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IVF Patients Navigate The Holidays

As surgical director of Illume Fertility — the largest reproductive IVF center in Fairfield County — Dr. Spencer Richlin has seen just about everything.

The longtime Westport resident and reproductive endocrinologist treats male-female couples who — like 1 in 8 in the US, — are having trouble getting pregnant.

He works with male-male and female-female couples, and those in which one partner is transitioning, He sees women about to undergo chemotherapy, who want their eggs harvested and frozen.

All are at different parts of their family-planning journey.

And all have different feelings about the holidays.

Dr.Spencer Riichlin

Dr. Richlin recalls one woman, who asked for extra copies of her sonogram. She planned to pass them out at Thanksgiving, as her way of announcing her pregnancy.

But for many others, the next month will be filled with fear.

They’ll be at parties surrounded by children — a quiet (or loud) reminder that they don’t yet have any.

Well-meaning friends — knowing they’re trying — will ask if they’ve conceived yet.

Thoughtless relatives will say, “Don’t you want kids?” “You’re not drinking. Are you trying to get pregnant?” “Have you thought about adopting?” “We can’t wait forever for grandchildren!” 

They’ll even be advised: “Try harder.”

Whatever the reason — low sperm count, unopened fallopian tubes, the need for donor eggs — Dr. Richlin and his colleagues (and doctors at many other IVF clinics — can help.

Modern technology has made starting a family a reality for people who, since the beginning of time, have otherwise been unable= to.

Yet Dr. Richlin cannot control the things people who already have families say to them.

So along with doctors, Illume’s team includes social workers who help patients navigate other stresses.

Like the holidays.

For those who fear awkward or intrusive questions, or may feel out of place in large groups, Dr. Richlin and his colleagues advise: “Take care of yourself. Don’t put yourself in situations that might cause stress. Surround yourself with people who love and care for you.”

If you must be in a place where you might be asked questions, prepare a response. Something as simple as “Thanks, but that’s a personal issue” can be very effective.

(The same goes for people who recently suffered miscarriages, he notes. They too may have difficulty during the holidays.)

For friends and relatives, Dr. Richlin advises: “Don’t ask anyone about their reproductive journey. It’s none of your business.

“Sometimes people will bring it up. If they do, follow their lead. If they don’t, respect where they are.”

And if they happen to pass around a sonogram at the Thanksgiving table: Give thanks for IVF.

(Dr. Richlin’s podcast, “Fertility Now,” deals with a wide variety of reproductive issues. Click here for more information.) 

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A Gift From Marigny

Last spring, officials in the French town of Marigny gave Westport a great honor.

In a ceremony that included — via Zoom — 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, our sister city across the sea named a room in their Town Hall for Charlotte MacLear.

She was the head of the French department at Staples High School. A graduate of prestigious Sorbonne Université, in the years after World War II she led a campaign for Westport to “adopt” Marigny-le-Lozon, and help its recovery.

The relationship had its roots during the war itself. Right after D-Day, Westporter Bob Loomis — a gun sergeant — was there. It’s just 25 miles from Utah Beach.

A couple of weeks later another Westporter — heavy machine gunner Clay Chalfant — moved through Marigny with his company on their way to Belgium.

Sparked by MacLear a year later, our town sent clothes, money and Christmas gifts.

In return Marigny created the “Westport School Canteen,” and named the town’s largest square “Place Westport.”

“Pharmacie Westport,” in Marigny.

We forgot the relationship. Marigny never did.

But in June 1994 — as part of the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy — town officials invited 3 Westport middle school students and 2 Westport veterans to stay in the homes of residents. They visited “Westport Gift Shop” and “Pharmacie Westport.”

The 2 veterans were, of course,  Loomis and Chalfant.

Marigny: C’est marveilleux!

In the years since, many Westporters forgot again about Marigny. But our sister city never forgot about us.

The relationship was rekindled last May. Now our French friends have given us another gift.

After “Salle Charlotte MacLear” was christened, René Gauthier — who as a child benefited from Westporters’ kindness — and other residents created a book.

The cover of the Marigny book.

Its 43 pages document, in French and English. the 78-year relationship between the towns. A copy has been sent to 1st Selectwoman Tooker.

It describes the history of Marigny, from its first written reference in the 10th century (!), through the 100 Years’ War, French Revolution, Napoleonic Era, and the terrifying days of World War II.

