FAIRFIELD — Operation Hope of Fairfield marked its 18th annual Evening of Hope celebration and fundraiser by honoring three “Community Heroes” with a Mardi Gras in May-themed gala event held at Brooklawn Country Club.

The community was invited to celebrate Operation Hope’s many dedicated supporters. Among those, were three presented with Community Hero Awards: Alexander J. Trembicki, Peoples United Bank and the Bridgeport Ladies Charitable Society, who were each honored for their unwavering support of Operation Hope’s daily mission.

“It’s the 18th annual Evening of Hope and we are really excited tonight because not only is this a great community event but we have three amazing awardees,” said Carla Miklos, executive director. “We are just so happy to give them these awards.”

Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau said, “Operation Hope is a tremendous resource for our town, it’s something we should be really proud of. Our communities come together for nothing else but to give to those less fortunate, those that are truly in need. Often, you don’t think of towns like Fairfield having a need like that, having residents down on their luck that need some help up. Operation Hope is dedicated to that and that’s why I’m so proud to be here.”

Trembicki was awarded the Reverend Spollett/Rabbi Waldman Award as he was recognized for serving as a longtime Operation Hope volunteer and advisor and for being a committed community servant whose skills are assets to organizations which benefit from his guidance.

“I never gotten involved to be honored or to receive an award, but it’s a great recognition,” said Trembicki, an Operation Hope board member. “The thing I love about Operation Hope is that not only do we help people who need help, but it also gives people opportunities who want to give help, to give help and to give hope. That’s the beauty of this organization, and it’s not just me, it’s all the people who participate in so many ways. I’m thrilled to be honored and I’m glad to be associated with this great organization.”

Valerie Senew, senior vice president and growth manager at People’s United Bank, accepted the Stewart B. and Lucie C. McKinney Award on behalf of the bank. The bank has had community giving as its central mission and provides foundational support and mortgage lending allowing low income neighbors to purchase affordable housing, often as they are transitioning from homeless situations to more permanent housing.

“We are thrilled to be here and to have an opportunity to be recognized for our support over the years,” said Karen Galbo, executive director of the People’s United Bank Foundation. “Through our bank and our foundation (Peoples United Community Foundation) we have been supporting Operation Hope for a number of years and are happy with the work they have been doing, the effect it has had and we’re happy to continue our partnership.”

The Bridgeport Ladies Charitable Society was awarded The Jacky Durrell Award as one of the few organizations serving Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull that is unmatched for length of continuous charitable service to its community. The society does not fund large programs or initiatives but rather offers financial assistance for individuals with critical needs when no other resources are available. This funding helps fill gaps for many of Operation Hopes clients.

“We are honored to be given the Jacky Durrell Service Award, we have a long standing relationship with Operation Hope and we really appreciate it,” said Melissa Norton, president of the Board of Managers of the Bridgeport Ladies Charitable Society. “We love what they do and helping them out.”

“Evening of Hope is our most eagerly anticipated fundraiser of the year, offering our guests the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of individuals and families who are truly struggling in our community,” said Darrin Fodor, Evening of Hope chair. “We share a commitment, with many businesses and individuals who support Evening of Hope, no one in our community should be hungry and everyone in our community should have supportive relationships, hope for the future and a place to call home.”

“Peoples Bank gave us our first loan to buy our first home way back 20 years ago,” said Miklos. “We are also honoring Alex Trembicki who led us through the difficult downturn of the economy when the stock market crashed, and did so with compassion and skill, and Bridgeport Ladies Charitable who is like an unknown, unrecognized gem. They have been serving the community for over 100 years.”

Operation Hope was founded by John Hope Bryant on May 5, 1992, immediately following the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Operation Hope, Inc. seeks to teach others about financial literacy and fiscal responsibility. The mission of Operation Hope, according to its website, is to provide the opportunity for individuals and families to experience transformative change. “Our programs and services focus on eliminating hunger and homelessness and are designed to help people solve their crises and build stability in an environment in which compassion inspires dignity and hope.”

“The community is blessed to have Operation Hope,” State Rep. Cristin McCarthy-Vahey said. “I’m betting most Fairfielders don’t realize just how many of our neighbors and friends are in need of help from Operation Hope. The food pantry, supportive housing and casework services they provide are critical to helping families stay on their feet. I am happy to be a small part of the support they receive in the community. Tonight’s showing gives the staff the support and hope they need to continue their work.”

Operation Hope this year launched a Homeless Response Center complete with a new homeless outreach team that is out early mornings and late in the day looking for those who may be in need. In the first 90 days of this initiative, 79 people were diverted from homelessness to secured stable housing.

“We still serve lunch and dinner to our hungry neighbors, distribute more than 150,000 meals annually to local households struggling to make ends meet, provide nearly 60 units of safe affordable housing with case management to individuals and families affected by homelessness and last year rehoused over 250 individuals and families,” said Michael Fucigna, board chair.

“It is always a pleasure to help support Carla Miklos and Operation Hope for all their incredible, non-stop efforts to help those in need,” said Beverly Balaz, president of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce. “Their services are many including food and shelter for those who are hungry or homeless. Carla and her team make significant positive impact every day. A great evening for recognition and thanks. I loved the Mardi Gras theme.”

“Tonight not only do we celebrate the good work that Operation Hope does but we celebrate the people who help us make it happen,” said Miklos. “It’s an important opportunity to honor some very special friends and it’s also a reminder that there are still neighbors who need food, housing and clinical support services in our community. Operation Hope thanks their generous sponsors.

For more information, a list of sponsors and auction items donated visit www.operationhopect.org.