Westport Falling Short As ABC Hosts

For well over a decade, A Better Chance of Westport has enriched the lives of youngsters from underserved communities. They in turn have given much back to Staples High School, and our entire town.

It’s not easy for young teenagers to leave homes far away — and very different lives — for Glendarcy House on North Avenue. The resident directors there — where the 8 ABC scholars live during the week — provide vital support and encouragement.

The 2016 A Better Chance of Westport scholars.

The 2016 A Better Chance of Westport scholars.

But they need some breaks. And the teens need to get out, become part of Westport and forge individual identities.

A special part of the ABC program pairs each scholar with a host family. They share every Sunday (except during school breaks), and one full weekend a month.

It’s a win-win. The ABC youngsters enjoy the benefits of a family life away from their real families; they in turn give their host families (including kids) a new perspective on what’s important in life, a window into another culture — and tons of fun.

Last March, at ABC’s annual fundraiser, Deirdre Teed described how excited her children were when they learned their family had been selected to host Thomas Jones. “We won! We won!” they shouted.

Over 4 years, the relationship had its ups and downs. But it grew steadily deeper, Deirdre said — and will last for years.

With Thomas on the brink of graduation, Deirdre repeated — emphatically and tearfully — “We won!”

When ABC scholars speak at the annual fundraiser, they describe with love and awe their relationshp with host families. In 2014, Ruben Guardado spoke with confidence and poise.

When ABC scholars address the annual fundraiser, they describe with love and awe their relationshp with host families. In 2014, Ruben Guardado spoke with confidence and poise.

With so many benefits flowing in both directions, you’d think there would be a long list of Westport families eager to host.

You would be wrong.

Over the years, it’s become increasingly difficult for ABC volunteers to recruit new families. Surprisingly, it’s especially tough to find those with a student or 2 of their own at Staples — the best scenario for a “new kid” trying to fit in there.

In just a few weeks, 3 new scholars arrive. The program is still 1 family short.

That means ABC can’t provide a wonderful 13-year-old coming all the way from California with the support and continuity that are the hallmarks of a host-family relationship.

He’s an honors student who plays alto sax, runs cross country and is an altar server at his church.

He values “communication, cooperation and trust,” and hopes ABC can help him fulfill his potential.

The Westport family lucky to share their lives with him will, in turn, be supported by the ABC organization.

ABC logoEach host family has an alternate family that can step in when life is just too complicated. There’s also a network of volunteers and staff, ready to consult and counsel.

ABC officials are surprised at how tough it’s been to find host families. That’s not the Westport they know. And it’s not the Westport that scholars grow to know, during their wonderful — if not always smooth — years here.

Becoming a host family is not always as easy as 1-2-3. But learning more is as simple as ABC.

For information on becoming a host family, contact Nancy Yates (nyates@post.harvard.edu) or Michael Wolfe (wolfeml@optonline.net).

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7 responses to “Westport Falling Short As ABC Hosts

  1. Mark Mathias

    Having hosted two ABC scholars for four years each, our family can attest to the wonderful young men who participate in the ABC program and the support we received from the ABC leadership. Both of our children love our ABC boys and we are still in touch with them. The boys became part of our family, did family activities with us, participated in our church and were always helpful. Am happy to speak with anyone who is considering being an ABC host family. Dan Woog or the ABC organization can provide you with our contact information.

    • Melissa Griffin

      Hi Mark, in order to be a host family, must you have a child in Staples already?

      • No! It helps, but is not a requirement at all.

        • Dan is correct…it is not a requirement at all! Several of our host families past and present have had younger kids at home, and their experiences have also been incredibly deep and rewarding. We are currently hosting a scholar (Jarod Ferguson, a fantastic kid from Philadelphia), and our entire family loves having him every Sunday (and the one weekend a month when we have him all weekend). We’ve hosted him for two years, and over that time he has really become a part of our extended family (which has only been an issue when he declared certain chairs in our family room “off limits” during Eagles games for superstitious reasons). Whatever we’ve had to give in terms of time and energy is returned to us in spades. I’m happy to share our story with anyone who is interested! wolfeml@optonline.net

  2. Dan is right – it’s not always easy hosting. And Mark is right – the rewards go on forever. My husband, Bob Andrew, and our kids were lucky enough to host Ruben Guardado, pictured in this piece. Halfway through his college years, Ruben is still a big part of our lives, and we are so much the better for that. Shoot me an email (nyates@post.harvard.edu) and I’ll tell you more!

    • Melissa Griffin

      Hi Dan, thanks so much for bringing this to my attention! Let’s hope that some lucky family will win the last spot!

  3. Suzanne Propp

    We have been the primary host family for Mannasses Ogutu for the past three years and Manny will be a senior this coming school year. He and his family have become part of the extended Propp/Sherman/Weitzman/Lewis/Dean family; he is a brother to our kids and a cousin, nephew and grandson to everyone else. The ABC program and the opportunity to be a host family has been a real gift to all of us.
    If anyone is considering being a host family and wants to chat, we’d be happy to chat. Dan has my contact info.