For Connie Rizoli of Westwood, combining professional passion with parental compassion was the perfect fit.
As former research director for the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education, Rizoli wrote hundreds of bill summaries, attended countless hearings and annually monitored nearly 450 education-related bills that came through the Legislature. Through that work, she found herself naturally advocating for children with special needs.
Only later would she realize how much that work would benefit her own family.
For her efforts, Rizoli will be honored with the Patricia Blake Advocacy Award at the Federation for Children with Special Needs' annual fund-raising gala scheduled for May 2 at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston.
"Connie has played a huge role in shaping special education bills over the past 40 years and has seen their effects on both a legislative and personal level," said Rich Robison, executive director of the special needs group.
As a child, Rizoli's daughter, Becky, was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and other learning disabilities. As she continued in the public school system, so did the prejudice against her disabilities, said Rizoli. Her daughter's ability to learn and participate was often underestimated, she said.
"Becky worked hard battling stereotypes and paved the way for future students," she said.
Among issues Rizoli worked on in the State House was Chapter 766, the special education law that established the right of special needs children to an education.
"The issue just grabbed me," said Rizoli, who is director of public policy for Project Bread, the anti-hunger organization. "It became a potent combination when my professional passion was joined with parental compassion."
CHARITY FOR THE BIRDS' HOUSES: For 15 years, the Norwell-based Jack Conway real estate company has participated in "Houses That Build Homes," a program benefiting Habitat for Humanity, by having Conway agents and their family members build birdhouses to be sold for charity. This year's creations are being sold through today at South Shore Plaza in Braintree. Last year, Conway's fund-raising birdhouse building effort raised more than $15,000 for Habitat.
ART SCHOLARSHIP: Young artists looking for a financial boost for school may try for the 2008 Art Scholarship Awards from the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, which this year is giving five scholarships, ranging from $200 to $1,000. Applications are open to South Shore seniors who will graduate this year and have been accepted by a school of fine arts or accredited institution of higher learning that includes a fine arts curriculum. Portfolios may be brought to the art center at 119 Ripley Road on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., and Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call Heather Collins at 781-383-2787 or e-mail email@example.com.
WOMEN'S CLUB CELEBRATES: To celebrate 110 years of community service and 100 years of affiliation with the General Federation of Woman's Clubs, the Milton Woman's Club will hold a tea today from 2 to 4 p.m., at its club house at 90 Reedsdale Road, Milton. The president of the General Federation is scheduled to be on hand to recognize the Milton club's long list of accomplishments. For information, call Deanna Seymourian at 617-696-6736.
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Pablo Saucedo, operations director at Sandcastle Group of Marshfield, was one of 30 recipients under age 40 nationwide of a "30 Under 40 Award," a new program of the Building Systems Council under the National Association of Home Builders. Saucedo, 36, joined Sandcastle in 2002 as a part-time designer.
Marybeth Hassenfuss of Hanover has been named senior director of human resources at St. Coletta & Cardinal Cushing Schools of Mass., based in Hanover. In previous jobs, she was regional director of human resources for the American Red Cross in Dedham and vice president of human resources at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.
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