By Stephen Knight
In March of 2024, Hubcap Wallingford will celebrate its 10th anniversary. It’s a nonprofit organization that many have heard of, many more have actually been to their facility at 128 Center Street, and all too many others have yet to get to know. This column will attempt to publicize this active organization that has as its catchphrase “Where Community, Business and Education Come Together.”
Back in the spring of 2013, EDC Chairman Joe Mirra, School Superintendent Sal Menzo and then-Wallingford Center Inc. Executive Director Liz Landow conceived the idea of an organization that would bring the businesses, the education system and the active members of the greater community together. They sought to strengthen contact and communication among these three components of the town to the mutual benefit of all three and, commensurately, the Town of Wallingford.
By the end of the year, the location for an office was found, and, by January of 2014, over $100,000 in in-kind donations and cash contributions had enabled the members to renovate the facility and form a board of directors. A grand opening took place in March, and Hubcap Wallingford was off and running. In the intervening years, their facility has hosted hundreds of meetings of groups as diverse as people attending Jewish synagogue services to real estate seminars. A loyal and generous group of sponsors has been instrumental in enabling all kinds of interesting activities to be held.
The one most familiar to everyone has to be Credit for Life. Done in conjunction with the Wallingford School System, it is an annual full-day event held in the Parks & Rec gymnasium where every tenth-grade student at Sheehan and Lyman Hall participates in an exercise of making the financial decisions every adult will eventually face. Dozens of actual businesses, from banks to car dealers to cellphone stores, are represented. Each student is given a monthly salary based on the career they have chosen, and they tour the room purchasing the items and services they need. To describe it as an eye-opening experience for every one of them is an understatement.
In April of 2023, Board President Joe Mirra stepped back from that position. There is now new leadership in the person of Patty Powers, who had been a board member for a couple of years. Patty has had a very diverse career in banking and self-employment, and presently owns PDP Forward. She consults with businesses that want to give their People (i.e., employees) Direction to improve their Performance; hence PDP. She is a dynamo with an avalanche of ideas and the energy to turn them into reality. I should know, because I am her vice president. Trust me, this is definitely someone you will want to get to know.
She has embarked on what she has dubbed Hubcap 2.0. These recent events illustrate Hubcap’s direction:
■Municipal Career Job Fair held on 9/27. Over 100 attended to learn about job opportunities with the Town of Wallingford municipal government, meeting with department heads including, of course, the Human Resources Department.
■Coffee & Connections: held monthly at 8 a.m. on the second Thursday. A place where business owners can “grow their network,” a speaker is invited to acquaint the group with their organization and how it might help the attendees’ businesses. For instance, the speaker last month was Jim Bzdyra, CEO of Community Economic Development Fund. He discussed the Connecticut Small Business Boost Fund, a state small business loan fund.
■Manufacturing Day Celebration: a variety of local manufacturers meet with over 60 students to discuss careers at their companies. Paul Lavoie, the chief manufacturing officer for the State of Connecticut was in attendance and spoke.
Besides the monthly Coffee & Connections, where everyone interested is invited, these future events are in in the works:
■Hubcap Book Signing: 15 authors will be there to introduce their work, sign copies for sale and chat with attendees. A workshop for aspiring authors will also be held.
■Elevate Your Life: in conjunction with the United Way of Meriden & Wallingford and their “Power Up” program, this effort will be aimed at “upskilling the workforce.” When launched (stay tuned), three series of multiple classes will be held for people who want to acquire more skills so that they can be more versatile and advance, both in their present job or career and in life. The first series of eight classes will teach “soft skills” such as business writing, communications and computer applications.
■Holiday Stroll: held on Friday evening, December 1st at WCI’s Holiday Stroll, a dozen small vendors will be selling their products from tables in Hubcap’s Great Room.
Wallingford has Joe Mirra and others to thank for founding Hubcap and seeing it develop as a true contribution to the life of Wallingford. Patty Powers has taken the reins and aims to build on that progress and make Hubcap Wallingford a vibrant resource that everyone in the community will benefit from. She asks that everyone stay connected through their social media, including the website at hubcapwallingford.com.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.