Person of the Week
Regina Araujo: Connecting to the Community
As the administrative assistant at the East Haven’s Mayor’s Office, Regina Araujo has helped to spearhead the vaccine clinic efforts in past months. (Photo courtesy of Regina Araujo )
With the youngest of her four children now a senior in high school and a change of ownership at her last job, Regina Araujo was looking for a new career opportunity. She came across the listing for an administrative assistant in the Mayor’s Office at East Haven Town Hall and while she didn’t have experience working for a municipality in the past, the job piqued her interest.
“I never thought I’d get it because I don’t have a lot of experience in politics, but I was really excited about the prospect of working with the public and with the elderly and being able to help them,” says Regina. “I’m trilingual and being able to speak three languages helped me get this job, as well as others in the past.”
Regina was born in Portugal, spending her early years living on a farm raising cows and pigs in the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. She and her family moved to America when she was six years old. Family friends, who had eight-year-old Rick, also moved here at the time. The families remained close and after growing up together, Regina and Rick got married, raising their four children in East Haven.
“In 2007, we took the boys to see where they’re from—my family lived in the country side and my husband’s family was from the city side,” says Regina. “We still have some family there and can’t wait to visit again. It’s gorgeous.”
Regina and her family have always stayed true to their Portuguese roots. She grew up speaking Portuguese at home and then began learning Spanish in middle school, continuing through high school. She has found many benefits in speaking multiple languages and it has allowed her to assist even more residents through her position as administrative assistant. Regina was thrilled to be able to help a Spanish-speaking resident who was having trouble communicating with the tax department and the “gentleman I helped was so happy, too.”
Coming into her new position has certainly had its challenges, especially since she started her post in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regina not only had to learn what her position entailed but learn it while following the COVID-19 regulations and assisting the town in responding to residents.
As the vaccine rollout began to take shape, Michelle Benivegna, assistant director of administration and management, asked Regina if she would be interested in heading up the vaccine clinics. Though it was a daunting task, Regina was happy to help.
“I wanted to have the opportunity to do the clinic and work with the residents. I’ve always been a people person,” says Regina. “After we had the first clinic, it was really upsetting because so many of our elderly don’t have the Internet and they’d call because they didn’t know how to get an appointment.”
Regina and the rest of the staff in the mayor’s office began to walk residents through the registration process. They set up email accounts for residents in need, scheduled appointments, and helped them arrange transportation. In addition to communicating with the residents, they had to communicate with the East Shore District Health Department about the number of vaccines that would be available.
“Though it was challenging, I enjoyed talking to the residents,” says Regina. “You could hear how thankful they were for the help in their voice and then seeing them at the clinics was great—even just 15 minutes with other people while getting a vaccine brought them joy.”
In addition to playing a key role in the vaccine clinics, Regina has helped in a number of other ways since she started her job. She assisted with distributing food boxes. She and the staff from the mayor’s office also suited up in PPE to visit the animal shelter after 29 kittens with ringworm were rescued.
“We couldn’t go in without a hazmat suit, but Michelle [Benivegna], Mayor [Joe] Carfora, and I went to see them,” says Regina. “I picked up one of the kittens and fell in love with him. Four weeks later, I brought him home with me.”
The rescue kitten, Henry, joined Regina’s other rescue cat and two dogs at her home. Regina and Rick have lived in East Haven for the past 20 years, raising their four sons in town with the three youngest all playing football, with which Regina and Rick both became involved.
Rick started coaching when their youngest son, Eric, was three years old and continued coaching through Eric’s junior year. Rick had planned to stop coaching this year in order to enjoy Eric’s senior season, but both missed out on it due to COVID. The Araujo family is hoping there is more football to come, though, as Eric hopes to continue playing football in college. While Regina missed watching her son play and her time volunteering, what she misses most about losing the football season is seeing all of her son’s teammates.
Regina has seen many of the football players grow up over the years as she has volunteered with East Haven Youth Football since her kids were young. She began by working at the snack shack and helping with fundraisers. Regina eventually worked her way up to serving on the board and helping to plan the team banquets.
“It meant the world to be able to give back to the sport they love,” says Regina. “We got married young and didn’t have a lot of income and it was a lot having three kids in football, but they always were able to work with us and we tried to do anything they needed.”
The couple also supports their children in their other passions as well. Their oldest son, 26-year-old Ricky is a volunteer firefighter, 23-year-old Kenny enjoys singing, and 20-year-old Jacob recently started a landscaping business and hopes to volunteer to coach football in the future.
Regina is also close with her extended family with her three siblings all living within 20 minutes of each other. After losing their parents, Regina has learned to “enjoy each day minute by minute” and tries to spend every moment she can with family, which has been challenging due to the pandemic. Her nephew has cerebral palsy and her niece had leukemia when she was young, so the family tries to work together to bring awareness to those causes as well.
“It’s all about being together and supporting each other,” says Regina, noting that her husband and son have been very supportive of her new job, which has required some extra hours during the pandemic.
Now that the initial vaccine rollout has been completed, Regina is looking forward to finding her stride in her role as administrative assistant and interacting even more with the public. She is excited to help plan the town events that she and her family have enjoyed for many years with their favorites being the fireworks and the Fall Festival. She will also assist in planning and managing the farmers’ market.
“I love planning events and I love that by working here, I can continue to give back to the community,” says Regina. “My goal is to help residents with anything they need. I will try to get them an answer and help them as much as I can.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .