Newcomers: We Need You!

I’ve been writing a lot of “Remembering…” posts lately.

In just 3 months, Westport has lost many memorable residents. Doris Jacoby, Lee Greenberg, Shirley Mellor, Jack Shiller, Joan McCarthy, Gloria Cole Sugarman, Matt Johnson … they and several other notable men and women died.

Lee Greenberg was an important part of Westport from the 1940s through her death last month at 103.

They left lasting imprints on our town. The arts, recreation, religion, medicine, human rights, youth activities — no part of Westport life was untouched by their efforts and energy.

Some of their contributions were professional. Much of it was volunteer work. All of it made our town a better place.

Many of those men and women were longtime Westporters. They were active into their 80s, 90s, even (Lee Greenberg) their 100s.

But they began when they were in their 30s and 40s,

Now it’s time for a new generation to take their place.

Specifically, all you newcomers.

The past year has seen an influx of arrivals unrivaled since the 1950s. The impetus then was the post-war baby boom. Today, it’s a global pandemic.

But the opportunity is the same: a chance to make a mark on your community.

You chose this place over others for reasons — the schools perhaps, or the beaches, Longshore, the Library, the arts, the restaurants, the sense you got that people here really care about the environment, social justice and neighbors in need.

An iconic Longshore scene. (Photo/Robert Augustyn)

Whatever those reasons, they are part of something bigger: community. You got the sense that Westport is more than just a collection of nice homes in a beautiful setting.

You understood, perhaps without realizing it, that Westport is a place where people get involved.

None of the many parts that make up Westport happened because they were destined to. They exist because people made them happen.

And they will continue to exist because — and only if — other people take up the cause.

We have Longshore because a group of officials — elected and volunteer — had the foresight to buy a failing country club moments before a developer snatched the land to build 180 homes.

We have an outstanding school system because we support it. With our tax dollars, sure — but also with countless volunteers, who give untold hours to every aspect of it.

We have music and arts and civic organizations and sustainable agriculture and sports teams and a remarkable Remarkable Theater and a ride-on-demand program for the same reason.

People had a vision. People cared. People acted.

The Remarkable Theater was a pop-up hit last summer.

Now it’s the newcomers’ turn. Every group in town needs help.

We need you because you are smart. You are energetic. You are motivated. You are young.

First, we need you to step up. Then we need you to take over.

Whatever your interest, there is a spot for you.

The Westport Young Woman’s League. The Westport Woman’s Club. AWARE.

Earthplace. Wakeman Town Farm. Friends of Sherwood Island. Aspetuck Land Trust.

Boy Scouts. Girl Scouts.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee. Westport Permanent Art Collections. MoCA Westport. The Westport Country Playhouse.

The Westport Country Playhouse is 90 years old. New blood will keep it going for another 90.

Westport PAL. Westport Soccer Association. Westport Baseball and Softball. Any other sport you can think of.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA. The Senior Center.

PTAs. The Westport Library. The Maker Faire.

Al’s Angels.

TEAM Westport.

The Democratic Party. The Republican Party. The League of Women Voters. The Representative Town Meeting. Every board and commission in town.

You can’t do it all. You can’t do it alone.

But if you pick one or two areas of interest — and every other newcomer does the same — then we’ll have enough volunteer man and womanpower to propel this place to unfathomable heights.

And 40 years from now, whoever is writing the 2061 version of “06880” will remember your legacy too.

19 responses to “Newcomers: We Need You!

  1. Westport has two Rotary Clubs that are also welcoming new members. Westport Sunrise Rotary meets (Zoom) on Friday mornings at 7:30 am and Westport Rotary meets on Tuesday afternoons at 12:15pm. “Service above Self” is Rotary’s International motto! Please call 203-993-4970 for more information!

  2. You’ve done it again. And they just keep on coming, Dan. You’ve found the pulse of our town and traced it back to its heart and brain, the centers of what keeps it alive and vital. Who would ever have thunk back at Camp Mahackeno that we’d be the pathfinders, handing off the baton to the next generation of Westport’s greatest hope for the future. Not I, and yet, here we are. In the midst of tidal change, we’ve found growth. In the face of violent headwinds, we’ve achieved progress. And with all that’s challenging us to be better, here’s our fearless pathfinder showing the way forward. Amen my friend.

  3. So we’ll said. Thank you!

  4. Dan, 40 years from now, you’ll still be doing 06880.

  5. Linda Sugarman

    Camp Mahackeno, a legend even to those of us who never went there. Yes, we are so intensely involved struggling in our own little slice of history that we forget about the future expecting that it will write itself- maybe out of our dreams, maybe out of our nightmares. Microcosm/macrocosm. Thanks for reminding us that WE write it in each little (or big) community- a pin point on the map. This is a very nice welcome written to each person to make it their dream community. And, as you do, you will have fond memories to look back on no matter where you go in mind or place in the world. THANK YOU DAN for sharing the past, present, and future with all of us !!

