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Stamford Youth Volunteers Don't Need A License To Make A Difference

Alexandra Walker, who volunteered at Soundwaters so often that her students assumed she worked there, was honored at United Way’s Volunteer Day awards ceremony Friday.
Alexandra Walker, who volunteered at Soundwaters so often that her students assumed she worked there, was honored at United Way’s Volunteer Day awards ceremony Friday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

STAMFORD, Conn. — You don’t need a driver’s license to make a difference. That was the message delivered by the dedicated youth honored for their outstanding volunteerism at the United Way’s Volunteer Day awards ceremony Friday in Stamford.

Stamford residents Andy Anorga and Alexandra Walker — both students at Stamford’s Academy of Information Technology and Engineering — were named Outstanding New Youth Volunteers. Norwalk resident Maeve Flaherty was named Outstanding Established Youth Volunteer.

The students, including Anorga, were introduced with high accolades from nonprofit officials. “This is one amazing kid that I’m honored to know,” Person-to-Person Director of Volunteers Janet King said of Anorga.

Anorga welcomed the nonprofit’s clients — those who need emergency assistance — better than some adults volunteers. And he’s only 16 years old, King said.

Walker, who volunteers at Soundwaters, “essentially moved into” the Stamford nonprofit that educates children and adults about Long Island Sound and its watershed.

Walker was such a constant presence at the organization that “people just assumed she worked for us,” Soundwaters President Leigh Shemitz said.

While at Soundwaters, Walker helped care for a dozen young turtles in addition to educating students. Shemitz said the turtles helped to nominate Walker, too, as they would turn their heads to see Walker as she went by the tank -- a sign of someone they truly appreciate.

Norwalk resident Maeve Flaherty, a volunteer with Neighbors Link of Stamford, commuted by train and taxi on a regular basis to teach an English as a second language evening class.

“Since the very first day that she came to our center, Maeve has always shown a very positive attitude and a desire to help others that exceeds all expectations of someone at her life stage,” Neighbors Link Stamford Executive Director Catalina Horak said of Flaherty.

Next year, Flaherty will “conquer the world” during her gap year before attending Columbia University, Horak said.

Flaherty and all of the award recipients were nominated by community leaders on the basis of achievement and commitment to the Stamford community. They all deserved to be recognized for their work, said Kim Morgan, CEO of United Way of Western Connecticut.

“It is so important to recognize the helpers amongst us who diligently and quietly work to meet the needs of the community,” Morgan said. “The critical work of non-profits…is not possible without the help of dedicated volunteers.”

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