2021 ELS Case Competition

Digital Program
December 7, 2021

Welcome to the 3rd Annual ELS Case Competition
Culmination and Recognition Event!

Since September, United Way Emerging Leaders Society (ELS) has gathered teams of young professionals, mentors, judges, sponsors and volunteers with the sole purpose of addressing barriers that contribute to local hunger and access to food.

At today’s virtual event, you will hear stories full of inspiration. You will get insight into the eight-week competition experience, learn more about the issue of hunger and access to food in our community, and learn which team will be awarded the chance to implement their winning idea.

Below is an abbreviated version of the 2021 Case Challenge.
You are a consulting team tasked with creating a United Way public awareness campaign. Within this campaign, the underlying goal is to raise visibility of local resources that address food insecurity in the Greater Hartford region.


6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.

Welcome, Words of Congratulations, Introductions


Mentor and Team Recognition


ELS Case Competition Recap Video


Announcing the Winning Team, Finalist Comments


What’s Next?



About the ELS Case Competition

The ELS Case Competition offered a unique eight-week opportunity for emerging leaders and executives to work together to solve a real community challenge. Seven teams were immersed in learning about ALICE and barriers to reaching target populations with messaging that would increase awareness of and access to nutritious food resources. Teams were equipped to identify and pitch creative solutions, develop personally and professionally, sharpen their virtual presence, and form a network of people with diverse backgrounds and leadership styles.

United Way Emerging Leaders Society powered by ConnectiCare created this “Shark Tank” style competition to allow for innovative thinking, problem-solving and professional development, all while offering up ideas that may have a long-term impact on our community.

Thank you to our Sponsors!

Meet the 2021 ELS Case Competition Committee

L to R Top Row:  

Trish Hesslein, FOX61, Community Marketing Manager;
Aaron Knight, CT Department of Public Health, Grants and Contracts Specialist;
Jazna Stannard, Launc[H]artford, Program Specialist;
Brent Robertson, Fathom, Co-Founder

L to R Bottom Row:

Event Chair, Mackenzie Manning, Raytheon Technologies, Program Manager;
Ryan Baldassario, University of Connecticut School of Business, Full-Time MBA Program Administrator;
Matthew Banever, Bards Clothing, Founder, CEO

Technology Sponsor

Comcast is the ELS Case Competition Technology Sponsor. Comcast educates, entertains and empowers communities. The telecommunications company focuses their efforts on volunteering, leadership development, giving access to technology, teaching digital skills, leveraging platforms to educate audiences and starting conversations about critical issues.

Meet the 2021 ELS Case Competition Teams

Gold Sponsor

Marques Creative is the ELS Case Competition Gold Sponsor. Marques Creative produces visual narratives that motivate change. The multimedia business focuses their efforts on discerning content that matters to elevate diverse voices, illuminate profound impact and advance causes for the greater good. A frequent partner of local nonprofits, Marques Creative leverages visual storytelling to create lasting change for communities.

Meet the 2021 ELS Case Competition Mentors

Top Row L to R:
Patti MacRae, Point32Health;
Isabela Piza Danielsen, Pratt & Whitney;
Pete Collins, Travelers;
Carlos Brown, Trinity Health Of New England;

Bottom Row L to R:
Patrick McMahon, VibrantCT Consulting;
Chelsea Mouta, Parkville Market;
Melissa O’Hara, O’Hara Solutions Group

Silver Sponsors

Meet the 2021 ELS Case Competition Judges

Bronze Sponsors

  • Bards Clothing
  • FOX61
  • Harvard Pilgrim
  • Healing Meals Community Project
  • HYPE
  • Keney Park 


Meet the 2021 ELS Case Competition Nonprofit Partners

L to R:

Martha Page, Hartford Food System

Sarah Santora, Connecticut Foodshare

Robin Lamott Sparks, End Hunger CT!

About United Way

United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut’s mission is to engage and bring together people and resources committed to the well-being of children and families in our community. Our vision is a community where opportunities are available for every child to succeed in school and for every family to achieve financial security.  

United Way brings people and resources together to address immediate needs and find long-term solutions to challenging problems, such as hunger. We do this by investing in programs and services, leading community change initiatives and mobilizing resources and volunteers. With your support, we and our network of community partners will build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

About Emerging Leaders Society (ELS)

ELS is a convener of local, young professionals. ELS members represent a new generation of leaders committed to making a difference in our community by leveraging the power of United Way to connect, serve and grow – both personally and professionally.  

Stay connected! Follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter @uwelsct #ELSDoSomethingBIG

Why Your Support Matters

Most households who have not accessed food services before COVID-19 are unfamiliar with existing ways to get food assistance.  

  • 66% of families who accessed emergency food for the first time during the pandemic could not name a food pantry. 
  • There was an alarming 14% increase in food insecurity across Connecticut in 2020. One in every seven adults and one in every six children across the state are at risk of hunger.  
  • While data exists around those seeking food resources, there are many potentially vulnerable populations that aren’t always captured effectively in data collection efforts (ex: communities of color, veterans, the elderly and children).  

Many households experiencing food insecurity are ALICE, a United Way-coined acronym that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These are adults and families with incomes above the Federal Poverty Level but below a basic cost-of-living threshold. Simply put – despite working hard, they struggle to make ends meet. Click here to learn more about ALICE.  

United Way Staff

  • Rebekah Castagno, Team Lead 
  • Maura Cook, Executive Sponsor
  • Jen Gifford, Executive Sponsor 
  • Kate Blackburn 
  • Annie Sommers Fazzino  
  • Kayla Hernandez 
  • John Prescod 
  • Amanda Trothier