Harold Levine: Westporters Must Help Bridgeport

Harold Levine emailed me recently. He’s 93 years old. But the famed  advertising executive — who is also chairman emeritus of Neighborhood Studios, an after-school, weekend and summer music, arts and dance program for Bridgeport students –is as passionate as ever.

Frustrated, too. The longtime Westporter writes:

I just received a troubling phone call. Our executive director projects that by the end of our fiscal year on August 30th, we will be over $80,000 in  debt.

We are seriously understaffed. So why the deficit?

Neighborhood Studios logoWhy can’t we get enough money to provide arts experiences to over 1,500 children? Is it because they are poor? Is it because they don’t live in our community? Is it because they are black and Hispanic?

I recently invited a Westporter to join me on a visit to our programs in action. I was told, “Oh, I don’t go to Bridgeport.”

Neighborhood Studios was founded over 35 years ago by Pat Hart, a young woman who became blind at 28. She was committed to teaching art and music to blind and other handicapped children. Over the years the organization has grown to serve all Bridgeport children.

For example, for private piano lessons we ask parents to pay $3 per sessions. Many tell us they cannot afford even that little.  Are we to turn that child away?  Of course not. That’s one reason we end the year with a deficit.

For the past 15 years we have sponsored Ailey Camp, a 6-week summer program in cooperation with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company. Bridgeport is one of only 7 such camps around the country.

A dance ensemble class rehearses at Neighborhood Studios. (Photo by Autumn Driscoll/CT Post)

A dance ensemble class rehearses at Neighborhood Studios. (Photo by Autumn Driscoll/CT Post)

Besides a great dance program, youngsters are also trained in speech, writing, and feeling good about themselves. Many campers return as interns and instructors.

This is a program that everyone in Fairfield County should be proud to support.  The campers (and their parents) are carefully interviewed. Each family pays only $25 for the entire summer — yet each camper costs Neighborhood Studios over $1,000.

We are looking for patrons of the arts. I was once told that if Neighborhood Studios was headquartered in Westport, we would be loaded with money.

But we’re not. We are in Bridgeport, serving a community very much in need. So how about saying to the children of Bridgeport: “We do care about you.”

Our programs work. We are successful in getting a high percentage of our children to go on to college.  We must continue to serve the children of our neighboring community, Bridgeport.

(To donate to Neighborhood Studios, click here.)

Harold Levine asks Westporters to help their neighbors.

Harold Levine asks Westporters to help their neighbors.

6 responses to “Harold Levine: Westporters Must Help Bridgeport

  1. Good for you Harold,we run a golf tournament every year at Longshore for Longshore.We would like to tie it to a charity like yours.Let me know what you think.Thanks

  2. It’s not much, but I just donated $50.00

  3. Arline Gertzoff

    The best way to get support is yto have a fund raising event and j have the dance ensemble perform. Sounds like a worthy project for PTO”s to get behindI I don “t think that many people are familiar with the program

  4. Linda Hudson

    This is a great program that I’ve been supporting in my small way for many years. Westport can do so much for our struggling neighbors! The Unitarians in Westport have partnered with an elementary school in Bridgeport for the last 15 years, supplying tutors, mentors, classroom readers, field trip money, classroom supplies – with meaningful and tangible results for the students.
    Why couldn’t every school or organization or religious group in Westport adopt a school or organization
    in Bridgeport? It takes relatively little of our resources to make a difference.

    • Madison Malin

      I wholeheartedly agree with this. Greens Farms Church partners with Pivot House, a place where men can go to “treat alcohol and drug addiction as a spiritual problem, and return the men to their families usefully whole.” the youth group goes over there often to help out with various service projects or to serve meals, and its one of our sites on our annual church wide “Service Sunday”. It is really inspiring and humbling for everyone to get to know these incredible men, and I know we all look forward to our trips and their visits to GFC immensely.