New London - Four leading members of the region's social services community were recognized Friday at a breakfast meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.
Alva Greenberg, chairman of the board of the Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, was named Board Member of the Year, while Laurie Herring, chief operations and quality officer of The ARC of New London County, was honored as Staff Member of the Year. Terri O'Rourke, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Southeastern Connecticut, was singled out as Executive Director of the Year, and Ruth Pickhardt of the Visiting Nurses Association of Southeastern Connecticut received the Volunteer of the Year award.
Hundreds of chamber members applauded the recipients at the Holiday Inn New London.
Janette Polaski, manager of community benefits at The William W. Backus Hospital, called those working for social service agencies "the conscience of our communities," while Tony Sheridan, the chamber's president and chief executive officer, noted that the nonprofit sector is one of the region's largest employers.
Michelle Jacobik and Donna Yother of the SAVA Insurance Group presented the awards.
Greenberg joined the Child & Family Agency's board of directors in 1986. Since then, the agency's operating budget has grown from $300,000 to more than $10 million. The agency now serves more than 17,000 children and their families in 79 towns.
Over the years, Greenberg has provided the agency with financial support and has been instrumental in the success of many of its programs.
Herring has spent 27 years working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has mentored many professionals, advocated for gay, lesbian and transgender families and served as a foster mother to young children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Herring became chief operations and quality assurance officer following The Arc of New London County's 2011 merger with Seacorp, which resulted in an agency with an annual operating budget of more than $9 million and more than 250 full- and part-time associates.
In her eight years as executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Southeastern Connecticut, O'Rourke has helped double each year the number of families placed in affordable housing. The organization completed its 50th home this year, its 25th anniversary year.
O'Rourke is also credited with forging relationships with affiliate organizations and winning support for a plan to complete home-repair projects that will enable low-income families to remain in safe homes. The plan is to be implemented in 2013.
Pickhardt, a lifelong New London resident, has been a volunteer at the Visiting Nurses Association for more than 25 years, serving as a board member, board chairwoman and volunteer. She continues to assist the association with office work and at flu clinics.