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Janet Arvonen Kniffin

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Janet Arvonen Kniffin Obituary
SIMSBURY - Janet Arvonen Kniffin of Simsbury, CT died on June 10, 2018 at Hartford Hospital after a 5-year battle with cancer. She is survived by her mother; Eleanore (Kivela) Arvonen of Simsbury, her sons; Jeremy Kniffin of Simsbury, Dan Kniffin and his wife Karen of Marlborough, MA, her grandchildren; Jackson and Katelyn Kniffin of Marlborough, MA and her Uncle Ed Kivela. She was predeceased by her father; Henry Arvonen and her sister Linda Arvonen. Prior to her illness-related retirement, Janet had a 35-year career in nonprofit and public management. As a professional and volunteer fundraiser, she raised more that 100 million for nonprofit organizations. She authored countless grants including the first state funded family homeless shelter; start up grants for a low-income health clinic in Windham County; grants to establish technology center and a 21st century learning campus for Hartford North End Neighborhoods; grants to establish a sexual assault prevention program for high school girls; grants for girls to explore career paths in science, technology, math and engineering and a grant to install an accessible ramp to the docks for the Sail CT Access Program. Janet credits her lifelong commitment to social injustice to a national Girl Scout summer program on urban and civil rights issues which she attended at age 14. She claimed that the version of "campfire songs" that she learned were civil rights ballads. Following that summer, she joined the first class of girls at Pomfret School where her interest in social justice was mentored by the school chaplain, Tom Hanson. She went on to majoring in Woman's Studies at UCONN, beginning a career as a "professional feminist." While attending UCONN, she became the project coordinator at the UCONN Women's Center. Later she held positions as the Special Projects Coordinator at the state's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women; Director of Planning and Program Development at the Windham Area Community Action Program; Director of Development, Communication and Public Affairs (and during a statewide merger, acting CEO) of the CT Valley Girl Scout Council. At retirement, she was the Chief Development Officer of CT Food Bank. While at PCSW, she served as coordinator for a statewide program on women and disabilities, a state project on women in nontraditional occupation, and a museum exhibition on CT Women's History. She also co-authored a report "Woman and Children Beware: The Economic Consequences of Divorce on Connecticut Residents." During her tenure as CDO at the food bank, she was awarded the best fundraising program of U.S. food banks by Feeding America. She also received multiple awards for various organization publications. Janet served on many boards of directors including the National Finlandia Foundation; Class Action (classism.org); Sail CT Access Program (for people with disabilities); Quakia (a Puerto Rican Cultural Organization) and the Rotary Club of Hartford. From 1988-91, she was president of the Board of Directors of the Hartford Region YWCA. She also served on the Headmaster's Leadership Council for Pomfret School. In spite of a public career, Janet was an introvert who loved her time alone with a good book. She had a personal library of more than 4,000 books which provided much company. She was also quite proud of her Finnish heritage and spent considerable time in recent years exploring the political activism (socialist, communist and anarchist) of immigrant Finns in the early 20th century. She was delighted to discover her maternal grandparents were wobblies ("my mother was a baby wobbly.") She asserted that growing up in a Finnish American Subculture gave her the personal framework as a feminist. Her proudest accomplishment was raising two sons who have strong senses of humor and are Democrats. In her recent years, she enjoyed spending time with her two grandchildren (now ages 6 and 3). Besides living in Simsbury, she also resided for 17 years in Storrs, CT and grew up in Brooklyn, CT. Funeral Services will be private and at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers donations in Janet's memory may be made to the Finnish American Heritage Society, P.O. Box Canterbury, CT or Girl Scouts of CT, 90 Washington St., Hartford, CT 06016. Carmon Funeral Home and Family Center of Avon is handling arrangements. For condolences or directions, please visit www.carmonfuneralhome.com.
Published in Norwich Bulletin from June 13 to June 15, 2018
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