyear, Darien Land Trust; Janet Satterfield, Darien Senior Activities Center;
Kate Fitzmaurice, Darien Youth Commission;
Rita Bailey, Domestic Violence Crisis Center;
Stasha Cohen, Family & Children's Agency;
Carl Goodnow, Family Centers;
Stasha Cohen, Family and Children's Agency;
Susan Balloch, Garden Club of Darien;
Tricia Bresnahan, Holmes School PTO;
Jerre Skeats, Inspirica;
Meagan Collins and Gyongyi Gulyas, Kids in Crisis;
Nora McIlree, League of Women Voters-Darien;
Marc and Barbara Thorne, Literacy Volunteers;
Midge Lopat, Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum;
Caroline Golino, Maritime Aquarium;
Dr. Josephine Velazquez-Ruquoi and Jessie Rucquoi, Neighbor's Link;
Debra Talwalkar, Norwalk Grassroots Tennis;
Pat Sabasteanski, Obie Harrington-Howes Foundation;
Bob McGee, Open Door Shelter;
Jennifer Fallon, Ox Ridge Elementary School;
Julie Forsyth and Tom Taylor, Person-to-Person;
Logan Etheredge, Person-to-Person Kid-to-Kid;
Alicia Lyon and Sue Trager, Royle Elementary School PTO;
Bob Locke, Salvation Army Darien Unit;
Emily Smalter, Silver Hill Hospital;
Ginny Lovas, St. Luke's Episcopal Church;
Ray Hodil, The Community Fund of Darien;
Susan Hamill, The Depot;
Arpita Mucchal and Susan Daly, Tokeneke Elementary School PTO;
Will Ardery and Katie Farren, Youth Community Fund;
Suzanne McCollum, YWCA of Darien-Norwalk;
The Transfer Station Advisory Committee was recognized by the Darien Board of Selectmen: Dot Kelly, Chairman, Carolyn Bayne, Susan Cameron, Craig Flaherty, David Genovese, Connie Melvin and Allison Stolar.

The luncheon started with a proclamation from First Selectman Jayme Stevenson declaring May 17, 2013, as Volunteer Recognition Day in Darien. Halstead Property was the title sponsor of the event.

The Obie Harrington-Howes Community Spirit Award, the past winners of which were Bob Wells, Joe Viesta and Marge Harrington, is presented to a volunteer who has served several organizations and has made a difference through active volunteer work.

This year, the award was given to Ann Mandel.

"I was surprised and honored because I have known Obie and his wife," Mandel said. "They certainly set the tone for that award for community service."

Mandel, who has lived in Darien for almost 80 years, has served on a plethora of boards, committees and agencies: she was president of the Darien Library, the Fairfield County Community Foundation and the Norwalk Community College Foundation; a member of the boards of Finance and Education; the founding secretary of Aging-in-Place Gallivant; and served as first selectman.

"Ann is an inspiration," wrote State Rep. Terrie Woods, R-141, in her nomination. "Above all, she is honest with extraordinary integrity. She treats people with great respect. Ann is known for being straightforward and intelligent with a clear vision. With that vision she has truly made a difference in our town. Ann has an idea, the idea is reality in short order. No grass grows under her feet."

However, Mandel thought that the award should have been presented to a younger volunteer.

"I've been there and done that," Mandel said. "I thought it should be a younger person, but now that I went to the luncheon and I saw all the people in the room who were volunteers -- and this town runs on volunteers -- receiving awards for what they had done, I thought, `This is wonderful. This is a whole new generation that has taken over.'"

While Mandel is no stranger to being recognized for her work, 14-year-old Logan Etheredge is.

Etheredge was honored for her work with Person-to-Person's Kid to Kid program.

Etheredge has been known to donate her time to help others. When she was just 12 years old, she convinced her family to change their spring break plans in Hawaii to help rebuild homes in Alabama on a mission trip with her local church.

Every year, agencies nominate people to receive the award. Most send one person, but others send more than one, leaving the decision-making up to the Community Fund.

"The agencies have a hard time choosing," Bernier said. "But for me, it's really refreshing to see how many people are helping in the community."

In 2012, the Community Fund raised more than $675,000 in grants to local agencies in the Fairfield County. The grants are given to organizations that promote family strengthening, special needs, basic needs (such as food, shelter and health care), at-risk youth support, self-sufficiency, and crisis and abuse support.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; @Meg_DarienNews