Two New Canaan residents will receive awards at the National Philanthropy Day in Connecticut Conference and Awards Banquet Nov. 15.
At the event, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Connecticut and Fairfield County Connecticut chapters, will provide a day of professional workshops and speakers. The conference includes the presentation of philanthropy awards to honor special organizations and individuals who have helped change lives in the community through their fundraising and philanthropic efforts.
The Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy honors an outstanding individual or group of young people who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the community through direct financial support, development of charitable programs, volunteering and leadership in philanthropy. The Award for Outstanding Fundraising Professional honors an outstanding individual fundraising professional who works full time for a nonprofit, charitable organization; practices his/her profession in an exemplary manner and is a member of AFP Connecticut or AFP Fairfield County.
A Girl Scout since kindergarten, Gerardi has earned both Silver and Gold awards. She titled her Gold Award project "F.R.O.G. (Food Right Out of the Ground)." Her project involved the collection of extra produce from local gardeners and the New Canaan Farmers Market and the distribution of these goods to the New Canaan Food Pantry. The project resulted in 2,156 pounds of fresh produce being distributed to the food pantry's clients.
Gerardi, who grew up in New Canaan, is the youngest of five children. A National Honor Society member, she graduated from New Canaan High School in June. She attends Villanova University as a freshman chemistry major. She is a parishioner at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan and has been a eucharistic minister for the past two years, in addition to being involved with her church's youth group. In high school, she was a three-sport athlete, playing volleyball and indoor and outdoor track and field. She also played trumpet in the high school band, and was a member of her high school's volunteer club, called CharityLink, for the past four years.
At Villanova, she is an active member of the Villanova Band, as well as campus ministry.
Franco, president of the Norwalk Hospital Foundation, has for the past 30 years built a record of fundraising success, which has included a variety of strategic assignments. Her fundraising career began with the National Spinal Cord Injury Foundation and Vermont Law School after graduating from Merrimac College. She also played a key role with the University of Connecticut, where she was responsible for fundraising to create UConn's Stamford campus, housed in the former Bloomingdale's site in downtown Stamford. Her work with UConn resulted in raising $10 million in private philanthropy and supported volunteer leadership to convince the state of Connecticut to fund $90 million to build a comprehensive Stamford campus.
For 10 years, prior to her current position, she was with General Electric, most recently as vice president of corporate citizenship for GE Consumer Finance. In this role, the first of its kind within GE, she worked globally to build business partnerships with local governments and non-government organizations to improve local communities. She managed charitable contributions and voluntary programs worldwide, as well as having responsibility for the company's political action and United Way campaigns and a variety of other community outreach and partnership programs. She was an executive leader and a business co-chairman in the GE Women's Network.
She also is vice president of public affairs at Norwalk Hospital. Since joining Norwalk Hospital in 2006, she has raised $82 million, which included the single largest gift of $10 million in the hospital's history. She also successfully led a $30 million capital campaign for the hospital.
She also serves as Norwalk Hospital's primary community liaison and manages governance for the hospital's board of trustees, which she has grown and developed into an engaged group of community ambassadors for the hospital.
In growing her team at the hospital, Franco looked for individuals with non-traditional skills who could grow into their respective roles. To achieve this growth, she instituted weekly staff meetings to provide an opportunity for team members to review their individual goals in the context of team goals. This process, combined with a Dashboard to measure progress and success in reaching fundraising goals, has created a positive atmosphere through transparency and celebrating successes as a team.
In addition, at the request of Norwalk Hospital's CEO, she was asked to be the co-chairman of the Greater Norwalk Opening Doors Initiative, which has enabled her to use her fundraising skills to lead a collaborative community initiative that seeks to prevent and end homelessness for families, youth and children by 2020 in the Greater Norwalk/Fairfield County region.
Her previous volunteer experience and nonprofit support has included the Silvermine Arts Center; the United Ways of Stamford, Norwalk and Wilton; the United Way of America; the National Conference for Community and Justice and the Early Childhood Research and Policy Council.
For information, visit www.afpctnpd.org.