"Women Who Inspire Us - 2021"
A 2021 Exhibit by
Rebecca Rose Fine Portraits
We all know how 2020 was a year to remember. For some it brought many hardships and a battle to win. This year's, 2021, exhibit is the most special celebration because now is the time to celebrate and recognize the amazing women of our communities. Celebrating women of Connecticut during International Woman's Day is a wonderful privilege. Rebecca Rose Fine Portraits captured each woman in their own unique way. With many women their heart is their children. With others they are a strong independent woman paving the way to success and innovation. These women are inspirational and a very important part of their communities.
From writers to interior designers to the first African American Fire Chief of CT, there is a wide range of women who are all the definition of success and deserve to be celebrated. They are an essential part of their families and communities.
While we are celebrating so many women on this online gallery; many women in this exhibit are also celebrated with their portraits in a gallery at the Shoppes at Evergreen Walk until end of March.
Rebecca is pleased to present the following portraits and biographies of the women featured in this project and is deeply thankful for their participation and support. It is her hope that this will be an inspiration to everyone. The exhibit is located at The Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor next to Talbots where the exhibit can be viewed safely from outdoors.
Thank you to our Sponsors
Elena is originally from Romania and she earned her Bachelor of Science in Sociology before she came to the US in 2004. Since then, she has worked her way up to build her own career and family. In 2012 she earned her Masters in Public Administration with a specialization in Public Management, from Baruch College in New York. She has worked in various industries from Banking, Research, Healthcare to Finance and HR. To a certain degree she lived the American dream. After she lost her job in 2020 due to Covid19, Elena decided to dedicate her efforts to a few personal projects she currently has ongoing. She wants to inspire her daughter and lead her by example and her generations to come. As a sociologist she has an intense passion for understanding cultures, social behavior and personal interactions. However, her inherent passion is traveling and exploring cultural identities through lifestyle, norms, and rituals. Elena is adamant about keeping a healthy balance between mind and body. She enjoys being in nature, hiking, walking on trails, working out, going to the beach, listening to music and spending quality time with her daughter and friends. Through her core beliefs, Elena is guided by the principle that kindness and love are the main catalysts that can cause change in the current society. She currently resides in Shelton, CT. "Be kind to one another" - Ellen De Generes.
Connecticut entrepreneur Nan Price is inspired by women who build each other up, encourage their growth, and highlight each other’s successes.
As a content developer and storyteller, Nan has spent the last 20+ years helping businesses and individuals create engaging content that makes an impact. She enjoys collaborating with people who are passionate about their work and their community and has developed all types of content, including in-depth interviews, bylined and ghost-written blogs, marketing materials, and newsletters for various industries. She also enjoys working “behind the scenes” editing and proofreading.
Nan appreciates women who hustle and wear several hats. Through her roles as Content Manager at the MetroHartford Alliance and Website Curator for Innovation Destination Hartford, she has interviewed 500+ Hartford-area entrepreneurs, small business owners, do-gooders, and go-getters. Many of them encouraged her to embrace entrepreneurship. So, in 2018, she founded Uncommon Content, LLC with the goal of helping individuals and small- to medium-sized businesses develop and refine their content.
“I don’t know where I’d be without my tribe of supportive and encouraging local women business owners and entrepreneurs,” says Nan.
Sharon is a Connecticut native who lives in South Windsor with her husband, two daughters and Wheaten Terrier puppy. She attended Tulane University and Tulane Law School in New Orleans, and is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. Surviving this catastrophic event helped Sharon recognize her inner strength and the importance of strong relationships to help carry her through tough times. Sharon is driven by passion. Passion for her family, her friends, her career, and her community. She is very active in the Jewish community, serving on the Board of Trustees at her Temple and volunteering with several Jewish organizations throughout Connecticut. She helped build a Booster Club for her daughters' dance studio, helps with the PTO at the elementary school, volunteers time with her sorority, and supports the network of women in finance at her employer. To keep her body and mind strong, Sharon loves practicing yoga, skiing and winning at Scrabble. Sharon strives to make the most of every day and find happiness in small moments. Her biggest goal is to raise strong and independent daughters, and to be a model of that, just as her mother is for her.
