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Hundreds Honor Naugatuck's Community Champions

The Exchange Club honored the citizen, educator, firefighter and police officer of the year Tuesday night.

One woman dedicated her life to children. Another has dedicated countless hours to U.S. veterans.

One fights fires by day, while volunteering with veterans and children at night. And another is living his dream of helping people as a Naugatuck police officer.

On top of their selfless dedication to others, they now share something else in common: they are all community champions.

The late, beloved Kindergarten teacher MaryEllen Marques, citizen volunteer Dolly Lengyel, firefighter John DeBisshop III and police officer Andre Moutela were honored by more than 200 people at the Exchange Club of Naugatuck’s 12th Annual Community Champions Banquet at the Crystal Room in Naugatuck.

The honorees were nominated by their peers and selected by a committee of past community champion recipients.

MaryEllen Marques, educator

Marques taught in the Naugatuck school system for 24 years. She began her career at Cross Street and moved to Maple Hill when it opened to students in the fall of 1989.

 From her biography in the Exchange Club booklet: “A close friend and colleague has said that MaryEllen was the type of teacher everyone would want their own children to have. She will always be remembered for her frequent singing, her gentle manner, and her caring nature. A former student, and Naugatuck High School graduate, Michelle Decerbo, sent her a get-well card this summer. The card stated that (Decerbo) had been teaching in Massachusetts for the past six years; she talked about how Mary Ellen was her inspiration to enter the profession.”

On July 21, 2012, Marques died after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 51.

See a video attached to this article of Lauren Marques, MaryEllen’s daughter, discussing what the award means to her and her family.

Dolly Lengyel, citizen

Lengyel has been volunteering for the past 25 years to local organizations and people in need. She has become known in the community for providing toiletries around Christmas to U.S. soldiers serving overseas. She raises money and donations for numerous local charitable organizations. Lengyel has also been helping veterans for decades after being inspired by her friend, a Vietnam veteran who later died from exposure to Agent Orange, who said he did not believe the federal government did enough for soldiers.

From her bio: “Whenever she is asked to help out she never says ‘no.’ While running her business, the Personal Pampering Salon, she uses her salon to store items or as a drop off point. When she was asked why she has done this in the past, her reasoning is ‘No child should ever go without Christmas.’ For our troops: “They really appreciate that someone cares about them and there are a lot of service members out there alone. They have no one else to send them something.”

On Tuesday, Lengyel told Patch the award humbled her, and she was glad it was bringing recognition to her causes. “The people who should be being recognized are our soldiers,” she said.

John DeBisshop III, firefighter

DeBisschop has been a Naugatuck firefighter for the past seven years after serving seven years in the Waterbury Fire Department. He is driver operator of Engine 4 and attained the rank of firefighter/assistant mechanic.

Before his firefighting career, DeBisschop served in the U.S. Navy as a Damage Controlman Petty Officer Second Class. In his volunteer capacity, DeBisshop has served as chairman of the Naugatuck Veterans Council, past commander of the American Legion Post No. 17, organizer of the fire department’s Halloween party for children over the past eight years and has been heavily involved in local scouts.

From his bio: As a true testament of the phrase “actions speak louder than words,” John in known for his superior work ethic and always get the job done.” Even after being involved in so many community organizations, John finds time to maintain a high level of training and education to enhance the safety of our community.”

“I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter; I was that kid who saw the big red truck and said, ‘That’s what I want to be when I grow up.’ And now I get to do that,” he told Patch.

Andre Moutela, police officer

Although only a three-year member of the Naugatuck Police Department, Andre Moutela was a unanimous choice by his supervisors to receive this award. “Earning this degree of respect from his peers and superiors in three years’ time is a testament to Officer Moutela’s unwavering work ethic and character, which exemplify the department’s core values of professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and excellence,” states his Exchange Club biography.

Moutela has become a decorated police officer after spending several years in the department’s police explorers’ program before aging out at 21. He has received advanced instruction in DWI enforcement and interviewing and interrogation skills, and currently serves as one of the department’s laser and radar instructors. He also recently completed instruction to become a field training officer and is looking forward to developing future police recruits.

Moutela was hired by Naugatuck, his first choice of departments, upon graduation from the University of New Haven in 2009; he graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in Criminal Justice and a concentration in Law Enforcement Administration.

“Working in Naugatuck as a police officer is the only job I’ve wanted since I was a little kid; I’m living my dream,” he told Patch.

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