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Leadership Northwest – Making a Difference in a BIG way!

July 8, 2010


Cheryl Fuhr giving her Leadership Northwest Graduation Speech

June 16th, 2010

Greenwoods Country Club in Torrington CT.

Cheryl Fuhr, Commercial Lines Manager here at Founders, was chosen as the Valedictorian of her Leadership Northwest Class and was honored to give the commencement address. Doug Grieco from our Commercial team was one of Cheryl’s classmates and is featured in the group picture below! Following is her speech.

Hi Everyone! Thank you all for coming here tonight to our graduation. I’d like to share with you that I am not used to speaking in front of large groups, so in anticipation of this great evening I asked some friends for their advice. Fran King and Cindy both said, you’ll do fine, you speak from your heart Cheryl.

Dennis said to imagine everyone in their underwear – although I like all of you very much, I’m sorry I just can’t go there! The famous Paul McLaughlin pointed out that 1/3 of you are my friends and family and won’t mind if I screw up, 1/3 of you won’t be listening and 1/3 he said know they could never get in front of a group like I am doing here tonight. For those of you who won’t be listening, I’ll be able to tell who you are and I’ll deal with you later!!

The last part of what Paul shared with me is what Northwest Leadership is all about! This program came at a turning point in my life. It has truly helped me learn and apply that I, and all of you, can do anything we put our minds to! Facing adversity, a life changing experience or simply stepping out of your comfort zone is not an easy thing, the key, I feel is to stay positive. Leadership NW has helped me and my classmates accomplish this personally and professionally.

When you visit the NW Ct Chamber website www.nwctchamberofcommerce.com you can read about the Leadership Northwest program – the purpose section explains that the program will strengthen potential community and business leaders to improving this region.

The class of 2010 definitely helped improve upon life here in NW Connecticut, with our involvement with the Winsted Homeless shelter. During our January class we were taken on tours of both the Winsted and Torrington homeless shelters, both located at the YMCA. The issue of homelessness is a big one in our society, we tend to get very involved in the day-to-day routines of our own lives and we forget that there are people in our community and all around us that are living this problem every single day. Needless to say when we saw the Winsted shelter and met some of the residents, our group was very affected by the reality of this situation. There were a lot of tears that morning; even Direct Darlene got choked up!! I am so proud to share with you that our class pulled together along with the team of advisors and the chamber staff and we made a difference! We each took a week and collected food, clothes, shoes, diapers, gas cards, grocery store cards, and many other items that the shelter was so in need of, each week a class mate, advisor or chamber staff member would make a delivery to Bruce and his staff at the Winsted Y. It was so very exciting to receive an email each week explaining how each person’s delivery went. I am honored to be part of a group of people who took the time in addition to their families, careers and our leadership team projects to participate and make a difference. Each and everyone one of us embraced the spirit of Leadership NW, JoAnn Ryan you certainly know what you are doing! This is a very worthwhile program and I encourage every employer here to send their employees to leadership NW!

The first part of Paul’s advice, 1/3 of you here tonight are my family and friends and you won’t mind if I screw up is oh so true! I came across a quote recently by Virginia Satir, she said: Life is not the way it is supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference!” The past 9 months have been a challenge for me personally and I have to thank my family and friends that are here with me tonight because they have made the difficulty I have had to face much easier to bear. I truly believe if you surround yourself with great people you can never go wrong!

I would like to thank the partners at Founders Insurance Group, for seeing qualities in me that atthe time I wasn’t seeing in myself. Sending me to leadership is something I will always be grateful to all of you for, I am a stronger,better person because of the faith and confidence you have shown in me! I am beyond proud to be a member of the Founders team. Thank you Bill, Chris, Dennis and Frank! To some very special friends that have touched my heart and soul. Eileen and Arnie, and Terri and Chet, the friendship you have shared with me is an incredible blessing and I treasure our friendship. The listening, the love, support and encouragement you have shared with me is something I will never forget and I will always value. Thank you for holding me up and making me laugh not just over the past 9 months but always, I love you guys very much.

To my sister Karen, her husband Todd, my beautiful niece and nephew, Kaylee and Cameron how lucky am I that not only are you my best friends but you’re my family too! The love and laughter that you bring into my life is immeasurable. Kaylee and Cam, always know that you can do anything, continue to put your hearts, souls and minds into everything you do and you will reap the rewards of success. To my leadership classmates I am thrilled to have worked with all of you and look forward to our continued friendships. Sandi, Kathy, Angela, Orie and Janet you are extra special to me and I thank you for your friendship and support. To my advisors Margret Warner and Sabrina Smeltz and my team mates, Darlene Smith, Janet Sebastiano and Donna Bak you ladies Rock!!! What an awesome experience this has been and without spoiling our project presentation it was a blast working with you, I am proud of what we accomplished together and the difference we have made, I hope someone in next year’s leadership class will continue with our project.

Doug Grieco, you have made a difference in my life, in the lives of our classmates and at Founders Insurance Group. Your enthusiasm and zest for life are contagious. Getting to work with you over the past year has been a true joy, I am happy to be not only your co‐worker but your friend and being part of your success now and in the years to come is something I very much look forward too!

Last but not least ‐ to my mom there aren’t words adequate to express my love and gratitude for all that you’ve done and all that you continue to do for me, I love you so very much. To my class mates, we learned a lot and know we can make a difference, please continue to be involved and I’ll be contacting all of you in the fall to do another round of donations to the Winsted Homeless Shelter!!

I encourage the corporate sponsors and employers of Northwest Connecticut to send an employee to Leadership and watch them grow; I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Thank you!

Cheryl Fuhr

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