Theresa Walsh Velendzas
Theresa Walsh Velendzas is a Life Coach devoted to empowering people to reach their dream destiny. She is passionate about the psychology that guides people to fulfill their highest potential. Through Transformational Life Coaching that includes movement and individualized sustainable lifestyle changes, Theresa offers a heart-centered path to blossoming from the inside out. Inspiration for this work came from her previous career and lifelong connection with the elderly who shared their wisdom in designing a life well-lived. Theresa has studied Psychology (BS), Health Care Management (MS), and is a Certified IFS (Internal Family Systems) Practitioner and Certified Personal Trainer. She is a wife and mom to two humans, a dog, several fish, houseplants, and a veggie garden. A native of both Connecticut and Greece, Theresa spends summers with her family, and friends in Athens and Zakynthos Greece. Connect to her story and work at www.altraform.com
I do not think that there is anything more important than having confidence. I have personally walked into dozens of kitchens not knowing one thing about what was going on. I’ve worked with many Chefs to whom which have many years more experience than myself. More techniques under their belt. More of everything that I wanted to learn to earn working side by side with them on their level. But what really got me in the door to such a cutthroat position was confidence. It was an idea that simply manifested itself by doing the work. Researching and studying every kind of Chef and their styles. Putting in the hours as they did. Failure never crossed my mind. It just simply was not an option. Flash forward to today and Chefs want to learn from me. They ask what my techniques are. A collaboration of creative minds supporting one another in every way. Eventually that confidence came naturally because I had the knowledge to wear it. I take great pride in working next to some of the very best and they feel that pride with me. Confidence gets you in the door. You’re in the drivers seat for the rest of it.
Gigi Simko is a U.S. Air Force Colonel (retired) and currently a Senior Manager of Practice Operations at Connecticut Children’s in Hartford. Her military career spanned 24 years, and her assignments included Texas, California, Delaware, Ohio, Washington, D.C., England and Florida. She deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Gigi recently served on the Board of Governors of the American College of Healthcare Executives and as a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Inc. in California, Delaware and Ohio. She earned a Master of Business Administration from Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is married to Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Simko. They have two children.
Sharon McCormick Design
SHARON MCCORMICK is an accomplished, forward-thinking business person with an entrepreneurial spirit. She is the CEO of Sharon McCormick Design, an East Coast residential interior design firm established in 2002, based in Hartford’s Pratt Street Historic District.
Sharon McCormick Design is known for creating elegant, comfortable homes which live as beautifully as they look. Each custom design is the personal signature of everything her clients are and everything they aspire to be. The firm’s portfolio reflects her clients’ individual design styles, from contemporary to traditional, and relaxed to formal. Clients receive a well-considered balance of aesthetics, practicality and investment.
Sharon has designed primary residences and vacation homes for clients in Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Washington D.C., Virginia, and Florida. Her firm won two Home Builders Association awards for a custom home in Vienna, VA.
Sharon is an Allied Member of AIA-CT, and a founding board member of Design Trust, Ltd. She is a graduate of Williams College, Western New England University College of Business (MBA), and Paier College of Art. Previously, Sharon was a fast-track CPA for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and CFO of Electrical Dynamics.
Christina Clark earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Houston at Clear Lake, Masters in Business Administration with a Specialization in Leadership from New York Institute of Technology and a Certification in Management from James Madison University. She has worked in various industries from Space Exploration to Manufacturing, Energy, Gaming, Natural Foods and Defense.
In addition, Christina is part of three non-profits. She is the Co-Founder, Business Director and Instructor at Veterans Equine Therapeutic Services (www.vetsct.org). She also is the Vice President of Women in Defense – New England Shoreline Chapter (www.wid-nesc.org) as well as the Board of Director’s Secretary at Guardians of the Purple Heart (gotph.org).
Christina is very passionate about helping others. In addition to the non-profits, she reads to kids on Read Across America Day as well as on Dr. Seuss’ Birthday and builds homes for Habitat for Humanity – Women Build. She loves animals and children.
In Christina’s spare time, she enjoys: being in nature, working out, being by the water, listening to music, spending time with loved ones, hanging with her precious fur babies, learning, etc. She really enjoys musicals, art, cars and motorcycles.
Christina currently resides in Mystic, CT.
Shelly L. Carter
Shelly L. Carter is a 20-year veteran with the City of Hartford Fire Department who is currently assigned as the House Captain at Engine Company 5. Captain Carter began her career with the department in July of 1999 as a structural firefighter and has been promoted to Driver/ Engineer, Lieutenant/Fire Marshals Office, Executive Officer, and currently Engine Co. 5 House Captain. Captain Carter has received numerous certifications in her career as a firefighter and officer with ambition of becoming a Chief Officer. She is the first African American Female Captain of Suppression in the State of Connecticut. She is the first African American Female instructor for the Connecticut State Fire Academy and spends a lot of time teaching diversity and inclusion around the country. Captain Carter is the Founder and CEO of Girls Future Firefighter Camp. “GFFC” is an interactive camp for girls ages 13-18 that teaches young ladies everything there is to know about public safety. Captain Carter is the Connecticut State Representative for the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services. Shelly is the daughter of Mother Leona Wilson of Hartford CT, and the youngest of 3 daughters. She is a member of Crown of Glory COGIC in Hartford CT. She is the first Female Captain in the COGIC organization. Shelly is married to retired Firefighter Brainard ”B.C” Carter. Together they have a blended family of seven children and five grandchildren. Shelly is also a part time optician and photographer. Finally, Captain Carter has an Associates degree in Journalism, and Photography, a Bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration and will be finished with her Masters degree in Public Administration on May 9, 2020.
