Neighbors & Newcomers: New President, New Ways To Build Community

Elizabeth Haynes jokes that with all the new arrivals from New York, Westport should be called “the 6th borough.”

She’s not one of them. A Michigan native, she came east after high school “3 or 4 lifetimes ago,” and moved here from New Jersey’s Bergen County with her 2 girls in 2018.

But — after living up and down the East Coast all her adult life — Elizabeth feels “very much at home” in Westport.

Now — as the new president of Neighbors & Newcomers — it’s her job to help recent residents bond with more established  ones, so that all feel a sense of community.

Elizabeth Haynes

Elizabeth joined N&N as soon as she moved in. She appreciated that it was not just a welcome wagon, for newcomers only. “It spoke to the character of Westport,” she says. “People here have strong roots, but they embrace new people. There’s an eagerness to grow.”

Informal events had an “organic feel,” she notes. “There are lots of ‘Events’ — with a capital ‘E’ — in Westport. I loved Neighbors & Newcomers’ coffees, wine get-togethers, cooking lessons at someone’s house. It was very neighborly.”

COVID-19 put a halt to gatherings like those. As she takes over from president Jenifer Gilbert — who moved to Texas — Elizabeth must lead a social group at a time when social distancing is crucial. Most in-person meetings have been suspended, or dramatically curtailed.

Yet, she notes, “if there was ever a time we needed community, it’s now. It’s poignant and painful to try to build community in a way we’re not used to, or want to. I feel a big responsibility to Westport.”

But, she says confidently, “We’re up to it.”

Elizabeth points to wine-and-cheese tastings. “Maybe we can partner with local businesses to have wine and cheese delivered to homes, or picked up. We might have a small gathering somewhere, with everyone else on Zoom.”

In 2015, Neighbors & Newcomers enjoyed wine and fun at Painting With a Twist …

Two informal bring-your-own coffees are planned for this week, near the brick pavilion at Compo Beach. One is today (Tuesday, September 15, 9:30 a.m.). The other is Thursday (September 17, 1 p.m.). The morning and afternoon times follow the bifurcated school schedule. Social distancing and masks will be enforced (and a beach sticker is needed to park).

“We’ll take advantage of the nice weather as long as we can,” Elizabeth says. “When it gets colder, we’ll come up with creative ideas. We’re open to anything.”

The Book Club, Kayaking Club and Walking Club will all continue, with adjustments as needed. The end-of-the-year holiday party — a great event — “may look different,” Elizabeth acknowledges. “But we won’t cancel it. We’ll figure something out.”

… and a hike in the woods.

As for all those “6th borough” newcomers: Elizabeth is excited to have them join neighbors who have been here longer: whether 2 years like her, or much longer.

“My impression is the families arriving from New York, with younger kids, are exceptionally friendly, outgoing, and eager to make connections and put down roots,” Elizabeth says.

“Right now, we’ve got an incredible opportunity for all of us to really enrich this great community.”

“Neighbors & Newcomers wants to support not only residents, but local merchants and restaurants as much as possible. If anyone has a great idea or wants to brainstorm, let us know!” Email presidentnnwestport@gmail.com, or click on the website or Facebook page.

12 responses to “Neighbors & Newcomers: New President, New Ways To Build Community

  1. I went to the site and looked at the list of organizations. The Chamber of Commerce was not listed. I then looked for an email link to let them know, but I could not find one. Dan if you’d please forward me Ms. Haynes email I’d be appreciative.
    As everyone who reads this blog knows the Chamber offers much more than just support to businesses, but to the community as a whole with great events for the residents, such as concerts, festivals, restaurant week and contests, debates and much more. I’m sure all the newbies will find us in time, but this would give them a jump start.

  2. Jay Walshon MD FACEP

    6th borough? God forbid. That’s exactly the root cause of so many of Westport’s identity crisis. We are a part of southern NEW ENGLAND and our long history of values and cultural affinities stems from those roots.

    Having come from the streets of NYC myself and being a near 4 decades resident of this unique, diverse and astounding Town, it amazes me that so many from NY, LI and Westchester are attracted to Westport precisely due to its Southern New England ambiance, yet once they arrive too often want to convert it to that of a 6th borough.

    Perhaps that’s their “comfort zone” but hopefully the appreciation for the distinction will prevail.

    I welcome newcomers to Town from everywhere in the world. I just hope that the long heritage that make us so unique and special (unlike that of Greenwich, Darien, New Caanan, etc.) remain a major priority.

    Unfortunately that’s not what we’ve witnessed.

    • I have to agree with Dr Walston (Jay).
      Please don’t call it the ‘6th borough’.
      I just cringed…
      My parent arrived her 50 years ago in the area of the Norwalk Westport border.
      Connecticut is Connecticut and part of Southern New England.
      My parents grew up in Queens and Staten Island but you wouldn’t know it if you met them.
      I was born in Connecticut

  3. Now is the time to move back to NYC!

  4. Total claptrap. Wealth management strikes again. Yeah, we have lots of events, just add a zero or two to the end of the price. What is this, the new monetary system? ten old dollars equals one new one? What do you think, money grows on trees? is that why we’re cutting them all down?

    The history of Westport is not and never will be founded on the filthy shekel.

  5. Elizabeth, do all the neighborly introductions you want, but for God’s sake, PLEASE do not refer to Westport EVER again as the “6th Borough.”!

  6. Thanks Elizabeth.The, ‘06880-6th Borough’ oval bumper stickers will be in production this week, great slogan! Look for them on cars around town soon.

  7. I moved to Westport in 1983 to get away from New York.

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