A Better Chance Gets A Better House

One of my favorite Westport projects is A Better Chance.  Part of a national organization — but very, very local — it provides educational and leadership opportunities to students of color from economically disadvantaged areas.

They attend Staples, participate in school and civic life, and give back at least as much to us as they get.

The 8 or so ABC scholars live together during the school year, in an inconspicuous brick home on the corner of North Avenue and Cross Highway.  I’ve driven past it every day for a decade.

But until last weekend, I’d never been inside the “ABC House.”

On Saturday the residents, house parents and board of directors threw an open house.  They marked the 10th anniversary of A Better Chance — and an impressive summer renovation of Glendarcy House (the official name).

ABC House on North Avenue.

The kitchen is sweet.  Resident directors’ quarters have been made more flexible.  There’s a new computer room, expanded dining, and more space for everyone.

There’s even a mud room.  They may be ABC scholars — but they’re also active teenagers.

“Before this, none of our kids wanted to invite anyone else over,” a director said.  “Now they can.”

The renovation — envisioned by Westport architects Sharon Ranney and Eric Michaels, and made real by the generous contributions of time, expertise and spirit by over 2 dozen contractors, painters, masons, interior designers, landscapers, plumbers, carpenters and other artisans and businesses throughout Fairfield County — was completed in just 3 1/2 months.

“We have to do this on time, and we have to do it really well,” one builder said.  “This is for kids.”

The “kids” — really, young adults — proudly showed visitors their new digs.

Luis is only a freshman.  But as he gave me a tour, it was clear he’s already part of the ABC Family.

He paused in front of some photos.  He described the graduates — young men he’s never met — and then pointed out the “Glen” and “Darcy” who gave their name to the house where Luis now lives.

The house that’s newly renovated, thanks to so many caring, creative men and women in Westport and beyond.

The Glendarcy ABC House that is now truly a home.

7 responses to “A Better Chance Gets A Better House

  1. Thanks for this post Dan. ABC is one of Westport’s best programs!

  2. Thanks, Dan, for this heartwarming post to start the week. And thanks to all who make it possible!

  3. Thank you Dan for this nice article but more importantly thanks for your continued support of “ABC” & the boys themselves!!

  4. Louis is a fine young representative of ABC. I am glad and proud to have him as my student.
    He will give more to Westport than Westport gives to him.

  5. Great piece, Dan. ABC has had a profound effect on so many of us over the past decade. It is arguably one of the most rewarding programs the town has launched in years — for students, families and scholars alike.

  6. Shannon MacGregor

    My grandparents, Ray and Helen MacGregor owned, lived in, and loved that house for many years. I, myself, grew up in this house when I was 2-8 years old (so from ’80-’88) with my mother, and grandparents before my grandfather retired from his commuter job in the city, sold, and moved to a warmer climate in mid-90s.
    I would hover over my grandfather when he constructed model naval vessels in his shop in the garage, we would have the Christmas tree in the front room, and my mother cut her wedding cake in the dining room.

    There was a giant weeping willow in the backyard, about where the second image in the blog post is taken. It would feed off the wetlands that surrounded the yard, but had gotten so massive it began to crumple under its own weight. It seemed healthy to me at the time, but my grandfather warned me that at some point it would have to come down.
    I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of killing something so healthy, until it was struck by lightning one summer storm and was nearly split in two.
    The 100ft willow was taken down to about 3in. the next afternoon, and the oft repeated, but never fully understood phrase my grandfather would mutter about politicians and the like finally made sense. “Getting too big for your britches,” that tree was.

    • Wow, Sharon, thanks for sharing.. My family moved into this house in the mid-90’s, maybe right after yours? My mother was a single, Mexican immigrant mother intent on giving her children a good education and raising us in the burbs despite all the hard work and sacrifice that it took. This was the first house she bought in the U.S., and she sold it to ABC in 2001 to pay for my brother’s undergrad. We were one of very few students of color at Staples, definitely a challenging experience; I would be curious to know what it is like for these young men ten years later… I’ve now finished my Masters and my brother is in Med school -something I doubt would have happened without the solid education we received in Westport- so this space is clearly a blessing for those who pass through it. It is sad that because of the deep inequities and persistent segregation in the public education system, these young men had to leave their families to go to a quality school, but it is heartwarming to know that we share a home. I wish them all the best.