Whether starting up a new tradition like Guilford's blueberry pie-eating contest or making an effort to assist neighbors through the programs of Guilford Interfaith Ministries (GIM), Bob Donahue makes an impact wherever he gets involved.
A very visible member of this community with many ties to local groups, Bob serves as program director and chair for several Guilford Keeping Society (GKS) doings, including the annual Memorial Day Picnic, for which Bob whipped up the idea of the popular pie-eating contest.
Now, as he takes the reins as new GIM president, Bob's hoping to help build awareness and volunteers for a group that has encouraged "neighbor helping neighbor" since 1985. Believe it or not, encouraging residents to eat lobsters at the Guilford Rotary LobsterFest is one way Bob has set about accomplishing his latest mission.
"GIM is funded by the faith groups that are members as well as outside donations and, among those donations, GIM is funded largely by proceeds we receive from the LobsterFest each year," says Bob. "It's a major fundraiser for GIM and that's why we supply a majority of the [outside] volunteers to help out at the fest."
The Guilford Rotary LobsterFest is this weekend at the Guilford Fairgrounds.
A Guilford resident of more than 10 years, Bob began his community involvement at Guilford's Christ Episcopal Church, where he serves or has served as treasurer, chair of stewardship, board of vestry, Connecticut Diocesan licensed minister of communication, and chair of Concertato, an eclectic music concert series (the next series begins in October). Through Christ Church, Bob joined GIM, for which he has most recently served as vice president for the past six years.
"I was asked to join when I was treasurer of Christ Church. I was new to Guilford then. I went to the first meeting and thought it was great," he recalls.
At the time, Bob was caring for his elderly grandmother. The mission of GIM then, and today, instantly resonated. Under its umbrella of non-profit service groups, GIM oversees Friendly Visiting (bringing social connections by sending qualified volunteer visitors to residents' homes regularly), Meals on Wheels (MOW, delivering nutritious meals to residents in need), Charlie's Closet (providing gently used/donated medical equipment for a nominal fee to any resident), and by providing volunteers and administrative support to Guilford Food Bank.
"We're always looking for volunteers and we're always looking to let people know we're a resource," says Bob. "When people hear Guilford Interfaith Ministries, they might think it's a faith organization. We have board members with ties to faith communities in Guilford and Madison, but we also have people on the board who are not in a faith community. GIM is about focusing on supporting our neighbors' basic needs and helping them with complete confidentiality."
Donations and volunteers (coordinated by the small, yet dynamic staff in the GIM office next to Sachems Hollow) are what make GIM programs tick. Bob encourages anyone with even just a small amount of time to spare to contact GIM to learn about volunteer opportunities. While contributions are always encouraged (including those distributed through Guilford Community Fund), attending fundraising events that support GIM, such as LobsterFest, is another great way to get involved.
Getting involved comes naturally to Bob, a People's United Bank vice president of 10 years. A history buff who wears many hats for GKS, including hearth cooking class instructor, Bob's interest in history, antiques, and Colonial architecture drew him to town.
"I think GKS found me! When I first came to Guilford, one of my first interactions with GKS was attending a hearthside dinner," says Bob, who lives in town with his partner, Michael D'Agostino.
Getting involved in Guilford is a joy for Bob, who was recognized in a very unique way last summer by another organization for which he volunteers, Shoreline Arts Alliance. Bob was given a walk-on role during Shakespeare on the Green.
He gamely grabbed a tablet and read a short proclamation for the crowd.
"The alliance was recognizing people in the community who've helped the organization," says Bob, noting Guilford Savings Bank President Margaret Livingston made a walk-on appearance the next night. "It was fun!"
To learn more about GIM and its programs, visit www.gimct.org or call 203-453-8359. GIM offices are at 310 State Street, Unit 200, Guilford. To learn more about Guilford Rotary LobsterFest, go to www.guilfordrotarylobsterfest.com.