BRIDGEPORT– When Cindi Bigelow visited Caroline House in Bridgeport, she saw a group of volunteers changing the world in a small way … with monumental results.
She saw young people learning to read and she saw their mothers being taught English and given skills that would help them move their lives forward.
It was the same goal the President & CEO of Bigelow Tea has promoted throughout her career. Bigelow, who is a frequent speaker at women’s summits, universities and business groups, understands women leadership and the importance of developing it on a local level.
This April, Bigelow will receive the 2018 Caroline House Award for her long-time support of programs that help low-income women and their families by providing literacy training and life skills.
The Caroline House is one of 21 local non-profit organizations that receive funds raised through the annual Bigelow Tea Community Challenge. Since it began 30 years ago, the Bigelow Community Challenge has raised more than $1.5 million for organizations that provide shelter, food, educational services, counseling, crisis management, after-school tutoring and recreational programs.
Lucy Freeman, executive director of the Bridgeport education center, said, “Many Caroline House women and children have benefited from Cindi Bigelow’s support. Not only does she continue to donate to Caroline House, but she helps to bring awareness to our mission.”
Founded in 1995 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Caroline House has a mission of helping immigrant women and children to reach their full potential through education in the English language and life skills. To date, more than 1,600 women and children have been served.
Bigelow will be honored at the center’s annual fundraiser, Starry Night Gala on April 6 at the Inn at Longshore in Westport from 6:30 to 11 p.m. The evening will include cocktails, live and silent auctions, dinner, music and dancing.
“I’m very honored to receive this award,” Bigelow said. “So many people do such fine work at Caroline House. I’m inspired by their efforts to help women succeed in the workplace and the tutoring programs that pair students one-on-one with mentors.”
“My family has always understood the importance of education and that is must be accessible to everyone,” Bigelow said. “As a company, it is where we put our effort and energy. We know education makes a huge difference in a person’s life.”
Caroline House, she says, takes women who do not have a voice and helps them learn what it should be so they can succeed in the workplace.
Bigelow, who will present at the Kellogg Global Women’s Summit in Chicago in May, said, “I’m constantly speaking to women about leadership, balance and finding their voice, which is very important. Women can’t try to be men or think people want them to be. They must develop a genuine voice because that is what will help them get to the next level and stay true to themselves.”
She points out that a high percentage of new businesses are started by women. This is what her grandmother, Ruth Campbell Bigelow, did 75 years ago when she developed “Constant Comment” Tea and began a company that would eventually become a leader in specialty teas.
“There were significant hurdles that she had to overcome,” Bigelow said. “But today there is help available for women who are willing to take a risk. We have to support one another.”
Last year Bigelow Tea registered to became a Benefits Corporation, which allows the company’s leadership to pursue goals that will benefit the community in tangible, socially responsible ways. Unlike traditional corporations that are operated solely to make profits, Benefits Corporations are required to work toward a positive impact on society and the environment.
Cindi Bigelow is the third-generation President and CEO of family-owned Bigelow Tea, the U.S. market leader of specialty teas that produces more than 2 billion tea bags annually. She holds a BS degree from Boston College, an MBA from Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, and Honorary Doctorates from the University of New Haven and Fairfield University. She frequently speaks to students and industry leaders, sharing insights on business ethics and career development. She has received numerous awards for her community service.
Tickets are $195. For more information, visit www.thecarolinehouse.org or contact Christine Paine at firstname.lastname@example.org.