Paul Harris was the founder of a club in Chicago which evolved into Rotary International, a worldwide organization with 1.4 million members participating in over 46,000 clubs in their respective communities, guided by the motto “Service Above Self”. Each year (except for some pandemic years) the Suffield Rotary awards its the most prestigious honor, a Paul Harris Fellow award. The individual recipients include members of the club, but also frequently include members of the community who are not in the Rotary. The sole criterion for selection is the individual’s service and dedication to our community.
At its late June meeting, which also was highlighted by the installation of new officers and Board members, and the induction of a new member, the Suffield Rotary was pleased to award three well-deserved Paul Harris Fellow awards to Kacy Colston, Gayle Demko and Heidi Huhn-Partain.
Many of you are aware of Kacy’s relentless work on behalf of The Friends of the Farm at Hilltop (FOFAH), a multi-decade restoration project. The Friends of the Farm at Hilltop (FOFAH), a nonprofit organization that has achieved the virtually unthinkable by purchasing 11 acres (including the “Big White Barn”), leasing another 60 adjacent conservation acres, and methodically restoring it from unusable to a facility that can and has hosted weddings, corporate events and town functions such as Octoberfest. Kacy was instrumental in this resurrection, at various times serving as president, vice-president, secretary and many other committee and work efforts. Her work with FOFAH was in addition to her critical role working on the Town of Suffield 350th Anniversary Committee, which oversaw what, due to COVID, was more than a yearlong event culminating in the memorable parade in October 2021. Kacy served as Committee Chair, backup secretary, and Treasurer.
Not to be overlooked are Kacy’s countless hours volunteering for the newspaper you are now reading. She serves as a Board member and does the hands-on work of laying out the paper into the proper format, using a special InDesign program, and transmitting it to the printer so it can be delivered, in print format to every household in Suffield. After retiring from a long career with Cigna, working in Technology Services, Kacy recently began working as Suffield Town Treasurer.
Gayle Demko also has a long resume reflecting service to Suffield Rotary and the town. She served as president of Suffield Rotary during the first year of COVID, working tirelessly to ensure that our club, unlike some others, remained active and vibrant, serving our community in some of our worst times. She has served as president of the Friends of Suffield, the Suffield Chamber of Commerce and the PTO. She was far from merely a titled officer, as she helped implement the “School Store” at the middle school, various after school programs, assisted with the Rotary grant process to build the playground at Sunrise and upgrading the lighting at Mapleton Hall. She also helped launch the Fitness Scape at Spaulding in 1989 and other things too numerous to mention.
Gayle has also been involved with the Observer in two ways. She and her late husband Chet, in 2005, were the first Observer Community Couple. And if you look at the Observer’s May 2023 issue’s picture of the paper’s first volunteers, there is Gayle Demko. As always, she is right in the center of things.
Born in Texas, and a Longhorn at heart, Heidi, Suffield Rotary’s outgoing president, has always cared about helping others. It led her to a career in home health care, where she bought a BrightStar Care franchise in Windsor Locks, later moving to Suffield. Although she has been running a business, raising two daughters and being active in Rotary, many local children may remember her as their CCD teacher.
In early 2015, Heidi received shocking news—she had lung cancer. She confronted the matter head-on, with surgery, chemotherapy, and a positive attitude. After being deemed cancer-free, Heidi continued running her business, raising her two daughters, teaching CCD, all while expanding her charitable activities-including working to raise money for, and awareness of, lung cancer and the need for early detection. She also increased her activities by serving others through Rotary.
Five years after her initial diagnosis doctors discovered a Metastatic Stage 4 Non Small Cell lung cancer with systemic progression to the lymph system and minor progression to the brain; she received an ominous initial diagnosis. Heidi wants people to know that recurrence diagnosis was three years ago and she is “ living way beyond the curve,” which she attributes to the grace of God and the amazing medical treatment.”
While receiving aggressive treatment and regular testing she continued helping others, including mentoring others in similar situations. As she continued to beat the odds, she became the president of Suffield Rotary in July 2022. Among her accomplishments was overseeing procuring grants and donating club funds for repairing the chimney at Sunrise Park and purchasing requisite containers for the defibrillators located throughout the town. However, service is not measured solely by accomplishments; it includes inspiring others. With her continuing positive spirit and enthusiasm, Heidi has always epitomized, service.
On the same evening, with family and friends in attendance, Aimee Nieroda was inducted as the newest member of the Suffield Rotary and Vice President Elect. While new to the Suffield Rotary she was aware of Rotary, as her mother is a long-time Rotarian with the Enfield club. A Realtor Sales Associate, Aimee lives in town with her family. Even before her formal induction Aimee jumped in with both feet, participating in several service projects.