Faith Exchange

Bridging Church and Community

A New Conversation

Faith Exchange is a new series of conversations between our pastor, the Reverend Dr. Greg Gray and various community leaders. Each of these sessions will introduce the different leaders to a wider audience and use faith as a point of departure to speak to our work in the community. Here in the church we use the words of Christ to motivate our work. What is it that motivates everyone else. We are truly interested!

Here’s How It Works

The Community

We’re inviting individuals who hold significant positions in the community to come and have conversations.

The Church

For more than three centuries we’ve been at the heart of this community, and we believe that staying in conversation together is more important than ever!

The Conversation

This series of conversations will invite us to bridge divides and deepen relationships across our community.

David Deskis, june 27

David Deskis, june 27

Thompsonville Fire Chief

 

Fire Chief David Deskis has led the Thompsonville Fire Department since September of 2018. Previously, before becoming the Fire Chief at Thompsonville fire department Chief Deskis served as the interim Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief at the Mashantucket Pequot Fire department. Chief Deskis retired from the state of Connecticut Military department in 2016 where he served as an Airport Crash Rescue Captain and Chief of the fire prevention division. Chief Deskis had a combined 21 years of military service in the Connecticut Air National Guard and Air Force reserve where he retired as an Operations Fire Chief in the 439th Civil Engineering squadron fire protection flight at the Westover Air Reserve Base. Chief Deskis has also been a member of the North Thompsonville Fire department, Somers Fire department, and served as Fire Marshal/Emergency Management director for Mashantucket, Town of Granby Fire Marshal/Emergency Management Director, and a Deputy Fire Marshal for the town of East Granby.

Chief Deskis holds many licenses and certifications; Bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration, Associates degree in Fire Science Technology, Fire Marshal certified, First Officer 4, Fire Instructor Level III, Haz Mat Technician, Emergency Medical Technician, Rescue Technician, Dive certified, and serves as a state of Connecticut Hartford County Coordinator.

Additionally, Chief Deskis has spent more than three decades as a dedicated member of the fire service community. Chief Deskis has been the recipient of numerous awards, and with a servant’s heart, an unwavering dedication, and an insatiable desire to make his department to be successful and professional, Chief Deskis resolutely propels the Thompsonville Fire Department forward into the future.

 

 

Tina leblanc, july 11

Tina leblanc, july 11

Enfield Board of Education Chair

 

I am a lifelong Enfield resident where my husband Steve and I, are raising our three kids, two of which have graduated from Enfield Public Schools.  I am currently serving my 6th term on the Board of Education in the Chairperson capacity.

In addition to spending time with my family, I volunteer my time with Enfield High Safe Grad and the Enfield Eagles Grid Iron Club to name a few.  I believe being involved with the Enfield community is integral in being able to connect with the families in Enfield.

My father was extensively involved in the Enfield community through his store, Eddies Sporting Goods, and through many youth sports groups.  He used always volunteer at the Fourth of July celebration as well.  I grew up in a big family, I am the youngest of 5 kids.  I lost my mom to cancer when I was 24 years old.  That was a moment that defined me, I was extremely close to my mom.

I have a proven track record in standing up for I believe in and fighting for the students, families, and staff in Enfield Public Schools.  I understand what the schools and family’s need since I am a parent myself.

I recognize that having a strong and competitive public-school system not only helps students and families but the town as whole.  I believe ALL students feel safe and welcome in Enfield Public Schools.  Tina stands behind Equity, Economy and Education for the families in the town of Enfield.

 

 

josue irizarry, july 25

josue irizarry, july 25

ERfC Executive Director

 

Josue became the Executive Director of ERfC in September of 2021. Josue has more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit leadership, community impact and fundraising. His goal with ERfC is to provide more services to the Enfield community and surrounding communities; building relationships within communities and collaborating with a variety of organizations.

Before joining ERfC, Josue held various titles including Association Child Development Manager, Executive Director, Events Coordinator, and Youth & Family Director at various nonprofits located in Connecticut. Josue received his Bachelors of Science in Social Work from Southern Connecticut State University.

