Rev. Judy Medeiros, the Minister of Mission and Congressional Life at , has a knack for bringing people together. And while her official position at UCC focuses on helping church members reach out to the larger community, in many cases, Medeiros brings together diverse groups of Tolland residents to make crucial connections within town and beyond.
"She's always happy to have people who aren't necessarily members of the church help out in the projects," said UCC member Linda Calabrese. "That's been really wonderful. There's no obligation to kind of cross over. She gets a lot of people excited."
Coming up on her second annivesary in Tolland, Medeiros has already collaborated with Foodshare, the Tolland Senior Center, the Cornerstone Foundation, Tolland Food Pantry and , with a particular focus on addressing hunger, both locally and globally.
She has spearheaded a number of projects aimed at bringing awareness and relief to the issue, including:
- A , bringing fresh produce to residents in need
- A hunger awareness program, during which she lived on a $4 budget per day for food purchases
- The creation of a at the
- Various church outreaches to the Tolland Food Bank, Cornerstone Foundation and Foodshare to volunteer time and resources to local hunger
Medeiros said that the close-knit nature of the town has helped her forge productive relationships with the other groups.
"One of the things I saw immediately in Tolland was the strong relationships between the human resources and the senior center and the food bank," she said. "There really already was this knitted community that I think is outstanding in coming together."
While Tolland's collaborative spirit has certainly assisted Medeiros, she has also thought outside the box when putting together volunteer efforts.
She said that one of her more successful projects was a photography exhibit on hunger, with pictures provided by Tolland High School students.
With the assistance of the students and the school's Art Curriculum Liaison, Todd Blais, the groups created a thoughtful and provoking look at hunger and its impact close to home.
"They're going to open our eyes in ways that we probably don't normally see," Medeiros said, explaining her inspiration behind working with the teens.
Guests were able to tour the exhibit, which was also displayed during a school coffeehouse, and leave post-it notes expressing their reaction to each picture.
"People were really moved by the images," she said.
Fellow church member and youth group co-director John Frassinelli said that programs like the photography exhibit are what help Medeiros unite diverse groups of residents for a common cause.
"It seems like she just puts things together, small, simple things, just to connect people and the community. It sort of transcends the church," he said. "She comes with such excitement and such energy that she's really hard to say no to," he joked.
And for Medeiros, a Connecticut native who spent a few years in Massachusetts, Tolland has served as its own personal link to her past.
"It felt like I was coming back to my roots," she said. "I've just been so happy to be back in Connecticut and making those connections again."
She added that the people of Tolland have made her "homecoming" and mission work extremely rewarding.
"I find people in Tolland very open and generous and wanting to make a difference. In today's world, that really is something to be valued. I really feel blessed; I really do from my heart."