“To God Be The Glory For The Things He Has Done!” –Shelly
Emily Weil lives by the motto “make a difference in your little corner of the world,” and she does just that every single day.
Her first “little corner” was in her hometown of Buffalo New York. After graduating from Wittenberg University and while working towards her Master’s degree 'Emmy" worked full time as Site Manager for an inner city community center. She created a much needed food pantry and organized a community block club in which the residents and community leaders recognized and addressed the problems that arose within the community.
Emmy’s next “little corner of the world” took her to Connecticut where she co- authored a grant that received $800k to implement the national community service initiative, AmeriCorps. This domestic Peace Corps program in Middlesex County employed AmeriCorps members from ages 17-71! There she established and operated a volunteer service center and continued to receive grants for future endeavors.
Emmy’s current “ little corner” is where she has had the most impact. As Executive Director of the Canterbury Retirement Community in West Hartford for 25 years, she has built a warm, safe, fun and friendly community. Always wanting to learn and improve her own skills, Emmy is a 2019 graduate of the Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T) in East Hartford, and a graduate of the Citizen Police Academy. She works tirelessly with the organization to eradicate both racism and opiate addiction. At the Canterbury Retirement Community Emmy provides emergency first response and says running a home for seniors during a pandemic "has been an honor.” As a frontline worker herself during the pandemic, Emmy would like to thank all of her fellow frontline teammates for their hard work and compassion during difficult times.
As an animal lover (she has two cats and a dog), Emmy volunteers for The Connecticut Dog Gone Recovery team. She is also an active member of her church and a founding member and former secretary of the Kiwanis Club in West Hartford.
Emmy is not done...wherever she lands, her next “little corner of the world” will surely become a better place with her in it.
I (Rebecca Rose), have only known Chu for a short time. It has been a honor and I am humbled to have cross paths with her. Her intelligence, entrepreneurship, and love for her community and most of all her family is truly a light. Among many of her achievements she has also received Middlesex Chamber of Commerce Award for the best Business for her restaurant, Lan Chi's Vietnamese Restaurant.
Jennifer was born and raised in Coventry, CT and currently resides in Hebron, CT with her two daughters Fynnleigh and Calleigh. Being a collegiate athlete has given her the drive and determination to strive for success in both her professional and career life.
Jen went through a divorce 4 years ago that helped her put her life goals into perspective. She worked hard to create a new mindset and to become heathier physically and mentally. Finding a balancing act between being a single parent and businesswoman was challenging; however, Jen has found a way to become a multiple time President’s Club Winner and has created a much deeper bond with her daughters. Last year Jen was able to purchase a house that her and her daughters have turned into a loving home. In her professional career, she currently helps to educate healthcare professionals on a medication for opioid addiction. Being told that this medication “saves lives” adds fuel to her fire to help individuals in any way she can. Part of her goal in life is to help individuals see their potential, never settle, and achieve their dreams.
“She still wears her wedding ring”
After losing the love of my life after 32 years, turning heartbreak into hope has been one of my biggest lessons in life. Piecing together a mosaic of a beautiful life derailed by death. The pieces of the puzzle slowly come together but the picture is different.
Grief has no protocol. With the loss comes the gift of awareness and choosing to say Yes to a New life.
The choice of not being bitter but better. There is life after death.
MUC Megan Sesma is the principal harpist of the United States Coast Guard Band. Originally from Waterloo, IA, she attended high school in Las Vegas, NV. As a international performer, she has performed in Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Russia, Ireland, Guadeloupe, France and with the Coast Guard Band nationally and in Taiwan and Japan. Chief Sesma was the 2013 recipient of the Latina Style Award for the Coast Guard, an honor presented annually to one active duty female in the Coast Guard. MUC Sesma holds a Bachelor of Music from the Eastman School of Music, Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Rochester, and a Masters Degree in harp performance from New York University. She teaches harp at the University of Connecticut, Connecticut College, and Wesleyan University. MUC Sesma has been in leadership positions with the CGA LDAC since 2016. She is a CGA SEED/Equity Seminar facilitator and as the CG Band Education Chief organizes the annual School Concert Series involving 6,000 school children. MUC Sesma is currently the Chair of the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) Leadership Diversity Advisory Council and on the Senior Leadership Team at the USCGA.
