Judy Bierly, who retired as director of Community Services for The Bridge Family Center on June 30, was honored at the 3oth Annual ‘Breakfast on the Bridge’ Wednesday morning.
By Ronni Newton
Educators and social service professionals as well as town and school leaders gathered Wednesday morning at St. James’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford for The Bridge Family Center’s 30th annual “Breakfast on the Bridge” – an event that celebrates commitment to children and families and has come to be considered the informal kick-off for the new academic year.
“Collaboration with our school communities and local safety organizations is a critical part of how we support children and families in West Hartford,” Bridge Family Center Executive Director Margaret Hann said in a statement. “The Breakfast gives us a chance to celebrate that collaboration and maintain our strong relationships, while honoring people who have gone above in our shared work.”
For many years, the Bridge’s longtime Director of Community Services Judy Bierly had the honor of presenting the “Build No Fences Award” – one of the highlights of the breakfast – but this year she had a new role: the recipient.
“When Judy was training me this summer, and we were preparing to pass the baton, it was very clear to me that this event was a real highlight for her. I mean, who wouldn’t want to recognize someone who exhibits such a deep commitment to collaboration and who exemplifies our mission to serve every family, every child, every time,” said Amanda Aronson, who now holds the title of director of Marketing and Communications at the Bridge.
Aronson said it was particularly meaningful for her to get to present the award to Bierly.
As is the tradition, comments and tributes about the award recipient made during the nomination process were shared with the audience.
“Judy is a natural collaborator. Personally modest with a great sense of humor, she draws people to her because of her warmth and quiet but clear leadership. Whether heading the Children’s Charity Ball committee, working with the Substance Abuse Prevention Committee, town departments, business, civic or religious groups, or reaching out to the press about a Bridge initiative or community concern, Judy was always inclusive and respectful in her approach. She is a thoughtful listener and truly selfless collaborator interested in others’ thoughts and ideas,” Bridge Family Center Director of Development Martha Rennie wrote.
Bridge Board of Directors President Mary Butler praised the “grace and determination” with which Bierly has always approached her work. “Not only does Judy make everyone around her feel valued, her understated leadership style inspires others to do their best. She has a warm smile and a sense of caring for each person she speaks with both personally and professionally. As director of community services, Judy was the face of The Bridge to many, and we could not have had a better role model for our organization,” Butler commented.
Bierly’s daughter, Kristen Magendantz, said her mother has always loved the Bridge’s mission, and has involved the entire family in supporting that mission.
“I started serving on a teen advisory panel in the late 80s, and I cannot think of a year my children haven’t made Tune In to Life posters and attended an event with Grandmom. The Bridge let my mother grow as an employee, taking on increasing responsibility each year and they pushed her to do work well outside her comfort zone,” Magendantz wrote. “The Bridge is the lens through which my mom views her community. It is how she stays in touch with the needs of its children and families, informs herself as a caretaker of her own family and children, and assesses its capacity to give back.”
“Judy is well known to all of us who work for the Town of West Hartford,” West Hartford Public Relations Specialist Renee McCue said of Bierly. “She has all the answers when it comes to youth services and community engagement, and when you say her name, you can’t help but smile.”
Retired West Hartford Fire Department Capt. John Brice said Bierly is “a very elegant person who has warmly and generously touched the community and all of us lucky enough to have shared some time with her.”
Bierly coordinated the annual breakfast for 23 years, Hann said, and although she has retired her legacy will live on for many decades.
“Judy models grace, kindness, energy, and a never-ending abundance of positive energy,” Hann said. “She spent her career building bridges in the West Hartford community – making everyone she touched feel important and needed, and she inspired all of us to do our best, because we did not want to disappoint her. I am so pleased that Judy is this year’s recipient of the Build No Fences Award.”
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