July 19, 2006
By ANNIE TASKER, Courant Staff Writer
Bonnie Glasser and John Gaynor have been married three times, between the two of them. They've got all the toasters they need.
So this time, the Hartford couple is asking their wedding guests to forgo the gifts and give them the wedding present they really want: a morning of hard work.
The couple is dedicating their wedding day to renovating a safe house for families whose homes are contaminated by lead. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, the couple and about a third of the 36 guests will paint the Sigourney Street house's stairs and hallways, clean floors, set up fire and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace the interior molding.
That should give Glasser enough time to shower and get into her white cotton summer dress before a short ceremony planned for 3:30 p.m. followed by a reception at Hot Tomato's restaurant.
"We wanted to make it a day where others benefited besides ourselves," said Glasser, a child protective social worker at the state Department of Children and Families. "We knew we didn't want to do something traditional. It's our day, but it's not really all about us."
Glasser heard about the lead-safe house while working with Rebuilding Together Hartford, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income families renovate their homes. The safe house, established by St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, provides temporary housing to families that have been displaced because their homes have high lead-paint levels.
"It's going to start a new national trend" said Greg Secord, executive director of Rebuilding Together Hartford.
He said the lead-free house has a lot of people coming in and out, so it'll be helpful when a few more people lend a hand. "It's a lot of manpower. It's a lot of little things, but they do add up."
Christa Vagnozzi, weddings editor at The Knot, a wedding planning magazine and website, said she hasn't heard of building an entire wedding around a charity event, although she said that introducing a charitable component to weddings is in fashion. She said organizations like JustGive.org let couples register at a charity instead of at a store.
Other organizations, she said, offer registries that put aside a portion of monetary wedding gifts toward a charity. She said she sees charitable registries more with older women who have a home and everything they need for it.
Theknot.com contains stories of couples who chose to donate a tree in the name of each guest to the National Arbor Day Foundation, or who ask guests to make a donation to a charity.
But Glasser and Gaynor have taken things one step further by asking their wedding guests to get physically involved with the couple's charity of choice. The couple made the wedding plans after consulting area charities such as United Way and Habitat for Humanity, looking for ways to make the nuptials a charitable event.
"It was my initial silly idea, and [John] thought it was great," Glasser said. Glasser is no stranger to charitable work, having founded Hartford's chapter of Girls Inc., an after-school and vacation program for which she used to be executive director.
The lead-safe house seemed like a good fit, said Glasser, since the couple met just down the block from the site four years ago. Glasser was working at an after-school program, and Gaynor, now a technology education teacher at the Pathways to Technology magnet school, was teaching at Hartford Public High School.
"Maybe it's just a boomer thing," said Glasser. "I think we grew up and became adults in a time when John F. Kennedy said, `Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.' And I think we took that to heart."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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