US Census Counts On You!

Stuck at home? Nothing to do?

Fill out your census form!

By now, you should have received information (by mail) about completing the 2020 count. There are 3 ways to do it: online (click here), by phone (844-330-2020) or mail.

The census is important for many reasons. Two are critical: the number of seats each state is allotted in Congress (we went from 6 representatives to 5 after the 2000 census), and billions of dollars in federal funding for schools, healthcare, transportation and social services.

So how are we (and you) doing?

Click here for a map. You can check how Connecticut is doing, compared to the nation as a whole (a tad above average), and how Westport compares to the rest of the state (decently above average).

Respond today. Then check tomorrow. The map is updated every day at 3 p.m.

(For more information on the 2020 census — and to respond — click here.)

But wait! There’s more!

The census can be a family affair — and earn a $500 prize. Well, your high school student can, anyway.

Norwalk2Bridgeport is sponsoring a “2020 Census Throwdown.” High schoolers in Westport, Norwalk, Fairfield and Bridgeport are invited to submit lyrics “expressing vital information about the census via original Instagram videos.”

Lyrics — in any musical style — will be judged on creativity, and how clearly students express their info.

Judges are notable celebrities with local roots, including Oscar, Grammy and Tony-winning Staples graduate Justin Paul.

Upload videos to Instagram with the hashtag #N2Bcensusthrowdown, and tag @norwalk2bridgeport. Profiles must be public during the submission period.

The deadline is April 15.

Livio Sanchez’s “American Portrait”

Last month, Westport’s Livio Sanchez was chosen to be part of an elite team.

As part of its 50th anniversary, PBS selected 100 videographers and photographers from around the country — 2 per state — to help define what it means to be an American today. The “American Portrait” project will focus on the beliefs, traditions and experiences that make up this vast nation.

Little did Sanchez — or anyone else — know that soon, life in America would abruptly change.

Livio Sanchez

Sanchez — an award-winning editor, producer and director who has worked with top ad agencies, Google, Microsoft, Amazon Studios, Netflix, Nike, GM and the New York Times — quickly shifted gears.

He’d already done 3 stories. Now he’s documenting life during the coronavirus crisis.

PBS has pivoted too. They’re planning a special broadcast. Sanchez’s subject are being considered as possible leads.

The videos are short, but compelling. Subjects include Stephen “Doc” Parsons and Griffin Anthony. Sanchez met both while playing men’s baseball for the Westport Cardinals.

Also included: Saugatuck Congregational Church Rev. Alison Patton. Sanchez met her and her husband Craig when their sons played on the same Little League team.

A screenshot from one of Livio Sanchez’s PBS videos.

Click below for links to several videos. As we all grapple with COVID-19, these clips provide compelling looks into American life, yesterday and today.

Stephen “Doc” Parsons

Griffin Anthony

(In addition to pros like Sanchez, the PBS series will include submissions from the public. Click here to see the trailer for PBS’ “American Portrait.”)

Pics Of The Day #1076

Westport in the coronavirus crisis: scenes from yesterday and today.

Empty chairs at Longshore (Photo/Sandy Rothernberg)

Social distancing at the beach (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Empty Compo Beach pavilion (Photo/Sarah Menninger)

One of the final days for dogs on the beach (Photo/Sophie Pollman)

With drive-thru service only, Starbucks’ line was long (Photo/Robert Hauck)

A plea for help (Photo/Jen Kobetitsch)

Westport’s Unitarian Church (Photo/David Vita)

COVID-19 Roundup: Winslow Park Rules; Virtual Bingo Helps Non-Profits; Keep Your Distance!; Restaurant, Retail News; More

As of yesterday, there were 89 positive cases of COVID-19 in Westport — the smallest daily increase here since the spread was first reported. Norwalk has passed Westport for the most cases in Connecticut (105).

Social distancing appears to be working. Governor Lamont emphasized that again, restricting all social and recreational gatherings to no more than 5 people.

The Parks and Recreation Department institutes these rules at Winslow Park:

  • No off leash areas. All dogs must be kept on leash.
  • Pets must be kept close to the handler.
  • The 6-foot physical distancing protocol is to be followed for people and pets. 

These protocols should be followed everywhere in town, including Longshore. Park.


Reader Stan Witkow reports that a group of Westporters has started a virtual bingo night every Thursday. The winner chooses a non-profit to get the buy-in pot. This week’s beneficiary is Westport EMS.

