COVID-19 Roundup: Small Businesses And Loans; Face Masks; Realtors; $1200 Checks; Good Deeds; Podcasts; More

The Staples High School Gridiron Club has a great idea.

They emailed all members, reminding them of the many local businesses that supported them over the years with donations to fundraisers, ads in program books and (much) more.

Now is the time to pay it back. “Please take every opportunity to support our sponsors by purchasing their goods and services whenever and wherever possible,” they say. They included a list of dozens of sponsors, just as a reminder.

Think how many Westport organizations have been helped by local merchants. If you know of someone who donated to your cause in the past — well, what are you waiting for?

ASF often contributes to local fundraisers. You can shop online to help them — and many other merchants — now.


Jennifer Hrbek reports that Yale New Haven Health desperately needs hand sewn masks.

Click here for a pocket pattern. Donations can be mailed to Yale New Haven Health (Attn.: PPE Donations), 600 Derby Ave., West Haven, CT 06516. They can also be dropped off there Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You can donate sewn masks that do not follow the pocket pattern too. YNHHS will pass them on to homeless shelters.

Jennifer and her friend, Bedford Middle School teacher Caroline Davis, have been making masks regularly. “They’re desperately needed. And working on them with kids is a great way to teach life skills,” Jennifer says.

Jennifer Hrbek, with sewing machine and mask.


Connecticut’s 0% interest loan program for small businesses and non-profits with fewer than 100 employees is great.

Unless you’re on the list of prohibited applicants.

You’re ineligible if you are “involved in real estate, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment, cannabis or firearms.” You also cannot be a state elected public official or state employee.

I understand the possible conflicts of interest around state officials and employees. But it seems to me the other groups listed have just as many small business worries as any restaurant, market, gift shop or toy store.

And realtors? I can’t imagine there were any open houses last weekend — or will be, over the next few weeks.


Amy Messing writes: “My husband and I plan to donate whatever we get from the government to help during the crisis. Other people may be moved to do the same.

“Do any local fundraising efforts distribute money to restaurant workers, small businesses and others in need? Also, are there any needs for volunteer help that you can identify?”

There are many. This morning, Westporter Stephanie Webster’s great CTBites.com featured a list of many restaurant funds. Click here to see (and note that locally it includes both Match Burger Lobster and Artisan).

I told Amy that I’d crowd-source others. Please click “Comments” below, and let us all know your favorite fundraisers and volunteer opportunities.


One positive side effect of the coronavirus: crime is way down.

I’m on the email list for regular updates from the Westport Police. Usually, the list of arrests for things like distracted driving and speeding is 6 or 8 pages long.

This morning there was just 1  (for “failure to obey control signal.”)

Often too there are 4 to 6 “custodial arrests” (aka lockups), for crimes like domestic violence, larceny and sexual assault.

For the last week, there have been none.

Nice to know that even criminals are self-isolating.


This weekend Elise, Penelope and Daphne Eisenberger painted hearts and positive messages on rocks they, their dad Nico and mother Robin Bates collected at Burying Hill Beach. 

Yesterday they put them (in places no one would need to touch) by the entrances to Westport EMS, the police station, Greens Farms fire station and post office, their pediatrician’s office and a few other spots. They saw similar signs around town.

“It won’t stop anyone from getting sick, or make anyone better who is,” Nico says. “But we hope it’s helpful in some small way to those who work hard to keep us all safe.”

Coincidentally, just a few minutes before I published this piece, I got an email from EMS deputy director Marc Hartog. He writes about those stones:

“We don’t know who placed them there or when, but everyone here is incredibly moved that someone, or some group, thought about us and wanted to show their support.

“This is another example of everyday people doing whatever they can during this crisis, even just to boost the morale of our personnel on the front lines. We wish we could thank them, let them know that this gesture is so appreciated. Maybe if you post this, even though we can’t do it in person, they will know.”

Done. And PS: Now you know!

Elise, Penelopoe and Daphne Eisenberger.


Lauren Braun Costello is making lemonade — more accurately perhaps, lemon tarts or meringue pie — during this time of lemons.

Every day during the pandemic, she’s on Instagram Live with tips and tricks to stretch pantries, and help us feed our families.

Lauren is a classically trained chef, with an impressive CV. Check out itslaurenofcourse.com on Instagram.


Yesterday’s rain did not stop Doris Ghitelman.

The Westporter had to go shopping. So she called 4 high-risk neighbors and friends, and asked what they needed.

“It makes me happy to the core to help,” she says. “There’s always a silver lining 😊🧡”

PS: Nice gloves!


Across the world, John Karrel reports, people are putting teddy bears in all kinds of places: windows. Front porches. Roofs.

The idea is for parents to walk around with their kids, counting as many as they find. It’s a scavenger hunt anyone can help with.

John’s already spotted a couple of teddy bears in Greens Farms. Time to add yours! (And if you don’t have one, plenty of toy stores in Westport can help.)


Every week for decades, the Y’s Men meet to hear intriguing speakers.

COVID-19 has halted that tradition. But the Y’s Men are resourceful and resilient.