With years of experience to her credit, Sarah Gallardo has excelled as the founder and the executive director of Sarah Speaks Up since 2015. A nonprofit organization that promotes domestic violence awareness, advocates for domestic violence survivors, and provides resources to women, children, men, and families in need, Sarah Speaks Up encourages those who have lived through domestic abuse to share their own experiences and inspire others who may be facing similar circumstances to live free of violence and abuse. A survivor of domestic violence herself, Ms. Gallardo's message is not that of a victim, but of a strong woman who has overcome adversity, defied the odds, and remained positive in the face of violence in order to change the lives of herself and her daughter, Avalese, for the better.
Rev. Dr. Marcia Lene Smith
Rev. Smith, pastors the 31 years-old Holy Ghost Deliverance III Tabernacle and is CEO of Markel’s LLC, an educational and civil rights advocacy agency that provides programs like MADR and SOAR to encourage Brown, Black and Latinx men, women, girls and boys to strive.
She has spent more than thirty years working as a public servant for the State of Connecticut in the fields of equal employment opportunity, affirmative action, diversity and higher education. Although, retired from full-time employment since 2012, she continues to serve as an adjunct faculty at Housatonic Community College where she founded the first HCC NAACP chapter.
As a mother, grandmother, author, pastor, and photographer, she enjoys participating in and documenting civil rights’ marches in Connecticut, Washington DC and Kentucky. Over the last few years, she has travelled to Nigeria and to the Dominican Republic to assist the founder of the Ms. Millionaire Mindset Sisterhood eradicate generational poverty. She also attended the 2021 Inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris in DC.
Rev. Smith also holds several degrees and certificates in Journalism, Women’s Studies, Government, Religion, Early Childhood, and Higher Education. She, her two adult children and six grandchildren reside in Hamden.
Kate Howard-Howe, earned her BSW from Eastwrn Connecticut State University. Kate began her journey as a mental health worker working with teens and children at an inpatient hospital for 15 years. After the loss of her mother at 21 years old, Kate felt compelled to help others heal from grief. Kate now practices as a professional spiritual medium and healer. Kate has been reading clients professionally for over 10 years. Kate offers healing sessions of all kinds such as reiki sessions, individual sessions, and group readings. Kate currently works out of Salem CT at her healing office.
“I am a woman of spirit. In a woman of faith. I’m a woman of human experience. I’m a woman of Color. I’m a woman of mainstream America. I’m a healer of emotions. I connect with the universe on levels of the soul. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a sister. My soul is the center of my world. My soul connects with yours. Heaven isn’t above us; heaven surrounds us.”
Jessica Santoro is currently an Art Director with Rebecca Rose Fine Portraits Studio in Colchester, where she gets the ability to bring her love of creativity and building connections by capturing photographs of families that will be treasured for generations to come. Jessica also gets to feed her passion of helping people look and feel their best, as a brand partner with Neora LLC, by providing holistic, plant-based skincare and wellness solutions.
Jessica started her career in New York City where she worked for many years within the garment district and fashion industry. She continued to feed her love of fashion, creativity and leadership when she moved back to CT and worked for Specialty Retailers such as GAP and Ann Taylor as a Store Manager. Jessica’s true passion is the ability to connect and inspire women and girls to look and feel their best version of themselves, whether for their first job or interview or in their everyday lives. Jessica has been lucky enough to be able to collaborate with such organizations as Bay Path University, with their Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders program. Jessica also has had the opportunity to be a guest at Bay Path University’s President’s Gala which raises funds for their scholarship programs for women as well as a guest at the Women’s Leadership Conference in Springfield, MA where she attended leadership workshops and presentations. Jessica’s biggest accomplishment to date is being a Mom and raising her two children Emma 14 and Andrew 10, who inspire her daily to lead by example and to strive to be a better version of herself than she was yesterday. Life is a journey and has been full of peaks and valleys, but I am grateful for where I am and excited for what lies ahead.
I am a first generation born American to Jamaican parents. My mother raised me to be independent and to live without expectations of people. I am a single mom of a daughter and son. I have given my service to people of all ages and variety of different special needs populations. I am a certified welder and cnc operator. I was the youngest appointed registrar of voters for the state of Connecticut in 2015. Right now I am in the middle of the toughest fight I ever encountered. My story goes beyond this smile and I not only want to be seen but I must be heard.
Ines Feliciano & Ines Zemaitis
Ines Feliciano was the first Affirmative Action Coordinator for the municipal government in the City of Waterbury, Connecticut. She then continued her work in Equal Rights with the State of Connecticut as an Affirmative Action Officer in the Department of Transportation.