Over 20 people played last week, from as far as Florida and California. Most met 20 years ago at New Neighbors, Temple Israel and parents’ night at Bedford Middle School.

Even more signed up for this Thursday. Bingo!


A reader writes:

My wife and I walk on our sidewalks and roads. We’re mindful of the 6-foot distancing recommendation, so we’re distressed to encounter people who seem oblivious or apathetic. Young folks seem most careless, though some are mindful. Some older folks are careless too.

Yesterday, a young man running and breathing heavily came up from behind and nearly brushed my shoulder. That single encounter could easily have spread the virus. Unfortunately it was not our only close call.

A reminder: The virus is in the community. We all must avoid spreading it.

Be careful out there!


Nefaire, JoyRide and Haus of Pretty have teamed up on a “self-care bundle.” It  includes a facial, cycling class and blowout.

15% of proceeds go to retail employees across the 3 businesses: estheticians, therapists, cycling instructors, front desk hourly staff and hair stylists.

The bundle can be purchased at www.westportisstrong.com.


In restaurant news, Bartaco is donating 100% of all gift card sales to an employee fund.

And although Bobby Q’s moved from Westport to Norwalk, its heart is still here. They always contribute generously to town causes, like Christ & Holy Trinity Preschool. A reminder: Their smoker is open now, with curbside and delivery service.


Last month, “06880” profiled Ben Saxon. The bright, creative Staples High School 9th grader had just launched a math, robotics and coding tutoring service  for 6- to 14-year-olds.

Schools closed, but Ben hasn’t. He now offers weekly LEGO building, Kano Star Wars programming and Makeblock robotics courses, for 2-3 students each. They’re 1 hour a day, 5 days long, starting on Mondays, all via Zoom Video Conferencing. For details, click here.


The Berniker family has had a tough time during this crisis. Jen is now recovered from a bout with COVID-19. Her husband Eric is at home after an encouraging chest X-ray.

The other day, Jen Berniker interviewed her 6-year-old son Max about the ups and downs of family isolation.

That’s today’s Persona interview (below). Download the Persona mobile app to share your own stories, by interviewing family members and answering questions we’ll be sending around. Tag “6880 Dan Woog” in the interviewee field.


Finally, this has absolutely nothing to do with COVID-19. But it has everything to do with the idea that everything we do matters. Bruce Springsteen took a chance and invited a kid onstage. Look what happened next. So cool!

 

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 2 Gallery

Last week, “06880” debuted “0*6*Art*Art*0.”

Every Saturday, we’ll share readers’ artwork. Professional, amateur, old, young  — send us your painting, collage, sketch, photo, sculpture, chalkwork, cartoon, whatever.

The only rule is it must be inspired by, reflective of, or otherwise related to the times we’re going through. We’re all experiencing tons of emotions, and art is a wonderful way to express (and share) them. Email your submission to dwoog@optonline.net.

Here is today’s gallery.

Keep the submissions coming. If yours is not posted yet, be patient. There will be more next Saturday. And, unfortunately, for some time to come.

Joanie Landau’s “Hope” was inspired by Robert Indiana’s “Love.”

Brandon Malin’s medium is photography. The Staples High School senior’s drone shot of downtown Westport — empty at night, in the midst of the pandemic — is striking.

Untitled, Beth DeVoll

Artwork by Merri Mueller’s young Fillow Street neighbors Addie and Nora (ages 4 and 6)

“Compassion” (Miggs Burroughs)

Ellen Greenberg made “The Birds and the Bees” for a friend’s first baby shower (postponed now until after the birth). She dropped it in a sealed bag at her friend’s house. The expectant mom is a beekeeper. “I want her to remember their joy, and the love of all their friends during these challenging times,” Ellen says.

Amy Schneider’s collage expresses how she feels these days.

“Peaceful Valley” (Laura Loffredo, age 8)

“The Low Hum of Anxiety” (Jennifer Sabella)

“Comforting” (Lawrence Weisman)

Julie Van Norden painted this last year. “Prophetic about social distancing,” she says.

Emma Nordberg, age 15, took this photo during the first week of quarantine. “Despite the virus, it’s a beautiful spring,” she says.

Science Olympians Confront Virus

The Staples High School girls and boys basketball teams — both enjoying their best seasons in decades — saw their state tournament hopes suddenly end. No one knows what will happen to spring sports, though that season seems increasingly unlikely.

But Westport athletes were not the only ones whose seasons came to a brutal end, thanks to the coronavirus.