An active community volunteer, Josue has served on various committees. Currently, Josue serves on the Board of Directors for the Opportunity Industrialization Center of New Britain. During his free time, he enjoys spending time with friends and family, visiting museums, traveling, and attending various sporting events such as football, baseball, boxing and basketball.

 

 

Maya Matthews, august 8

Maya Matthews, august 8

Executive Director of Enfield Loaves and Fishes

 

Maya is deeply involved in the Enfield community where she lives with her son Kaleb.  She has her degree in English from the University of Connecticut.

Maya has been with Enfield Loaves and Fishes since September of 2021.  Prior to that, she spent 10 years providing administrative support to Town Government in the Town Manager’s Office at Enfield Town Hall.  She is currently the Vice President of Opera House Players Inc, a community theater organization based in the Town of Enfield, and a member of the Connecticut Science Center Gala Committee. 

 

 

 

 

Joe Courtney, August 22

Joe Courtney, August 22

United States Representative

 

Congressman Joe Courtney was elected in 2006 to represent the Second Congressional District of Connecticut in the House of Representatives. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee, and House Education and Labor Committee.

Congressman Courtney is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. According to a review by House Historians Office, Courtney is the first known member from Connecticut to lead a naval oversight panel in the House of Representatives since 1873, when Stephen W. Kellogg of Waterbury served as Chair of the Committee on Expenditures in the Navy Department in the 42nd Congress (1871-1873). Prior to that, Samuel Ingham, a two-term Congressman with connections to Hebron, Jewett City (Griswold) and Essex, served as chair of the Committee on Navy Affairs in the 25th Congress (1837-1839).

In addition, he co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus along with Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia. As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, he serves on the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee, as well as the Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee.

As a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman Courtney has worked to strengthen our nation’s defense by leading the call for increased submarine production. When Courtney arrived in Congress, Electric Boat was facing significant workforce reductions, and, for the first time in 50 years, was not actively designing the next generation of submarine. Because of funding secured by Courtney through his committee work, the men and women of Electric Boat have been building two submarines per year since 2011. In addition, Courtney has secured critical resources for new design and engineering work on the replacement for the OHIO-class submarine, which has added thousands of jobs in southeastern Connecticut. This design and engineering work prompted Electric Boat to expand into the former Pfizer building in New London to accommodate its growing workforce.

Additionally, Congressman Courtney secured over $100 million federal funding outside the President’s budget for SUBASE New London. This investment will ensure that New England’s largest military installation will have an enduring mission for years to come. In recognition of his work, Courtney was awarded “The Distinguished Public Service Award” from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the highest civilian honor the Navy confers.

Since his swearing-in, Congressman Courtney has distinguished himself as a tireless advocate for both our nation’s veterans and our men and women in uniform. He successfully fought to expand the Montgomery GI Bill for post-9/11 veterans and their families, and led the fight to extend TRICARE benefits to dependents under age 26. Congressman Courtney also fought and won support for an 18-unit supportive housing facility for homeless and at-risk veterans in Jewett City. He also partnered with Senator John McCain to introduce the Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act to help members of the military transition into the teaching profession. In recognition of his efforts on behalf of veterans, Congressman Courtney has been awarded the Connecticut National Guard’s highest honor, the Meritorious Service Award. He has also earned recognition from veterans organizations, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, which named him Legislator of the Year in 2009.

Having served as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Congressman Courtney is a vocal proponent for nearly 2,500 farmers across eastern Connecticut. Courtney is the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus, and has worked tirelessly to protect family farms from foreclosure and fix the flawed milk pricing system. 

Dedicated to preserving our green space and protecting the environment, Courtney introduced and won passage of a law that designated the Eightmile River in Connecticut as a part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Thanks to his efforts, this pristine and scenic watershed will be preserved for generations to come.