Ines began her passion in Equality and Women’s rights in her Master’s in Public Administration program from the University of Puerto Rico. Her 1970 Master’s thesis on sexism in the workforce for women, highlighted the fact that even if the employer had a higher educational degree, there were still signs of discrimination towards women employees, and differences in the women’s career ladder. In 1974, she was laid off by her employer during her Maternity Leave with her first child. She in turn, brought the first discrimination lawsuit in Puerto Rico for unlawful firing due to having a pregnancy and delivery. Ines won the case.
Ines Zemaitis continues her mother’s enthusiasm to help humanity and dedicated her life’s work as a Nurse Practitioner. She became one of Connecticut’s first Hispanic Nurse Practitioner practice owner when she opened Connecticut Primary Care and Wellness, PC. Ines has lectured for Yale University, has worked in legislative efforts to help the health of the citizens in Connecticut as the Co-Chair for the Health Policy Committee for the Connecticut Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Society. Ines continues her mother’s dedication for women, as an executive board member in Annabella’s Angel’s, a non-profit organization which helps mothers and families during pregnancy and infant loss.
Susan grew up in Old Saybrook CT, taking the leap at eighteen to be an au pair in Rome before attending Emerson College in Boston. She remained in the Boston area for the next decade, working in arts administration for a regional theatre before going back to school to pursue a MSW from Boston University. She began her career as a clinical social worker focusing on working with brain injury survivors and Veterans. She returned to Connecticut in 2015 to be closer to her family; currently, she has the privilege of working with patients and families at a hospital in Hartford.
Susan has recently realized a long term goal and commissioned into the Army as a clinical social worker. She will be stationed at Fort Bragg as part of the 82nd Airborne, supporting servicemen and women and their families.
Away from work she is involved with the Junior League of Hartford which has afforded her the opportunity to volunteer with local organizations and connect with many strong, inspiring women. She is honored to be part of this exhibit.
Bonnie Marcus launched her stylish stationery company, the Bonnie Marcus Collection “where fashion meets paper” in 2002 from her dining room table in Westport, CT. With a strong background in fashion, having worked in NYC for designer Diane Von Furstenberg, Bonnie attracted a great deal of publicity soon after her launch. She was featured in Oprah Magazine, New York Magazine, Entrepreneur, and on the Today Show, giving her company instant national recognition. Celebrities like Cindy Crawford, Katherine Heigl, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera have used her designs for their own special events.
Today, Bonnie’s Westport design studio produces fashionable products that can be found in over 30,000 retailers world-wide. Her collection has expanded to calendars, planners, books, party favors, chocolates, fashion accessories, and so much more! Her cards are available at the photo kiosks at CVS stores and her calendars and planners are available world-wide in both English and French. Bonnie has been recognized as a pioneer for women in business and is a winner of the prestigious “Make Mine a Million Dollar Business” contest from American Express. Bonnie’s proudest accomplishments are her three boys, who successfully balance out her very “girly” design business with sports and superheroes.
Out on a Ledge is a widely acclaimed book about a teenaged Chasidic girl (Eva Libitzky). She demonstrates rare courage, resilience, and cleverness as she struggles to survive the worst horrors of Nazi-occupied Poland. Despite the deepest suffering and the most profound loss, Eva was able to rebuild her life, and with her husband, also a survivor, raise a family in America – in the city, suburbs, and on the farm in Colchester Ct.
She is currently living in Florida with one of her daughters while her other two children are in California. She has 5 grandchildren and 3 great grand children.
Irene Levin Berman was born in Oslo, Norway. Her first conscious recollection of life goes back to 1942, when as a child she had to escape to Sweden, a neutral country, with her immediate family. Germany had invaded Norway and the persecution of the 2000 Norwegian Jews was initiated. 771 persons were sent to Auschwitz, including seven members of Irene's father’s family. Forty percent of the Norwegian Jews were annihilated.
As a child, Irene had no understanding of the meaning of the Holocaust, but as she grew older she became familiar with World War II. Her family returned to Norway in 1945 when the war ended and the Norwegian Jews had to rebuild their lives in Oslo.
Irene remained in Norway with her family until she moved to the United States as a young bride. In the United States, she wrote two books “We are going to Pick Potatoes” and Norway Wasn’t Too Small, one of which was endorsed by Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate, who encouraged her to tell her story. Irene’s first story was published both in Norway and the United States.
For many years Irene wondered why Americans had no knowledge about the horrible events in Norway, and she began to write a book about her family. Once she started with this unknown story, she couldn‘t stop. Losing her parents at an early age forced her to delve into the tragedy of the Jewish people not just in Norway but also in other countries.
