Area volunteers, donors are celebrated at Merrimack’s Anheuser-Busch Brewery

MERRIMACK – Members of the community gathered at Merrimack’s Anheuser-Busch Brewery Wednesday evening for the United Way of Greater Nashua’s annual Celebration of U event to recognize efforts that have helped make the organization run smoothly during the last year.

Volunteers, donors and their families were invited for an evening filled with good food, drinks and family fun.

United Way President Mike Apfelberg reflected on the successful events within the last year, which has included the first Blizzard Blast, multiple Day of Caring food packaging events, a community farming project at Dr. Crisp Elementary School, a community baby shower and the most recent Over the Edge event, all of which received help from volunteers. The next event will be the fourth annual “Sleep Out.”

Apfelberg said each award recipient was being recognized by the United Way for different reasons, but there was one unifying reason for recognition.

“These are all people who are involved in making our community stronger, smarter, safer, healthier and happier,” Apfelberg said.

The first award was presented by United Way Board of Directors Secretary and City Welfare Officer Bob Mack to a local family medicine doctor Donald McDonah. McDonah received the Donor Award for being a longtime donor, as well as being actively engaged as a volunteer with the United Way.

Board member Rolf Goodwin then presented United Way Finance Committee Chair Peter Chaloner with the Rod Hansen award, named after a former board member of the United Way. Rod Hansen was remembered for being involved in everything, everywhere he went, Goodwin said.

Chaloner was recognized with this award for having a similar passion for volunteering. Goodwin said Chaloner participates in “practically everything” when it comes to United Way events.

The next award was presented by Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess. Donchess recognized longtime Alderman Brian McCarthy, who passed away less than a year ago, with the Max Silber Award. His wife Gloria McCarthy accepted the award on his behalf.

Silber lived in Nashua and served the community in many areas with years of volunteering. The United Way established the Max Silber award as a way to recognize and thank someone who has contributed to the community in the same way that Silber once did.

Donchess spoke of McCarthy’s heavy involvement with the city, from serving on the Board of Alderman for 25 years, to being involved in all school projects.

“Many of the things you see today in Nashua, Brian was either responsible for, or substantially involved in,” Donchess said.

The next award was presented by United Way Director of Community Impact Liz Fitzgerald, who recognized Bruno Suarez with the Advocate Award. Suarez is a leader in the One Greater Nashua Coalition.

“It feels really fitting to give this award to Bruno today being at the Anheuser-Busch, because it tells a great story also of what immigrants can do when they put their mind to it and have the opportunities that are allowed to us in this great country that we have,” Fitzgerald said.

Suarez was recognized for being an advocate for the children in the Nashua School District and as an advocate for immigrants throughout the state.

“We’re really proud and grateful for the efforts he has made in our community to make it a better place for all of us,” Fitzgerald said.

Cynthia Whitaker was also nominated with an Advocate Award. Whitaker serves as the Chief of Services at Greater Nashua Mental Health. Apfelberg, who recognized Whitaker, said she is out tirelessly advocating for the mental health of the community, including some who are the most at-risk people.

“Dr. Whitaker is a person who is passionate in what she does, she’s a tireless advocate for adults and children and their mental health and I just feel proud to call her my friend,” Apfelberg said.

Galina Szakacs received the final award of the evening. United Way Board of Directors Co-Chair Bob Larmouth presented Szakacs with the Volunteer Award for her work with One Greater Nashua, serving on the board and dedicating her time to various community assessments and evaluations.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243 or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.