At Bedford Middle School and Staples High, dozens of students were preparing for the state — and hopefully national — Science Olympiad competitions. They, their teachers and advisors had spent hundreds of hours since August researching, designing and studying.

Building on last year’s success — both teams represented Connecticut at the national tourney at Cornell University (for Bedford, the 3rd trip in 5 years) — the squads felt confident.

Last year’s Bedford Science Olympians …

Science Olympians don’t get the publicity or prestige — and certainly not the crowds — of basketball players. But in the highly competitive world of science contests, the Westporters are superstars.

The Bedford program began 9 years ago. Engineering and design teacher Art Ellis is the driving force — the Geno Auriemma of Science Olympiads. He’s assisted by Dr. Daniel Cortright, a BMS science teacher.

This year — with Coleytown students attending Bedford — the middle school teams merged. CMS engineering and design teacher Keenan Grace brought his students on board, with great success.

… and the Coleytown squad.

Science Olympiads consist of 23 events. Each team — usually 15 students — competes in all 23. (This year’s BMS squad included about 75 youngsters. Including various invitational meets, 50 or so got actual competitive experience.)

The events range from building a structure, vehicle or flying object, to tests in areas like geology, meteorology and anatomy, to hybrid, chemistry lab-style activities.

There are activities too like “Crime Busters,” for forensic analysis.

Then there is “Disease Detectives.”

Developed long before COVID-19 spread across the globe, this Science Olympiad event asks students to examine — and solve — disease outbreaks.

At the national high school tournament, the CDC gives an award to the winner of this event — plus an expense-paid trip to its headquarters in Washington, DC.

Many of the middle school Disease Detectives questions have revolved around food-borne illnesses. They’re fairly straightforward to analyze, Cortright says.

From left: Middle school teachers and Science Olympiad coaches Dan Cortright, Kat Nicholas and Art Ellis.

Not long ago, he and Ellis talked about possible tournament questions. They guessed there would be some about pathogens like COVID-19. They started preparing their team for them.

But before they could solve the problem — or at least, address it — the state and national tournaments were canceled.

The Westport Public Schools have moved to distance learning. Activities like Science Olympiad are on hold.

But if anyone can figure out how to adapt to our new reality — and (who knows?) come up with a way to solve or even prevent future disease outbreaks — it’s these young superstars.


In related Science Olympiad news, 4 members of Staples’ team were also involved in the M3Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge.

Formerly called Moody’s Math Challenge, it’s certainly challenging. Teams of 5 students represent their schools, using math to solve a real world problem.

They meet outside of school, download the problem, then work together continuously for 14 hours. The winning solution earns a large cash prize for the school.

Staples’ team — including those 4 Special Olympians — worked together on the problem before social distancing began.

This year’s involved electric trucks. Specifically, contestants had to make intelligent decisions about the necessary charging infrastructure is complex, and weigh economic and environmental implications for communities surrounding trucking corridors is essential. Over 750 teams competed.

The Staples Mathworks Challenge team, hard at work.

Click here to see the Staples team’s video — 14 hours compressed into 3 minutes — on Facebook. Click here for more information on the M3Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge.

Pic Of The Day #1075

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

COVID-19 Roundup: Arlen Road Neighbors; Old Mill Parking Lot Closed; “Distance Learning” Help For Parents; Driving School Open; More

Jack Washburn turns 90 years old today. Family had planned to come from around the country to celebrate.

Now of course, they can’t. That’s just one of countless small side effects of the coronavirus.

But Jack’s milestone will not go unnoticed. Just before noon, he and his wife got a joyful surprise.

His Arlen Road neighbors — adults and kids — gathered on the front lawn. Spaced appropriately apart, they sang “Happy Birthday.”

The provided lunch and cake (and wine).

Then they strung a line on the porch, where they hung birthday cards they’d all made. That way he could look at them, without touching.

Speaking of touching: This is Westport at its best!

Washburn 90th


Many Westporters have offered to donate items during the coronavirus crisis.

Town officials say, “The unique circumstances and complications due to potential virus transmission, including the time needed to quarantine donations and equipment, require detailed coordination. Items that do not assist with the response and recovery cannot be accepted.”

Westport is accepting the following response and recovery donations at your curb by appointment, between 9 a.m. and 12 noon only:

  • Plastic face shields and goggles
  • Packaged medical masks
  • Packaged N-95 masks
  • Packaged medical head coverings
  • Packaged medical gowns
  • Tyvek suits
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Packaged Nitrile or nylon disposable gloves

Items that are not pre-packaged cannot be accepted.