  6. The Westport UN/International Hospitality Committee is calling!

    With 06880’s poignant call to community mindedness let me invite newcomers to be citizen ambassadors and members of the United Nations Association of Southwest Connecticut.

    http://www.UNASWCT.org

    With the full range of human endeavor in scope we invite Impactful Volunteers to programs and events.

    To receive ~ 3-4 emails per month subscribe at this link:
    https://groups.google.com/g/unaswct

    Alex Anvari
    President. UNASWCT

  7. Terry Brannigan

    Thank You Dan for this important post.  

    I worry that because our newest residents paid so much money to get here, there may be a misconception that everything that makes Westport so great is part of the mil rate. However the Staples Wrestling team had helped many of these newcommers and accross the board they have been a fantastic addition to our town

    Getting involved is critical. The Westporter’s who you referenced lived by the rule “Leave it better than you found it”.

    For the Brannigans, our “thing” is Wakeman Town Farm and of course…. Staples Wrestling :),  but there are so many oppotunities to become part of the town vs a tenant.  

    One bit of advice to the next generation of dooers…  It is not a contest to be the most fabulous.  Build results that are inclusive not exclusive.  

    The current trend of the Lux nature of some of the programs / facilities in town make it difficult for some of the very people who made Westprot so great to join. 

  8. MATTHEW I MANDELL

    If you have a business. Join the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

    And certainly attend our events. Like the current Great Westport Sandwich Contest. This would be a fun way to learn about all the restaurants, delis and markets in town.
    http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/sandwich

    We also have drive in concerts coming up in April and May.

  9. Diane Lauricella

    I have lived in the area for 40 years. Thank you for laying out what makes a community sustain itself…beautiful sentiment!

  10. This is a comment in response to Terry. This is what 104 years will do to land prices. My grandfather, in 1917, bought 7.2 acres on the Post Road with ONE DOLLAR down, with a $5,000 note at 5% Interest. In 1939, he was offered $100,000 for the property, but turned it down. We sold in 1983. I think the price was 6.8 million. Once a Westporter, always a Westporter! It’s been many decades since I lived in Westport, but I’ll always be a Westporter. By the way, my son has the original deed framed and hanging in his office.

  11. Catherine Romano

    Lets add all the churches and synagogues in town, they are a great place to get involved and meet people.

  12. Chip Stephens SHS 73

    Lets not forget public office.
    There are so many volunteer positions that are not necessarily political or financially driven to offer back to the town. From committees involving health, historical properties, helping less fortunate (yes they do exist in Westport), social issues, education …. Contact or go to town web site for openings or offer your area of interest.
    We also have a non partisan town legislative RTM which has turn over and often looks for volunteers to step up, and possibly run at election time. Finally there is elective office, RTM, Board of Finance, Education, Planning and Zoning…. election involved, not paid but desperately often needing volunteers to step up to run, act as alternatives or replace members stepping down.
    As Dan sez WE NEED YOU !

  13. THE REMARKABLE THEATER is looking for people to get involved.

    If you believe in Movies, Creating Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities, Downtown Westport, and want to be a part of bringing people together.

    Please reach out to us at – info@remarkabletheater.org

    Dan thank you for your article and call to action.

    “Together We Can Be Remarkable”

  14. Well said Dan, how to build a community.

  15. Emily Mikesell

    So inspiring, Dan. Thank you!

  16. Kathie Bennewitz

    What a wonderful tribute to the elder generation and all that ways they had contributed to the betterment of our town and community! And a warm
    Welcome to those newly arrived!

    For those interested in the Westport Public Art Collections and other arts oriented projects visit Westportarts.org and/or email us at Westpac@westportps.org

    We would love to have you!!!

  17. Indeed. Love your message Dan – and this wonderful Town has a long, proud history of being one where people DO speak up and get involved. Many in Town, newcomers and old-time townies alike, continue to have a strong interest in plugging in and sharing their time and energy.

    You did a wonderful job of laying out the numerous ways to do this – hopefully those who post their views here and on other social media sites with such passion and intensity will step up and put that energy into action – it can be very rewarding and our Town benefits from it.

  18. Katie P Augustyn

    Terrific post, Dan!

  19. I moved here in 1983, all alone. I was divorced, my kids were grown and I knew no one in Town. I volunteered for a couple of things that sounded interesting, and before I knew it, I had made many new friends.

    Volunteering a wonderful way to meet new people and make friends. I urge everyone to try it. Giving makes you feel better about yourself (and everything else).

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