Before serving in the House of Representatives, Joe Courtney represented the citizens of Vernon in the Connecticut General Assembly from 1987 to 1994. During this tenure, then state-Rep. Courtney served as House Chairman for both the Public Health and Human Services Committees.

Courtney was recognized in a legislative poll in 1994 by Connecticut Magazine for his bipartisan efforts, and named the “Most Conscientious” and the “Democrat Most Admired by Republicans.” Since he came to Congress, Courtney has received numerous awards from several national organizations including the National Patient Advocate Foundation’s 2010 Healthcare Hero award, The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers’ Legislator of the Year Award, and the American Farm Bureau’s Friend of the Farm Bureau award.

Congressman Courtney is a 1975 graduate of Tufts University in Boston. He earned a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1978. He lives in Vernon with his wife, Audrey Courtney, and their two children, Robert and Elizabeth.

 

 

 

Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, September 19

Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, September 19

Enfield Town Manager

 

Ellen Zoppo-Sassu graduated Providence College in 1990 with a degree in Political Science, and then went on to earn a Masters Degree in Public Administration with a concentration in local and urban government from the University of Connecticut in 1992.

Zoppo-Sassu is currently serving as the Town Manager for the Town of Enfield, CT (December 2021 – present). She had previously served as the Mayor of Bristol CT for 4 years (2017-2021). Bristol has the strong-mayor form of government with the Mayor serving as the full-time municipal CEO. Prior to being elected Mayor, Zoppo-Sassu served on the Bristol City Council for four 2 year terms.

She has previously worked for the Connecticut Pharmacists Association as the Director of Communications and Government Affairs; as Development Director at the Bristol Boys & Girls Club and Family Center from 2007-2010, and at the New Britain Chamber of Commerce from 1995-2007.  She also currently serves as the part-time Director of Development & Grants for the Bristol Historical Society.

Others have recognized Ellen’s leadership ability as well. In May 2017 she received the Bristol Historical Society Volunteer of the Year award. She had previously received the McCabe-Waters Little League Volunteer of the Year Award and the 2015 Special Recognition Award from For Goodness Sake; as well as the Bristol Boys & Girls Club & Family Center “Positive Leadership Unselfish Service”  P.L.U.S. Award; In 2018, she and the City received the prestigious  for the Public Service Announcement video series on Bristol’s opioid response.  for her was one of two ACE Award recipients recognized by the New England Carousel Museum for supporting the arts. In 2020, she received the Health Care Hero Award from Bristol Hospital and a Certificate of Appreciation from St. Vincent DePaul for her hands-on efforts to assist the St. Vincent DePaul Shelter in keeping their operations running during the pandemic. And, in 2021, she received the CT Parks & Recreation Association Public Service Award for her role in elevating Bristol Parks and reorganizing the department.

She and her husband Peter, a retired Bristol Police Officer, have 3 adult children: Michaela, 25, a graduate of CCSU currently employed as a State of CT Probation Officer; Zack, 23, a recently returned Army veteran who is currently using his G.I. Bill in Florida; and Carson, 20, who works for a landscaping company while attending Tunxis Community College part-time.

 

 

 

State Representative 58th District Candidates, oct 3

State Representative 58th District Candidates, oct 3

 

Our Faith Exchange series will end this year with three panel discussions of candidates running in state elections on November 8th.
Join us at 7pm on Oct 3, 2022 to hear from the State Representative 58th District candidates.

State Senator                         7th District Candidates, oct 17

State Senator 7th District Candidates, oct 17

 

Our Faith Exchange series will end this year with three panel discussions of candidates running in state elections on November 8th.
Join us at 7pm on Oct 17, 2022 to hear from the State Senator 7th District candidates.

State Representative 59th District Candidates, oct 24

State Representative 59th District Candidates, oct 24

 

Our Faith Exchange series will end this year with three panel discussions of candidates running in state elections on November 8th.
Join us at 7pm on Oct 24, 2022 to hear from the State Representative 59th District candidates.

Upcoming Community Leaders