Three residents were celebrated for their contributions to life in the community recently, as the North Haven Education Foundation held its 2018 Community Star Award Reception.
Larry Lazaroff, Linda Battalene and David Mikos were chosen as this year’s honorees and feted with commemorative plaques and proclamations from First Selectman Michael Freda to mark the occasion.
Lazaroff, the owner of town fixture Arnold’s Jewelers, is a member of the Republican Town Committee, vice chairman of the police commission, and serves on the board of directors for the New Haven Ronald McDonald House, which opened a new location next to the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital in September 2017. He was introduced by Kathy Rocklin Wednesday.
“He is the epitome of the community-minded business owner,” said Rocklin. “His motto has always been ‘it is very important to give back to the community in which you serve’ — and I know this first hand, because of his generosity with our spelling bee fundraiser held in April.”
Lazaroff thanked the foundation for the award, congratulated the other two honorees and noted their efforts to better life in town.
“What we know is that busy kids are productive kids — and we have to keep these kids busy, because we don’t want to have problems. The problems we have in today’s community (are) kids who are not well-attended, well-educated, and well-cared for, and that are not kept busy,” said Lazaroff. “People like Linda and Dave, and this community we live in in North Haven, pay special attention to make sure that we take care of our own — and when we can, help others as well.”
Battalene said she founded the drama cooperative in the North Haven Public Schools in 1996, helping introduce generations of fifth-graders to life at the middle school level and put on more than 22 productions.
She was introduced by Debbie Volain, who said the two had worked together for years, from serving on school PTAs to working on behalf of the town library and food bank.
Battalene said the cooperative had built community for North Haven students — both fifth-graders moving to the middle school, and now, years later, as middle schoolers go to the high school.
“The reason we created the drama cooperative was so that fifth-graders would get to know somebody at the middle school so when they transitioned, they wouldn’t be totally alone,” said Battalene, noting that the four elementary schools feed into the middle school. “That seemed to work out... it’s truly a great, great program, which I love.”
Mikos has been a fixture in the town youth sports programs, from coaching in the Max Sinoway Baseball League to serving as the president of North Haven Youth Football & Cheerleading.
He also serves on the Middle School Building Committee, which has led the renovation of the institution in recent years.
He was introduced by Bernard Pellegrino, the chairman of the education foundation.
Mikos noted his deep roots in town. He said his parents graduated from North Haven High School, as did he and his siblings, and his three children.
“Some people feel that being involved is difficult and takes so much time. But when you can actually feel that the community gives more back to you than you give to the community, it’s worth the effort and it’s easy to do,” said Mikos, who thanked his wife, children, and colleagues for their support in his life. “It’s such a wonderful feeling to walk around town, holding your head up high, proud of the things we as a town have accomplished.”
“The reward for all the time and sacrifice is the smile on the faces of the people in our town, our community, seeing extensive community pride, and how proud we can all feel when someone from another town looks around and says ‘hey, North Haven got that right.”
Pellegrino said the foundation strives to recognize North Haven school alumni, business leaders and educators who have given back to the organization and the community with the annual fundraiser.
He noted Mikos’ work on the building committee, Battalene’s record of service to the district, and Lazaroff’s consistent charitable efforts as qualities that set them apart this year.
Outgoing Superintendent Robert Cronin, while not a Community Star award winner, was also celebrated for his work with the education foundation Wednesday, as he nears the end of his tenure serving the town schools.