Making a difference in the world has always been important to Diana Broderick. She's done it a number of ways, often volunteering for local nonprofits.

She was chairperson years ago of New Milford Hospital's Annual Ball, and was on its fundraising auction committee. Because of personal experiences and some losses in her life, she also became involved with the March of Dimes' WalkAmerica in New Milford.

Now the New Milford resident is being honored for her efforts with another group -- the Community Culinary School of Northwestern Connecticut. On Saturday, April 6, at the annual "Dinner with Friends" dinner dance and auction, she will receive the Exceptional Service Award at the Ethan Allen Hotel in Danbury.

Broderick, a widow, became involved in the nonprofit school right after its inception, eight years ago. She volunteered her time as a member of its advisory board and now is on its executive board.

The New Milford school provides job and life-skills training for people who need and want to work. Courses cover subjects from food safety to knife skills.

Graduates have gone on to a variety of positions, from a chef at New Milford Hospital to working at the Canterbury School in New Milford, to many eateries and even Stew Leonard's.

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Diana Broderick
She was chairperson of "Dinner With Friends" for five years. The annual fundraiser, to be held Saturday, helps support the Community Culinary School of Northwestern Connecticut.
Broderick was fund development chairperson for the Community Culinary School and worked to ensure its financial security.
In her position as human resources partner for the Western Connecticut Health Network, she recruits employees for New Milford Hospital and Danbury Hospital, and handles employee relations
The Seventh Annual "Dinner With Friends" Dinner Dance and Benefit Auction" will be April 6 at the Ethan Allen Hotel in Danbury. It includes a silent auction, music by Billy Michael, dinner, a live auction, and dancing.
Reservations and sponsorships can be purchased at or by calling 860-350-2737.

Many students are looking for a career after being laid off, said Dawn Hammacott, the school's executive director. One person worked for a manufacturing company for 20 years, only to lose his job when the plant closed.

"His job skills were specific to where he was working," Hammacott said. But, he ended up graduating from the culinary school and is now working in a kitchen in a health care facility.

Broderick works in human resources at hospitals in New Milford and Danbury. She was previously director of employment at New Milford Hospital, where she was able to help some graduates find work.

In a recent interview, Broderick spoke about the school and what it means to her and the people who enroll there.

Q: Why did get involved with this culinary school?

A: About seven years ago I was working at New Milford Hospital and it was New Year's Eve and I made a New Year's resolution to be involved again with something in the community.

Peg Molina, who was director of social services for the town of New Milford, and who I knew through the hospital, called me and asked if I'd be interested in joining the advisory board of the culinary school. At that time, the program was in its infancy and they felt that with my HR background I'd be an asset. I asked her to tell me about the program and as soon as I learned what is was about, I said absolutely yes.

Q: Why does the school have a special place in your heart?

A: Because we change lives. We change lives by offering training in culinary skills to unemployed and underemployed adults, and the food that is prepared by the students is donated to local food banks. It's a win-win.

Q: Tell us about the Exceptional Service Award that you will receive Saturday.

A: I'm so humbled by the experience. I think it's important to me because it gives me the opportunity to publicly express what a privilege it's been to be on the executive board and to work with such a skilled and dedicated executive director, Dawn Hammacott, and our chef, Blythe Roberts, and the board members and volunteers.

The award is for contributions I've made in time and commitment; through my job at the hospital I've been able to secure funding to sponsor students. I've been able to place students as interns in dining services. I've also hired students.

Q: What is one event or moment that gave you great satisfaction at the school?

A: The thing that had the greatest impact on me emotionally was attending a graduation ceremony. When you see firsthand how proud these students, families and friends are for what they've accomplished, it's so gratifying. It is gratifying to know that we can make a difference in their lives.

Q: What drives you to succeed?

A: The gratification and the knowledge of knowing that, hopefully, what I focus on has a positive impact on my life and the lives of others.

Robert Storace is a freelance writer and can be reached at