Hudspeths, Kaelins to be honored as Distinguished Citizens
Two diligent and charitable couples will be presented as this year’s Distinguished Citizens at the yearly Wilton Community Celebration on Sunday, May 31, at Millstone Farm. Last week, the Wilton Family YMCA announced that Steve and Becky Hudspeth and Michael and Carol Kaelin were selected.
The award recognizes extraordinary volunteers who have long served the town and made a positive impact on the community. The event will be sponsored by Fairfield County Bank.
Becky and Steve Hudspeth
The Hudspeths first arrived in Wilton in May 1987. As devout members of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, they allocate a large portion of their time to religious activities. Becky has been director of the church school and the children and youth ministry for 20 years, a role in which she is responsible for running the church’s year-round confirmation. Furthermore, she works with the Rev. Jane Field of Wilton Presbyterian Church and Zion’s Hill United Methodist Church on the joint youth programs for grades six to eight and also nine to 12.
“Faith is at the heart of who we are. It’s central to our lives,” she told The Bulletin on Monday.
Steve has taught at the Yale School of Management, the Yale Law School, and Columbia-University-affiliated Union Theological Seminary and began doing so 10 years ago after retiring as a partner of the Coudert law firm. Closer to home, he is a vested member of St. Matthew’s, and has been involved for the past 25 years through writing original “sermon-plays” for sixth and seventh graders. The plays focus on an important aspect of life and its relation to religion.
“They’re very powerful because they make kids think about what they believe and rethink their faith,” he said.
Over the past eight years, Steve has also helped plan the annual March interfaith lecture series at Wilton Library. Head officials from local faith institutions collaborate to put together lectures that increase awareness among the broader community.
“Different faiths coming together — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu — that’s very special,” Steve said. The topics vary. However, they generally pertain to religion, culture, and issues with a community focus. This year the focus was on civility.
He has written about many of these issues, as well as values in general, as author of A View from Glen Hill, which appears every other week in The Bulletin.
For Becky, the most influential work she’s done was with the Cider Mill Quilt Project. She at first started it with a friend, but when teachers asked to make it schoolwide, the program grew. She said on Monday the project was “very near and dear” to her heart. In her 25 years as the coordinator, there were about 8,000 children and 700 volunteers who helped produce more than 700 quilts that are given to babies born HIV-positive or with AIDS around the country and around the world.
“We had amazing volunteers,” she said. “We always finished the project on time.”
Along with the sermon-plays, one of the events Steve has become very involved in is the Stop Hunger Now project that takes place under the auspices of the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee. Each October for the past four years, hundreds of volunteers have gathered in Wilton to package more than 100,000 meals, subsequently feeding more than 400 otherwise starving children for an entire year. According to Steve, what he enjoys about it is that “people from all walks of life come together for one cause. You’ll see people from ages 6 or 7 up to senior citizens in their 80s and 90s all helping to pack these meals and load them on the trucks.”
With respect to their motivations for such commitments, the Hudspeths said, “Some things you just wander into, and you find them inspirational. They’re community activities, some we wandered into, and in others we were directed to them. Find your passion.”
Carol and Michael Kaelin
Michael and Carol Kaelin, much like the Hudspeths, donate much of their time to various organizations in Wilton and Fairfield County. They have lived in Wilton since December 1993, and from the very beginning joined the volunteer ranks. From 1994 to 2008, Michael was a member of the Republican Town Committee, which he claims is “not as political as it sounds.” Since the Wilton town government is run by multiple volunteer boards, there are many positions to be filled.
“I reached out beyond town government,” Michael said, emphasizing the social aspect. “It’s more about trying to get people to want to be on the boards and volunteer.”
Michael has been a big part of the Wilton Library Association as well, having served in numerous roles, including vice president and president.
“I just love the library,” he said. “The written mission statement of the library is to be a lifelong learning center. That passion for learning motivated me to get involved and to keep this center thriving.” He added that “the library has turned into a place where people can share what they’ve learned and share ideas.”
Michael also has been a volunteer church school teacher for 20 years at St. Matthew’s and Wilton Presbyterian Church. He is a principal in the law firm of Cummings & Lockwood LLC in Stamford.
Carol served for three years as the secretary for the ABC (A Better Chance) board, during which time she was responsible for keeping minute books. It was also during that time when the ABC co-ed program was implemented at Wilton High School. Consequently, she helped facilitate the relocation of the boys’ house so the girls could have space in which to live. “ABC was a big one,” said Kaelin, “I got to really know some of the scholars and enjoyed seeing how some of them did.”
Carol’s experience with students dates back up to 12 years ago when she started teaching youth swimming classes at the Wilton Y. She found great value in working with the children, as she said, “It’s fun to see them grow up.”
Her volunteerism extends beyond the walls of the Y to the outdoors. For the past eight years she has been an active member in the Wilton Garden Club. Along with the other volunteers, she has helped take care of the roughly half-dozen municipal gardens that the club maintains.
She has also been involved in the Wilton Woman’s Club, and the Wilton chapter of PEO. In addition, she is active with Manna House, an organization that provides more than 50,000 meals monthly to those in need in the greater Norwalk area.
“We love living here,” said the Kaelins. “Wilton provides such an amazing community. There are so many people here that are doing as much and if not more than what we do.” They added, “It’s only natural to give back.”
The Hudspeths and the Kaelins now join more than 77 individuals, businesses, and organizations who have been given the award since the first Community Celebration in 1986.
The Wilton YMCA Community Celebration will be a farm-to-table event. For ticket information, call the development office at 203-762-8384, ext. 273.