Irene’s books became successful, as the story of Norway and the Holocaust became Irene’s priority. She has spoken to groups all around the country informing them of the horror of World War II in Norway.
Ruth Lichtenstern was Born in 1935 in Germany. Her nickname was Tutti. In 1936, Tutti and her parents, Heinz and Margret, left Germany for Amsterdam. “They saw the writing on the wall,” Fishman explained. “And the company my father worked for moved the main office from Cologne to Amsterdam. It was a Jewish company and my grandfather went with the move.”
The Lichtensterns’ life in Amsterdam was good for a couple of years – Tutti’s younger brother Robbie was born there in 1938. Then in 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands.Things were okay for the Lichtensterns for a time. “It started out normal even though the Germans were there. They way the Nazis invaded the Netherlands was that they made their changes really slow,” Fishman said. “It wasn’t like a Kristallnacht where they just came in and started knocking down all of the synagogues and arresting people. It was slow, insidious changes. Little things. ‘Register your bike, register your car. Now you can’t have your car. Now you can’t have your bike.’ It was little things like that and it slowly crept up on them.” Fishman’s grandfather worked as a metals commodities trader. The family was sent twice to Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands, the first time in October 1943. “My mom’s memories are really child memories. She saw it through a child’s eyes. Her mother…my grandmother is my hero in this. She protected the kids so much,” Fishman said.
After the war, Tutti, now known as Ruth to many in the community, settled in West Hartford – her husband Herbert’s hometown – to raise Heidi (The author of Tutti's Promise) and her brothers, Peter and Toni.
Sabrina Pray Forsythe started her philanthropic career by following in the footsteps of her father, a famous car collector and community activist. Sabrina knew that her father was taking steps to create a legacy by building a facility that would emphasize his belief that anyone can achieve their goals. Therefore she decided to become proficient in fundraising in order to be able to maintain her father’s desire to keep his dream alive.
Among her many accomplishments are chairing the largest fundraiser for the Convent of the Sacred Heart three times. She has also chaired the Greenwich Historical Society’s major fundraiser, Antiquarius. The Bruce Museum benefitted when Sabrina chaired the Renaissance Ball. Sabrina chaired the YWCA’s Persimmon Ball, three times. Sabrina chaired the Old Bags Luncheon twice, which raises funds for domestic abuse. Sabrina has chaired the Greenwich Riding and Trails Association Ball. The daughters of the American Revolution asked Sabrina to run their antique show for four years in a row. A proud Republican, Sabrina was vice chair of the young republican group in Greenwich. As an advocate for older people, Sabrina ran the fashion show for the Greenwich Adult Day Care Center eight years in a row.
Sabrina’s board service includes the Bruce Museum, Greenwich Green and Clean, the Greenwich Adult Day Care Center, the Russell Maguire Foundation, the Friends of Nathaniel Witherell and almost a decade of work for the YWCA.
The memories that Sabrina‘s father created are being passed down to her daughters. Their enthusiasm for all things automobile are endless.
One of her greatest honors was to win the Spirit of Greenwich Award. This award is given to community volunteers who have given selflessly. All this has led her to where she is today, a trustee of the family foundation that her father created There is nothing that Sabrina won’t do to realize her father‘s legacy. It is her fervent desire to insure that the mission her father set out upon be continued in perpetuity.
Echo Johnson was raised in a big family in a small Vermont town. Her family taught her the importance of love and her town the importance of community. Echo has traveled far away from her roots seeking out the spectrum of culture and diversity which had been lacking in her humble and rural upbringing. Holding these values close to heart, she has carried them with her on her journey.
For the better part of a decade Echo has called West Hartford, CT home. She lives there with her husband Berthel and their three young children. Currently, she is a stay at home mom, which has been both the most rewarding as well as challenging job she has ever had. Everyday her children teach her about the joys in all the little things that fill our hearts for a lifetime. Through them she finds the strength to live in her truth - a life full of love, acceptance and empathy. For their future, she hopes to influence a nondiscriminatory, diverse and peaceful culture.
While her life at home keeps her busy, Echo has also remained a constant presence in her community. A soccer player herself, she enjoys volunteering with the WEHA youth soccer league. There, she oversees the training program as well as coaches her children's soccer teams. In her spare time which she admits is limited, Echo is an artist. Echo finds sketching and painting to be a soul soothing creative outlet and believes strongly in art therapy for our youth. Until this past year, one of her favorite annual projects was to donate her time and sketch the poster for a local dance school’s spring production. While not musically inclined herself, listening to her family practice the piano and her husband play the guitar warms her heart as she she truly believes music speaks to people. However as much joy as she finds in art and music, it pales in comparison to cooking. Food is her true passion.
