Volunteer of the Week
Published: Wednesday, July 15, 2009
By Joel Fram
Space in this column permits only a summary of the diverse group of organizations for which Connie Colla volunteers. For each she applies her vivacious enthusiasm and the people skills that have made her successful as a professional television host and talent coach.Colla was raised in Great Falls, Montana and came to the Philadelphia area 13 years ago to work in television. Since 2001 she has worked for Comcast, hosting a morning show, news shows and a cooking show. Now she’s working as a corporate coach, helping executives polish their leadership and presentation skills. She’s also working on creating her own production company with which she hopes to create programming that is purposeful and helps empower people to “pay it forward.”Colla has served for eight years on the board of Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, the largest nonprofit serving blind or visually impaired people in the Delaware Valley. The organization provides a wide range of services, including printing and providing books and periodicals in Braille, training people to navigate technology and helping people learn to perform such everyday skills as cooking, cleaning, dressing and applying makeup.Colla was introduced to ASB when she was asked to host the organization’s Louis Braille Award ceremony. She still serves as the MC of the Louis Braille Awards ceremony, from which she received an award this year, and of its Vision Cup Golf Tournament, in which she played.“Connie Colla is one of ASB’s greatest supporters and friends,” says Pat Johnson, the organization’s chief executive officer and president. “She graciously lends a hand when we ask and I really admire her opinion, work ethic and dedication to volunteering… Connie is a gem!”Colla also hosts funding raising fashion shows for Home of the Sparrow, a group in Exton dedicated to providing housing and supportive services to homeless and low-income women seeking to improve their lives and sustain long-term independence. Over 75 percent of the women who come to HOS are escaping domestic violence and 98 percent are unemployed; over 60 percent of the children served are under age five.HOS is run by “a great group of women,” says Colla. “They have great hearts.”Hosting a fashion show also figures into Colla’s work for the Saturday Club of Wayne, a 125-year-old group of about 150 women dedicated to giving back to the community while enjoying each other’s camaraderie and spirit. The fashion show Colla hosts features American Girl period costumes on both dolls and live models and, she says proudly, is an “unbelievable show.”In addition, Colla hosts a fund-raising telethon for the Children’s Miracle Network Celebration, raising funds for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “For me it’s an incredible experience,” she says. Just seeing the “children and the courage and strength they have makes you want to be a better person.”Colla is also proud of her work for Comcast Cares Day, in which tens of thousands of Comcast employees and their families work at some 600 project sites around the country, doing work such as painting schools, planting and cleaning.Colla is married to David Bentley, a photojournalist who works for NBC, and lives in Lower Merion. She and Bentley have two children: Sophia, 9, and David, 6. Another family member is their “crazy dog,” Buddy Love, a 4-year-old soft-haired wheaten terrier.On the side, Colla and her husband enjoy remodeling houses. They have redone five homes on the Main Line and one at the Jersey shore. The houses have been featured in several Philadelphia-area magazines.It shouldn’t be a surprise that Colla is also active as a volunteer for her children’s school in Lower Merion. She helps run the elementary-school publishing center, in which students write and illustrate their own books, and volunteers at the school’s library and for its pancake breakfast. She is also the “baker of many brownies,” she says, “probably 24 dozen this year.”For more information about Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, visit www.asb.org. For more information about Home of the Sparrow visit www.homeofthesparrow.org. For more information about the Saturday Club visit www.Saturdayclub.org.