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News Jul 6, 2017 - 9:47:15 AM

Leadership Greater Hartford to recognize community leaders

By Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH)

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Hartford, CT - Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) announced on Wednesday it will honor four individuals who go above and beyond to inspire hope in the region.

The organization will recognize these leaders at the Polaris Awards Gala the evening of October 18 at The Bushnell Center for Performing Arts for their vision, skill, and courage in serving the Greater Hartford community and for being guiding lights for others to follow, especially during these difficult and turbulent times.

The 2017 Polaris Award winners are:

Cheryl and Jamie “Bear” McDonald, residents of Windsor, are not only owners of one of the fastest growing restaurant businesses in the state, they personify dedication to both quality and the community. Starting with Bear’s Smokehouse in Windsor, South Windsor and Hartford, they have opened three other restaurants this year. And their community focus includes a commitment to hire ex-offenders, raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour for “non-tip” employees and significant support of many local charities.

Iran Nazario, an East Hartford resident, is a high school dropout and former gang member who overcame many hardships, including jail time, to become an inspirational nonprofit leader in Hartford. Today he is president of the Peace Center of Connecticut and was most recently with COMPASS Youth Collaborative Inc., positions that have allowed him to work with young people to prevent gangs, reduce violence and find peaceful paths forward.

Ronit Shoham, a West Hartford resident, is the driving force behind many remarkable projects for young people and others in need. She is a whirlwind of activity who has helped catalyze such initiatives as the creation of the Miracle League of Connecticut (which enables children with physical and mental challenges to enjoy playing baseball), Jonathan’s Dream Re-Imagined (rebuilding one of America’s first inclusive, accessible play spaces) and The Underground (a safe and secure location for teenagers to congregate, communicate
and grow together).

All of these honorees recognize that a community is more than just a collection of buildings and the people who occupy them. They know that leadership is the energy that it takes to establish, nurture, and expand the connections between people to bring the character of a community forward. For more than 40 years Leadership Greater Hartford has been bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to build the awareness and mutual trust needed to create constructive partnerships that serve the greater good.

The Polaris Awards Gala takes place at 5:30 p.m. on October 18. LGH alumni and members of the community are invited to honor these successful leaders and celebrate how they have made our community better and stronger. You can register for Polaris online at For information about Polaris sponsorship opportunities contact Katy Bannister at 860.951.6161, ext. 1800 or

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