Echo’s mother taught her that when one gives creatively of themselves, it is an expression of love. For Echo the most passionate space within is creating and sharing food with her loved ones. It was this passion that inspired the next chapter of Echo’s s journey. Over the years she has reveled in hosting Sunday dinner and holidays - choosing to serve multicultural meals to her ethnically diverse family and friends. To actualize her passion she decided to open a food truck. The mobile restaurant, “The Blended Plate”, is a tribute to the diversity she has sought and built up around her. Echo’s creative vision is to create a fusion experience of traditional foods from around the world, starting with the places that are currently close to her heart, Jamaica, Thailand, and India. A melting pot of cultures, Echo’s ever-growing family and friends constantly show her that food is a beautiful way to bring joy, create common ground and bridge divides. She believes that food is an easy way to explore culture and will relish in sharing new blends of recipes that will speak to unique palates. After all, food is love and love is universal.
Ann Nyberg has spent nearly 40 years in broadcast television news. She is the longest-serving, full-time female news anchor/reporter in Connecticut television history. She is WTNH-TV's longest-serving Anchor/Reporter in station history. In November of 2015, Ann was inducted into the prestigious Silver Circle. It is an honor given to television professionals who have made significant contributions to their community and to the vitality of the television industry. Ann has been voted "Best News Anchor" for a decade in "Connecticut Magazine’s reader's poll, in 2016 was voted best TV Anchor in New Haven Living Magazine. Ann hosts her own show which she developed to get people's stories out to the masses in long format, it's on air and online and it's called "NYBERG." Ann has been a storyteller her entire life, it all started with a diary her Mother gave her for Christmas when she was just 8 years old, and the rest is history. Ann's first book, "Slices of Life, A Storyteller's Diary" debuted in October 2015, it's based on her diary. Her second book, October of 2016, is on the legendary Connecticut film actress, Katharine Hepburn. It is called "Remembering Katharine Hepburn: Stories of Wit and Wisdom About America's Leading Lady." Nyberg feels strongly about philanthropy. In 1993, she founded the Toy Closet Program at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Nyberg's website Network Connecticut spotlights people and places, small businesses and innovators and entrepreneurs all over the state. Nyberg also owns a boutique in Madison, Connecticut called Annie Mame, where she carries a lot of Connecticut-made goodies to help small businesses push ahead.
Kelly Ann Faenza has been on a powerful journey since 2018, enduring a series of life altering experiences that bound her to a path of higher discovery and purpose. Kelly chose to reset her life, and at 50 years old began her journey towards reclaiming her personal power and her body. Kelly battled with weight loss, finding her warriors strength despite a stroke, heart attack, and double knee replacement, she lost 187lbs in a matter of two years. Through meditation she realized her ability to find her own fulfillment. With the repetition of prayers and mantras she gathered power. In her darkest moments, she sought her values: Love, Integrity, Presence, Truth. Kelly says that mindset is the key to recognize and work to dissolve your self made cycles that manifest over periods of continuous neglect. She stresses the importance of evaluation, healthy boundaries and consistency. Her message and wish is for everyone to know that self empowerment is key to find and nurture their deepest self.
Prosperity accompanies this choice, and Kelly has found satisfaction in her new freedom. People describe Kelly as a fighter with an infectious smile that is always looking forward. She says that no one is defined by their trauma. She believes people are brought into your life to benefit your experience through many avenues. Kelly loves working as a personal healthcare provider and has over 20 years experience in the field. In addition, she is launching her new social platform business this year as ambassador for multiple companies with a range of womens products. She strives to inspire female empowerment and to embrace feminine sexuality. She advises to enjoy your journey, find your clarity, and to never let anyone take away your sparkle.
Carla Sylvester, PE, LEP, is the founder and principal of Blue River Engineering, a professional environmental engineering consulting firm that she has worked at to provide innovative solutions and the right expertise to environmental projects over the past 14 years.
The professional experience Carla has gained in the environmental field, both working for larger firms and running a small business, has enabled her to gain knowledge from a variety of perspectives. She has a diverse professional working experience in performing solid waste permitting and compliance, site assessments and investigations, remediation, Connecticut Property Transfer Act support, hazardous waste management, storm water management, and environmental compliance for clients in Connecticut and throughout the United States.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering from Syracuse University and holds a Professional Engineering License and is a Connecticut Licensed Environmental Professional.
In addition to her business, Carla served on the Town of East Hampton Brownfields Redevelopment Agency for 11 years and as chairman for 3 years. She has enjoyed being an East Hampton Middle School assistant coach in soccer, basketball and softball for the past 4 years.
