TOWNSEND — Her given name is Cornelia Capsalis Giles, but she is better known throughout Townsend as “Connie,” a familiar face at many charity functions and in community groups.
And while she never sought recognition for the work she has done, she was shocked and thrilled when she was selected by the Massachusetts Commission for the Status of Women (MCSW) as Townsend’s Unsung Heroine of 2008.
“I was shocked,” she recalled, when she received the congratulatory letter. “It’s such a beautiful honor.”
The MCSW is an independent state agency founded in 1998 to promote rights, equality and opportunities for women through the commonwealth. This is the fifth year of the Unsung Heroine awards.
Giles will join 285 other representatives of communities within the commonwealth at the Statehouse in Boston on Wednesday, May 14 for the presentation ceremony, which includes a keynote address by Attorney General Martha Coakley.
“Our Unsung Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make the difference in their communities, businesses or volunteer endeavors,” MCSW Executive Director Linda Brantley wrote in a release. “They are women who quietly, without fanfare or recognition and usually behind the scenes, use their time, talent, spirit and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others.”
For Giles, helping others is what she’s all about.
“I do things because I love people,” she explained simply. “It gives me satisfaction; I get a pleasure out of helping people.”
Since she moved to Townsend 50 years ago, Giles has been a member of numerous civic clubs — like the Golden Age Club and Townsend Women’s Club — and committees. Until recently she served on the board of directors for the Friends of the Townsend Seniors, and has been a member of the nominating committee for the William E. May Endowment Award.
She was also a frequent volunteer for fund-raisers for the town’s 275th Anniversary.
Her nominator, who shall remain anonymous by request, will also accompany her to Boston for the ceremony. After the address, the certificates of recognition will be presented and a collective photo of all the Heroines will be taken. Following the ceremony will be a “Just Desserts” reception, with pastries by some of the state’s elite female pastry chefs.
“A nomination like this, for someone of my age — it’s a treasure,” she exclaimed. “It feels good that someone would nominate me. I was dumbfounded, flabbergasted.”
She added that she nearly threw the congratulatory letter out as “junk mail,” when she received it, but read just enough to realize “this is real!”
She called her nominator and asked, “What did you do?”
The person on the other end of the phone just laughed and told her she was “thrilled” that Giles was selected.
Giles believes her willingness to help stems from the days when her three sons were still in school. During that time, she served on the Parent-Teacher Organization, as a room mother and as the hospitality chairman. And though seating restrictions prevent her large family — including eight grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild — from attending, she has received numerous congratulatory phone calls already.
It will not be her first trip to the Statehouse, but she admitted it will be her first time as one of the centers of attention.
“I’m going to wear a nice little suit,” she laughed. “And I’m going to bring my best girlfriend, Pauline Bradt.”
For more information on the Massachusetts Commission for the Status of Women, visit www.mass.gov/women. The May 14 ceremony will be held from 1-4 p.m. in the Gardner Auditorium.