Project Return’s New Name Honors Old Friend

Home with Hope runs many important emergency and supportive housing and food programs. Homeless people, women fleeing domestic abuse, folks with mental illness, low-income families, young women in crisis — all benefit from their quiet, consistent and crucial work.

From its founding in 1983 as the Interfaith Housing Association, countless Westporters have given amazing amounts of time and energy to the non-profit.

Several are honored the best way possible: by name.

The Gillespie Center is a tribute to the first board president, Jim Gillespie. The Bacharach Community and Hoskins Place honor co-founders Jim Bacharach and Ted Hoskins. Powell Place is named for longtime president Pete Powell.

Next month, Susie Basler joins that august list.

Project Return — the North Compo Road farmhouse that serves women ages 18-24 in crisis — will get a name befitting its former, long-serving and beloved director: Susie’s House.

Susie Basler.

She was not its first head. But she was on its first board.  And from 1986 to 2016, Basler helped turn the dilapidated former poorhouse between Little League fields and town tennis courts into a loving, life-changing home-they-never-had for countless girls and young women in their teens and early 20s.

Basler raised money. She hired staff (and made sure that social workers spent most of their time not in meetings, but with the girls). She created an after-school community service project. She organized an annual educational conference for mental health professionals. She established an after-care program to ensure young women’s continued emotional and financial support.

In other words, for over 3 decades Susie Basler was Project Return.

Homes with Hope president and CEO Jeff Wieser calls the new name “a very appropriate thing to do. Susie joins other moral leaders of Westport, who help us look after our neediest neighbors.”

The proposal was “wildly accepted,” Wieser says. And once the word got out about a special dedication ceremony Sunday, September 8 (3 to 5 p.m., 124 Compo Road North), dozens of former staff members and volunteers made plans to attend.

Susie’s House, on North Compo Road.

They’ll be joined by 30 years of grateful graduates from Project Return.

Except now, they’ll say proudly, “from Susie’s House.”

The September 8 celebration is the first of 2 big events. On Thursday, September 19 [11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Shorehaven Golf Club, Norwalk], the annual “Gather ‘Round the Table” luncheon raises funds for Susie’s House. Click here for details.

6 responses to “Project Return’s New Name Honors Old Friend

  1. This is so great and so richly deserved. Susie Basler was Project Return! My heart is filled with joy that she is being forever honored in this way. Bravo HWH!

  2. Thanks Dan

  3. Peggy O'Halloran

    I met Susie Basler in her last year as Project Return’s director when I was a volunteer. And I agree that Ms. Basler is brilliant, compassionate and fully deserving of this honor. However, I can’t help but wonder why it is that Gillespie Center isn’t called Jim’s Center. Or Bacharach/Hoskins locations could be Jim’s Community and Ted’s Place, and – you get my drift – Pete’s Place. Perhaps Susie Basler as a female is the image of sweet and feel-good and the name Susie’s House evokes the same for the young women who live there. I just hope 30 years from now the Project Return graduates aren’t saying, “Susie who?”.

    • Wendy Crowther

      I had the exact same reaction to the use of Susie’s first name only. Women, famous and not so famous, are often referred to by their first names. We have Oprah, Serena, Hillary, Adele, Cher, etc. Yet we have Trump, Obama, Nadal, etc. The one male I can think of who is referred to only by his first name is Fabio. There are probably more but the fact that it’s hard to think of others shows a pattern. It is the habit of generations mixed with subtle, unintentional sexism.

      But I don’t want to distract from the greatness of Susie Basler. My hope is that future residents will ask, “Who is/was Susie?” And when they do, they will be told about a very special woman.

    • Maybe they asked Ms. Basler what she would prefer the house to be called, and that is what she chose.