Shelton couple honored for humanitarian efforts by Valley United Way

Nicholas and Ernestine Luise of Shelton will receive the Valley United Way’s Charles H. Flynn Humanitarian Award for their community service in the Valley. It’s only the second time the award has been presented to a  couple.

The Luises, known to friends as “Nick” and “Ernie,” have been active in many charitable causes in the region for more than two decades. This has included service with Birmingham Group Health Services, Rotary Club, YMCA, TEAM Inc. and other organizations. Both have served on municipal boards in Shelton.

An ‘indelible mark’ on the region

Jack Walsh, Valley United Way president, said the award’s selection committee “was incredibly impressed with the indelible mark that Nick and Ernie have left on the Valley and beyond with the wide range of programs that they have supported through the years. Though both of them were born, raised and educated in New Jersey, we have been incredibly fortunate that they chose the Valley as their home and set to work their magic here."

The award will be presented at Valley United Way's 45th annual meeting and recognition dinner on Tuesday, April 23 at Molto Bene Italian Kitchen in Ansonia. Reservations may be made by calling United Way at 203-926-9478 or going to

His local involvement

Nicholas Luise has served on the board of directors for Birmingham Group Health Services, Valley YMCA, Hewitt Foundation, and VNA of South Central Connecticut. He is treasurer and board member for Rotary District No. 7980 Gift of Life and the International Board of Gift of Life, which provides life-saving cardiac, pediatric surgeries for children under 18 years old.

He also has been a member of the Shelton Ethics Commission.

Her local involvement

Ernestine Luise is a member of the Derby-Shelton Rotary Club, serving as its first female president. She was a Rotary district governor (only the second in the local club's history), and recently co-chaired the committee that developed the new pavilion on the Shelton Riverwalk.

She served on the Birmingham Group Health Services Foundation board for 18 years, including as vice chairman. She is past board chairman and a 13-year member at TEAM Inc., and a former board member at Valley United Way.

Ernestine Luise also has been involved with the Boys & Girls Club, Women Making a Difference Committee and Julia Day Nursery. She has served on the Shelton Municipal Parking Authority.

Worldwide involvement

The Luises’ humanitarian efforts have extended beyond the Valley. They have been active with Rotary International Peace Centers program that educates scholars in conflict prevention and resolution. They have traveled to Mexico to participate in Project Amigo, a literacy initiative that focuses on keeping children in school.

The couple has supported the construction of a three-room school in a rural village in Nicaragua and furnished a computer lab.

While serving as Rotary district governor, Ernestine Luise helped Rotary International's efforts to institute a clean water project in the Kolar region of India. They raised funds for an Indian bio-sand filter program that helps provide clean drinking water to more than 400 government schools and several villages.

Their fundraising efforts for Gift of Life have helped "fix hearts" of more than 1,000 children in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Other recognition

The Flynn Award is not the only community recognition the couple has received.

Ernestine Luise is a past recipient of Valley United Way's Volunteer Center Sharon Bryce Holly Community Hero Award, Parent Child Resource Center's Joseph Pagliaro Sr. Award, and Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce's Gold Seal Award.

She also has numerous commendations through her Rotary service at the local, regional and international level. She has been the Derby-Shelton Rotarian of the Year and winner of the Donald A. Adams Award from Rotary District No. 7980. The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International honored her with the Citation for Meritorious Service and the Rotary International board presented her with the Service Above Self Award.

Among Nicholas Luise’s many awards are the YMCA's Richard Nicolari Sr. Award and the Parent Child Resource Center's Joseph Pagliaro Sr. Award. He also received a Gold Seal Award from the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Personal and professional backgrounds

Nicholas Luise is a veteran of the Vietnam War, and received his bachelor of science in finance from Rutgers University in New Jersey. Additional studies included time at Michigan State and Penn State.

Following his retirement as vice president of United Parcel Service, he was recruited and served for an additional three years with Electronic Data Systems. Now fully retired, he enjoys his family, community activities, and golfing with friends.

Ernestine Luise’s background was in education, and she held various teaching positions in New Jersey, Missouri, Massachusetts and Connecticut. She has a bachelor of arts in education from Montclair State College, with certification in history and biology.

When she retired from education, she spent 10 years working as administrative assistant to the Shelton Economic Development Corp. during a vibrant period of growth for the city.

The Luises will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in June. Immediate family includes daughter Jennifer, son-in-law Derrick Champagne and granddaughter Aimee.

About the Valley United Way

Valley United Way is a philanthropic resource for the Valley towns of Shelton, Ansonia, Derby, Oxford and Seymour, working to match the needs of the community and the interests of donors to improve the region’s quality of life. The local United Way initiatives focus on youth, families and people in crisis.