She is consistently motivated and inspired by her three children, Abbigale, Adelle and Jacob. In her spare time, she enjoys playing soccer for the CSSA Nutmeg Women’s Soccer League and traveling when her and her children can.
Elizabeth’s life journey is what brought her to this incredible exhibit. Growing up in extreme poverty and being brought up by a single mother, she lived in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Connecticut from infancy. A chance encounter with a local community organization allowed her family to relocate to a rural area, and her life changed forever.
Elizabeth has had a long career in human services and non profit. She served in Americorps, and worked for the homeless shelter system for 10 years. She assisted in the creation of a statewide program model for disability advocacy called SOAR, and successfully navigated clients to over $2.5 million in income during her tenure at Columbus House, Inc. She also served as an educator for the state of Connecticut Dept. of Mental Health and Addicition services, training over 150 case workers. Her work was highlighted at the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness Annual Training Institute in 2016, and by the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2014. She worked with the United Way and Greater New Haven Opening Doors co-chairing a committee on housing and healthcare. She has worked with target populations including Veterans, people with disabilities, HIV+, women escaping domestic violence, criminal justice system involved persons, and teenaged girls in foster care.
In 2009, Elizabeth survived a fatal boating accident that took the life of a very close friend. Since then she became a volunteer for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, including fundraising for the Walk Like MADD Branford and Hartford 5k. She currently volunteers with the statewide Victim Impact Panel. Her advocacy and testimony helped alter drinking and boating laws to make Connecticut waters safer.
Elizabeth also survived childhood sexual assault, and has been a very vocal advocate for trauma survivors in Connecticut. She currently volunteers for the local anti trafficking organization Love146 to help prevent other girls from the same fate. She has served on the board of directors for the women’s organization the Junior League of Greater New Haven, and as a committee chair for the Junior League of Hartford. She is a survivor of severe domestic violence and recounts her story as a part of the You Speak Up campaign. She had worked for several domestic violence organizations in Connecticut, and raised money for Interval House.
She is an award winning actress and artist, having been named to the All Connecticut Cast by the Connecticut Drama Association in and exhibiting in the Citywide Open Studios in New Haven. She is a loving mother and wife, LGBTQ, and recently beat cancer.”
Candee Caldwell is an award winning makeup artist. With 20 plus year experience in the trade. She specializes in makeup for all skin types, eye shape and skin tones. In addition Candee is a cancer warrior with her personal experience with skin issues, losing hair during treatments. She can answer and share makeup and skin care tips.
Candee is often ask to share the tips of the trade. When you book your 1 hour tutorial with her. You will get step by steps lessons with your own makeup, hands on tips. Candee will come to your home and together she will go through your makeup bag and help you put together the right look for the shape of your face and eyes. Pick out colors, tones, just for you and how to change everyday makeup look for different occasions.
The parable, never judge a book by its cover, becomes challenging when gazing at the beauty that artist Rebecca Rose has brought out in this portrait. Each of us is a book, which is too often judged by its cover. Some of us will go further and read the inside flap to get a glimpse of what is inside or the back to see what others have said. But the entire book, until completely read, will still escape us. We are like books, with individual and unique stories. My story contains blessings and triumph along with failures and pain. This year of challenging times across our globe with the Covid-19 virus and within our nation with racial reckoning conjuring strong emotions in us all. The virus and the need for racial equality highlights our commonality, it did not discriminate between hosts. And we should follow suit. We must take the time to read the individual books, even those we think we already know. We must avoid categorizing people and judging them without bothering to open the cover or even turning the page. The beauty of our lives is that we are all different books made in the image of God.
Rebecca Rose Fine Portraits LLC
Rebecca Rose Fine Portraits, LLC., has a commitment to capturing the beauty of families that will be cherished for generations. Rebecca Rose born and raised in rural Connecticut studied art from the time she was 12. Throughout high school and college her passion was for art concentrating on painting. After graduating college, she taught art in a private school. After realizing that she had a passion for painting instead of teaching, she began painting murals for many local businesses. Her creative mind and entrepreneurial spirit lead her to picking up a camera. From there it became her new passion instantly. Within 3 years of her business opening she photographed hundreds of people as well as over one hundred weddings and events including the Harvard Business Gala. Since her degree was not in photography she found it of utmost importance to go back to school for photography and earned her diploma in photography from The Photography Institute. Rebecca Rose Fine Portraits was founded in 2017 after finding there was a need of traditional family portraiture displayed as a form of art. The process is a combination of photography and traditional painting through software editing. Rebecca Rose Fine Portraits' purpose is to encourage a deep appreciation of human beauty.