(Pictured from left to right) Representatives of the Ungroup Society: Nadine Leach, administrative assistant, Warren Leach, executive director, and Rhonda Hunter-Gatling, chief financial officer


Connecticut Community Foundation’s Trustee Fund recently announced its annual Trustee Fund Awards, recognizing two recipients that exemplify excellence in collaboration and innovation in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills. The awards were presented during the Foundation’s 99th Annual Meeting at the Litchfield Community Center on August 11. Each award winner received $5,000 to support their continued work in the community.

The UnGroup Society was recognized as a forward-thinking community action network that develops, promotes and supports collaboration and unity for all residents of the City of Waterbury and beyond. Since its founding in 2010, the group’s network of volunteers, community advocates and local businesses has helped to launch several initiatives powered by the people of Waterbury.

As a grassroots organization, The UnGroup Society is intentionally responsive to dynamic and changing community concerns. It has been especially responsive to the needs of school-age children for inclusive experiences in their education and socialization. The UnGroup Society works to inspire critical thinking and the directed application of knowledge to produce positive and desirable outcomes in the community. Among the group’s initiatives is a program that provides financial education to students, with an emphasis on how wealth is created and passed from one generation to the next.

The UnGroup Society’s embrace of collaboration as a means to achieve its mission is demonstrated through past and current partnerships with numerous local organizations, including Neighborhood Housing Services of Waterbury, Helping Hands with Open Hearts, Kelly Koren Unlimited, Young and Gifted Foundation, Reid Estate for The Mind, Waterbury NAACP, The Anti- Racist Teaching Collaborative atYale University, Waterbury Hospital, Rivera Memorial Foundation, and Acts 4 Ministry.

Executive director of The UnGroup Society, Warren Leach, says “our initiatives hope to inspire entrepreneurial students who plan to create their own businesses and opportunities to consider hiring black and brown people who look like them, creating financially strong individuals and families that can further contribute toward sustainable community development. The programs work closely with the City of Waterbury and various agencies to address a variety of underlying issues that affect black and brown communities. For instance, we have held breast cancer awareness forums, anti-bullying rallies, community policing forums, and a city-wide health fair in conjunction with Waterbury Hospital, among other community-focused efforts. We are honored to be one of the recipients of the 2022 Trustee Award by Connecticut Community Foundation and are thankful for their generous support.”

Donna Palomba, president and founder of Jane Doe No More 

The Trustee Fund also recognized Jane Doe No More’s innovative and transformative Survivors Speak® program. The program empowers survivors of sexual crimes to share their stories through specialized professional training in public speaking and team building, allowing them to advance their own healing while helping to educate audiences of all kinds.

Jane Doe No More’s Survivors Speak® outreach team provides age-appropriate education in schools within Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills to students and staff from middle school through college. In addition, their team offers educational presentations to civic groups, businesses, and organizations in the area.

A key innovation of the Survivors Speak program is that it is led by survivors of sexual crimes. Survivors share their personal experiences and forge an emotional connection with audience members that make the topic approachable, while also supporting the survivor’s own healing.
“All of us at Jane Doe No More are grateful and honored to be a recipient of the 2022 Trustee Award by Connecticut Community Foundation”, states Donna Palomba, the organization’s president and founder. “The Foundation has provided strategic guidance, financial support and encouragement since our inception 15 years ago. This award will allow us to empower more survivors of sexual crimes and educate more people in our community about these complex crimes as well as the role each of us can play in prevention.”

Each year, Connecticut Community Foundation’s Trustee Fund—a giving circle made up of current and former members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees—honors organizations or initiatives that demonstrate the value and promise of collaboration and innovation.