Greenwich-based Family Centers honors leaders who kept nonprofit 'up and running' during COVID-19 crisis

Family Centers, a Greenwich-based human services nonprofit, honored two of its employees with the inaugural Janet Hennessey Dilenschneider Excellence in Leadership Award.

The first-ever award was presented to Early Education Director Yenny Disla-Toone and Chief Health Officer Dennis Torres in recognition of their work during the COVID-19 crisis. Named in honor of Jan Dilenschneider — a longtime Family Centers board member and past board chair — the award recognizes the accomplishments, creativity and contributions of Family Centers’ management team.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges that none of us could have anticipated,” Family Centers’ CEO Bob Arnold said. “While Family Centers’ continually rose to the occasion over the past year-and-a-half to meet our community’s ever-changing needs, it was Yenny and Dennis’ leadership that kept two key areas of our organization up and running during the most difficult of times.”

Despite closing the doors to its preschools at the onset of the pandemic, Disla-Toone and her team of Early Care and Education teachers focused on keeping the program’s nearly 250 preschoolers academically engaged while quarantining at home. More than 400 online lessons were conducted and almost 500 educational videos were shared with families. When Family Centers’ four early education sites reopened in July 2020, Disla-Toone and her team developed strict protocols to ensure that children and staff enjoyed a safe learning environment.

Even at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Family Centers’ health care programs remained a front-line resource for the community. Under Torres’ leadership, Family Centers Health Care and the School Based Health Centers continued to provide critical medical, mental health and dental services to patients.

Torres and his team also opened a successful COVID-19 testing site in Stamford, which administered thousands of tests over the past year. He also spearheaded a partnership with the Town of Greenwich to open a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center. In the winter of 2020, Torres partnered with the City of Stamford to create a team of Community Health Workers to provide vaccine education to underserved populations and connect those recovering from COVID-19 to community resources.

A ceremony in their honor was held June 7. It took place at the Darien home of the award’s namesake and her husband, Bob. Going forward, the award will be presented annually.

Greenwich-based Family Centers is a private, nonprofit organization offering heath, education and human services to children, adults and families in Fairfield County. More than 200 professionals and 1,200 trained volunteers work together to provide a wide range of responsive, innovative programs. For more information, visit www.familycenters.org.