Click here to fill out a brief form. You will be contacted to set up a time for curbside pickup.

And, officials emphasize: Do not drop off donations at town buildings!


Old Mill Beach has joined the list of parking lots closed to visitors. Compo Beach and Burying Hill had previously been closed.

Sherwood Island State Park remains open. So do the 44 trailed preserves operated by Aspetuck Land Trust.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


Distance learning has begun. Students are adapting well. Parents — well…

Successful Study Skills for Students — a local organization — is offering a 30-minute interactive seminar: “8 Ways to Keep Your Student Focused, On Track and On Task in the New E-learning Environment.”

Delivered via Zoom, it helps parents learn how to establish and maintain accountability, and help minimize distractions and reduce stress.

Sessions are Tuesday, March 31 and Thursday, April 2 (7 p.m.) and Wednesday, April 1 (10 a.m.).

It’s free, but registration is required. Each seminar is limited to 25 people. Click here to enroll. For more information, call 203-307-5455 or email info@S4StudySkills.com.


Inspired by Wednesday’s “06880 Pic of the Day” showing a heart in a mailbox with the message “Smile!”, the Theisinger family decided to do something similar for the people who help them.

Youngsters Grant and Blair put on gloves, and packed up treat bags. They printed out messages of thanks, and left them for their mail carrier, UPS deliverer and refuse collector.

“Just a small token to show our gratitude!” says their mom, Kristy. “We 💜 Westport!”


When Governor Lamont ordered many businesses shut, driving schools were among those hit.

Now, however, the Department of Motor Vehicles has allowed them to offer something previously prohibited: online classes. (Schools must meet certain guidelines for testing and attendance tracking.)

Westport’s Fresh Green Light begins soon. The schedule will closely mirror the existing one of after-school hours and weekends.

Classes are open to all current students, and new enrollments (16 and older). Click here for details.


So how did Jim and Nancy Eckl celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary?

They donned masks and gloves, and served their loyal, beloved customers at Gold’s.


Finally, today’s Song of the Day comes via the great Suzanne Sherman Propp, and her Sing Daily! project that brightens hundreds of Westporters’ days:

 

Friday Flashback #186

This week — much to some Westporters’ dismay — the New York Times shined a spotlight on our town’s role in, and reaction to, the coronavirus crisis.

On September 8, 1832, the Springfield Journal took note of a cholera epidemic here.

Of course, there was no “Westport” yet — it would be 3 years before we broke away from Fairfield, Norwalk and Wilton.

I have no idea why a newspaper in Illinois would take note of what was happening here. But here’s how they reported it.

Worth noting, nearly 190 years later:

  • Then, as now, people who were able to left New York for the suburbs
  • Quarantines worked
  • Newspaper writing was a lot different then, but …
  • Just like today, mistakes crept in. “Newark” in the last sentence should be “Norwalk.” The river referred to is the Saugatuck.

I have no idea how very alert “06880” reader Mary Gai found this. But it’s important proof that we are not the first generation to face a crisis like this.

In 1832, New York’s population was 250,000. The cholera epidemic killed 3,515. In today’s city of 8 million, the equivalent death toll would pass 100,000. For more on that long-forgotten epidemic, click here.

PS: The Norwalk Gazette is long gone. But the Springfield Journal  — now the State Journal-Register — is still around. It calls itself “the oldest newspaper in Illinois.”

PPS: Did Abraham Lincoln read this story? Probably not. He moved to Springfield in 1837.

Persona Of The Day: Candice Savin

For a while, Rob Simmelkjaer and I have been talking about a “Persona of the Week” interview for “06880.” Persona — his new mobile app — makes it easy and fun to conduct interviews and create podcasts.

These days, staying connected is more important than ever. So Rob and I are using Persona’s “06880 Dan Woog” channel to help.

Once a day — usually in my COVID-19 Roundup story — we’ll share your stories. Some will be family interviews; others will be questions of special guests.

We start with Board of Education chair Candice Savin. She answered a few questions from Rob Simmelkjaer about when schools will likely reopen, the impact of this crisis on the education budget, and whether the shutdown will impact the schedule for Coleytown Middle School’s reopening.

Here’s a clip from her CMS answer. You can download the app (iPhone or Android for the full Q&A, and to ask her your own questions. Then follow “06880 Dan Woog” — and stay connected. (To share your own interviews, tag “06880 Dan Woog” in the interviewee field.

Board of Education chair Candice Savin