“A Decade Of Dreams” For ABC

Twelve years ago, several Westport citizens had a dream. They wanted to bring A Better Chance — a national program that since 1963 has provided educational opportunities to students of color from economically disadvantaged areas — to Westport.

The challenges were daunting. Where would the students live? Who would provide supervision, meals, transportation, medical care? How would they spend weekends, holidays, school vacations? What about college prep, applications, SAT tests?

And, of course: Where would the money come from?

The founding directors — Barbara Butler, Dave Driscoll, Lisa Friedland, Peggy Kamins, Ann Pawlick — never doubted they would succeed. Their only concern was doing it right.

They certainly did.

Westport’s first ABC scholars arrived at Glendarcy House on North Avenue in 2002. Since then, nearly 2 dozen young men have benefited from the chance to study at Staples High School, and participate in extracurricular activities. Along the way they’ve been helped by hundreds of Westporters, who have volunteered their time, energy and money in areas ranging from fundraising, academic support and hosting, to renovating the residence.

At the same time, the ABC scholars have contributed greatly to the school and town. They’ve given their time, energy, unique talents and outsize personalities to countless classes, projects, organizations and causes.

On Saturday, March 31 (6:30-10:30 p.m., Unitarian Church), ABC honors itself and its scholars — and raises important funds — with a “Decade of Dreams” event. In addition to great food, exciting entertainment, and a wide-ranging live and silent auction, the evening will honor ABC’s founding fathers and mothers.

ABC of Westport founders (from left): Lisa Friedland, Dave Driscoll, Peggy Kamins, Barbara Butler, Ann Pawlick.

Dave Driscoll was the man who visualized what ABC could do and be in Westport. His roots were in the corporate world, but he worked tirelessly to make this non-profit a reality.

Barbara Butler‘s intimate knowledge of town agencies was invaluable in navigating the labyrinth of permits, permissions and other red tape necessary to make ABC House a reality.

Lisa Friedland — who knows just about everyone in Westport — was one of the program’s early, and most energetic, guiding lights.

Ann Pawlick gave ABC its “look,” through newsletters, holiday cards, invitations, gift cards, and tons of other creative, handsome graphic material.

Peggy Kamins spent her time in the back rooms, figuring out computer issues, working on spreadsheets, organizing mailings and completing monumental tasks.

Though not a founder, 2-time president Steve Daniels‘ passion for the program, and sensitivity to the challenges faced by the scholars as well as the volunteers, helped make ABC House what it is today.

None seek the spotlight. All will take deserved bows at the “Decade of Dreams.”

Current ABC of Westport scholars (from left): Emerson Lovell, Stephan Patterson, Isaiah Nieves, Luis Cruz, Khaliq Sanda, Ruben Guardaro, Rhyse McLean.

But the evening will really be about the entire town — those who live at Glendarcy House, those who make it what it is, and those who want it to succeed.

To help it continue, a “wish list” is already online (click here). Covering items like computer supplies, yearbooks for seniors, prom expenses, cap-and-gown-fees, sports logowear, snacks like Subway and Chinese food, and Netflix rentals, this allows Westporters to help out with extra costs that help the ABC scholars share the same experiences as other Staples students.

It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be 13 or 14 years old and leave home, friends and school, move hundreds or thousands of miles away, enter a new culture and school, and live in a group home with resident directors.

And we sometimes forget what it’s like to do all the hard work necessary to make such a program succeed — far beyond  its modest beginnings.

March 31 is a fantastic chance to remember.

(Online bidding for the auction begins Thursday [March 8]. Live auction items can be previewed at the website too. Tickets to the “Decade of Dreams” event can be purchased by clicking here.)

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