BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — LifeBridge Community Services on Thursday bestowed its first-ever Community Impact Award on Ernest and Joan Trefz, honoring the longtime Trumbull couple for their business and philanthropic support for Bridgeport and the region.
The Bridgeport-based organization had its Food for Thought breakfast at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, welcoming nearly 300 guests to hear featured speaker John Choate, a former Navy SEAL, who spoke to the group about the power of shared self-awareness, dynamic communication and mission planning and practice.
In honoring the Trefzs, LifeBridge President Bill Hass applauded the couple’s tireless work throughout the region.
“The Trefzs have earned the respect and admiration of the Bridgeport community for the time, energy, and leadership they have given to countless boards and commissions and its gratitude for their extraordinary philanthropic support to a wide cross section of community organizations,” he said.
Ernest Trefz was vice president and general manager at Roessler Packing Company before he took on his first McDonald’s franchise in 1964. Twenty years later, he and his brother Christian were the owners of 43 McDonald’s restaurants.
The brothers generated countless jobs and revitalized downtown Bridgeport through numerous projects, including the Park City Plaza building, the Plaza building, the Rite Aid building, the Holiday Inn and the Bridgeport Transit Center.
Trefz also served on many boards, including the University of Bridgeport, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation and Goodwill Industries. He was commissioner of the Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District.
Joan Trefz also has been active in the greater Bridgeport community. She has volunteered with the Trumbull Junior Women’s Club, the Pop Warner Football League, Brooklawn Country Club and the St. Vincent’s Medical Center Auxiliary, which once named her volunteer of the year.
LifeBridge is a nonprofit that seeks to inspired and empower low-income individuals by boosting pathways to skill-building and self-sufficiency. Joan Trefz said she was particularly honored to receive recognition from the organization.
“I love the name LifeBridge,” she said, “because it is a bridge to life.”
In a spirited talk that touched on his grueling SEAL training, Choate told the audience that willingness to recognize one’s strengths and weaknesses is the key to building a team of individuals supporting each other, Choate said.
“I’m now a bike with a kickstand,” he said of working with fellow SEALs.
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