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The Courant's Tapestry Award Honors Director Of Mentoring Group


November 09, 2009

The Hartford Courant has honored a Hartford leadership program and the director of a mentoring group for gay and lesbian teenagers with the newspaper's Tapestry Award.

The award recognizes achievements in "building bridges of understanding." Recipients are successful in promoting ideological and ethnic diversity and implementing programs that bring people together.

The 11th annual Tapestry Award goes to Robin McHaelen of Manchester, the executive director and founder of True Colors Inc., and Leadership Greater Hartford, a nonprofit organization.

A panel of six judges from local businesses, schools and municipal organization chose the two recipients from a pool of 29 nominees. The award comes with a plaque and a $1,000 donation to a charity of the recipient's choice.

McHaelen was honored for her work mentoring young people who are gay, transgender or bisexual. The group she founded and directs, True Colors, intervenes in cases of harassment, offers empowerment courses, helps set up local support groups and provides outlets for gay youths contemplating suicide.

McHaelen said she was delighted to have been chosen to receive the award. She sees the prize as a validation of her work, especially given her disappointment with recent events, such as Maine voters' rejecting a gay marriage law.

"There's been a lot of debate around same-sex marriage and such things around the country," she said. "This [award] is an acknowledgment that doing work on behalf of inclusion helps and makes a difference."

Leadership Greater Hartford was recognized for its work organizing community projects that are carried out by diverse groups of people. The group's work has included building recreation centers and nature trails, furnishing homeless shelters and tutoring scores of children, according to the award nomination form.

Ted Carroll, president of the organization, outlined its goal in the nomination.

"For over 32 years, Leadership Greater Hartford has been bringing people from very different backgrounds and experiences together around common purposes," he said. "Through its programs, seminars, conferences, projects, and social events, it has facilitated relationships that would otherwise have never occurred and has created lasting contributions to this community."

Previous years' recipients of the award have included United Technologies Corp., which championed local community projects and supplied its employees with education benefits, and the Rev. Dennis Moon, who organized missions serving the needy of Hartford.

Andrea Savastra, a spokeswoman for The Courant, said that this year's recipients epitomized the spirit of the award. She also said that there were fewer nominations this year than in years past.

"We're getting more quality than quantity in terms of nominations," she said. "I think people are realizing what it really takes to win the Tapestry Award. After 11 years of announcing winners, people have to really think about when they put their nomination in."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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