They’ve developed a podcast series — and they’re sharing them with the world.

Recent guests included internist Dr. Robert Altbaum and epidemiologist Dr. Pietro Marghello, plus that guy who writes the “06880” blog.

Today John Brandt interviews the CEO of a major wholesale distributor to national supermarkets. He’ll talk about the supply chain.

Click here for all the Y’s Men podcasts.


A former Westporter — now a college professor — is asking her students to interview (by phone or video) someone over the age of 70, with pre-selected questions.

Westporters and non-Westporters who are chatty and game should send names, brief bios and contact info to kochel491@gmail.com by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“At a time when people are lonely and the lessons I’d originally planned seem increasingly irrelevant, I hope this project will be meaningful to both interviewers and interviewees,” she says.


And finally, here’s a gift from Berklee College of Music. It’s been home to a number of Westporters. They’ve chosen well.

8 responses to “COVID-19 Roundup: Small Businesses And Loans; Face Masks; Realtors; $1200 Checks; Good Deeds; Podcasts; More

  1. Larry Perlstein

    The Sugar Bowl in Darien is raising money for the staff through GoFundMe. The Sugar Bowl’s owner is longtime Westport resident Bob Mazza. You can donate at : https://www.gofundme.com/f/SugarBowlFund

  2. Allison Allott

    When Bridgeport schools reopen, Mercy Learning Center will also reopen. It is anticipated that the 1000+ women who attend ABE, GED and tutoring classes and who also rely on the food and diaper pantry will have tremendous needs that have not be covered by other agencies. It would be wonderful if some of your readers could collect $25 gift cards to Stop &Shop, Walgreens, Target and Kohls, non-perishable food and size 4,5, and 6 diapers and wipes for when Mercy is able to serve the students again.
    Readers can contact aallott@optonline.net for more information or pickup.
    On behalf of Mercy Learning Center, many thanks in advance!

  3. thank you to NIco, Eilise, Penelope, Daphne Eisenberger from the
    residents at Whitney Glen Condos.. Your lovely messages and art work so appreciated,

  4. Just to clarify, the hospitals desperately need legitimate PPE, including legitimate n95 (or better) respirator masks, that are new/in sealed packaging. AFAIK, no medical staff are wearing or should be wearing the homemade stuff – it will not do them much good. Where it does some good is if someone is infected and coughing or sneezing, it helps keep some of the virus out of the air. So priority should be on finding the legit PPE sitting on shelves in the dark corners of some folk’s basements.

  5. Wendy Cusick

    I just stumble upon this post for the type of filters that can be used in these masks. Dr Jason Berkeley of Cedars Sinai and another physician researched and found the filters at Home Depot (also Lowe’s or hardware store) to be put in these masks.
    Here’s the post for all to read

    View this post on Instagram

    ❤️from @greglauren Like so many of our amazing friends and colleagues in the fashion/apparel sector, we are ready and able to help. I knew we had the space, the manpower, and the fabric and the know how…The unanswered question seemed to be, "how exactly?" and "what can we make that will actually work, make a difference?" So I wanted let all of you know what we are doing, and where we are with our efforts to help, so that we can do this together. – Enter Dr. Jason Berkley Thank you, thank you to my brilliant brother in law Dr. Jason Berkley, @jasonb_50 a And @redwingsdoc11 a physician at CEDARS who said "I have an idea, I know what you can use…" – The result is what we are calling the "UPGRADED DIY FILTER MASK"…. Jason's idea was to insert the same material used in common air conditioning filters, as long as it had at MERV 13 rating or a FPR 10 rating, which is the system Home Depot uses, in between the fabric. That is what we have done, beginning with 100 air conditioning filters bought at Home Depot, with the goal of making 1000 per week (1 filter makes 14 masks using our pattern). Using overstock fabric and scraps of "tightly woven cotton" , we are using a softer one (plaid flannel) for the part which touches the face, and army twill for the outer side. – We feel that this has got to be better than nothing, and friends in the medical field have unofficially said this should work, and "be so much better than tying a bandanna around one's face". We are anxiously waiting for feedback from the mayor's office, as well as friends in the medical field for a more official vetting. We are also looking for any other support in helping to get an answer more quickly. – In the meantime, this is an call to action, to all of our friends in the fashion /apparel community, to all of the amazing cutters and sewers at home… let's make as many of these as possible and get them to those who need them. We will continue to update as we find out more, and we welcome any tweak – Thank you Christina @symbioticform , Carol and the team at GL for being willing to come together and make this happen, thank you again Jason for the magical ingredient we think will make

    A post shared by Elizabeth Berkley Lauren (@elizberkley) on

    • sorry but inserting filters won’t do much when the air can just go around and enter through the gaps.

  6. The Bridge loan mentioned in the article no long accepts applications. Instead businesses need to consider the SBA Express Bridge loan for up to $25,000 for access to fast cash, the regular SBA EIDL loan for up to $2M and the PPP program which opens for applications on Friday. It’s a bit of a jungle and if anyone needs some guidance feel free to email me. I works as a business consultant in Norwalk for Strategyleaders and will be happy to offer some free advise.