It relates Westport’s history too. Ours is far shorter. But photos of the Minute Man Monument, Town Hall and the Saugatuck River show that the book’s creators definitely did their homework.

The text and archival images capture every highlight of our relationship. A particularly poignant page notes that every Christmas for 17 years, Westporters sent 200 to 300 packages of toys and gifts to Marigny. Every one was inscribed with the name of an individual child.

Many residents kept them for years. Some are now exhibited in the Charlotte MacLear Room.

Westport also helped rebuild Marigny’s Catholic church. The book notes that the project was initiated by a member of Westport’s Unitarian congregation.

There are reports too of Westporters’ visits to the French town in 1994, and the reciprocal trip here afterward.

There are also photos and accounts of the May 8 Charlotte MacLear ceremony.

The book that is so much about the past ends with an idea for the future. What if, it asks in 2 languages, the people of Marigny and Westport come together again — to help build a Ukrainian school?

It is a marvelous idea. “06880” is ready to help. If anyone wants to work on this project — or knows an organization that might take it on — click comments, or email

Eight decades after D-Day, war is still with us.

So, we hope, is our willingness to help.

“06880” Podcast: Maxx Crowley

Everyone has an opinion about downtown.

So does Maxx Crowley. But his means more than most: He’s president of the Westport Downtown Association.

Just 30 years old — and a native Westporter, from a noted local family — he plays a key role in the retail, restaurant and entertainment life of this town.

The other day, we chatted on the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum stage for the latest “06880” podcast. Click here for our wide-ranging (and very upbeat) conversation.

Screenshot of Maxx Crowley.

A Most Remarkable Website

Westporters of a certain age remember the Remarkable Book Shop.

The pink building at the Main Street/Parker Harding Plaza corner was as funky inside as it was colorful outside.

For over 30 years — from 1963 to 1995 — owner Esther Kramer and her band of bright, devoted and eclectic employees made the bookstore a home away from home for anyone looking for anything to read.

If they didn’t have what you needed, Esther and her crew found it for you.

And if you didn’t know what you wanted, they did.

A classic photo of a classic store.

Roaming the crooked aisles of “Remarkable” — and sitting in one of the over-stuffed chairs — was like wandering down a rabbit hole.

Now — nearly 30 years after it closed — there’s another Remarkable Book Shop rabbit hole to explore.

It’s there for everyone: those who remember the store fondly. Those who moved here too late, and know it only as Talbots (or more recently, Westport Local to Market). Even those too young to know what an independent bookstore is.

This Remarkable Book Shop rabbit hole is accessible to anyone with a browser. It’s a website that’s both a historical archive, and a labor of love.

Fittingly, it’s the product of a collaboration between the owner’s son, and a woman who never set foot in the place.

Mark Kramer is a writer (National Geographic, New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic), founding director of the Nieman program on narrative journalism at Harvard University, and a writing instructor at Smith College, Boston University and abroad.

Mark Kramer and his mother Esther. He inherited his love of writing from both parents.

Maya Reisz is a neighbor of Mark’s in Newton, Massachusetts. A professional organizer, she helped him sort through thousands of photos, letters and news clippings belonging to Esther and her husband Sidney Kramer, an attorney, literary agent and co-founder of Bantam Books, who died in 2014, a month before his 100th birthday.

For years, Mark had been impressed at the impact his mother’s store made.

“Every time ‘06880’ mentioned the Remarkable Book Shop, dozens of people commented affectionately,” he says.

“I’ve come to realize it represented human connection, in a world where connections have become more and more distant.

“She had a vibrant spirit. She was vivacious and effervescent,” he says. “And she created something that was like public art.”

As he and Maya sorted through stacks of photos and news clippings, she too grasped what Esther had done.

“I’m a storyteller,” Maya says. “I saw we had enough substance to tell that story, and bring back memories.”

She has the technical skills to make it happen.  For the past few months, she and Mark worked to bring the “Remembering the Remarkable Bookshop” website to life.

Together, they created a — well, I tried for a synonym. but there is none better — remarkable online archive.

There’s the back story (of course), plus photos, news clippings and artwork.

The painter of this downtown holiday scene is unknown.

But the fun comes — as it did in the store — by burrowing deep.

At the end of each “chapter” — “Esther Through Time,” shelves stocked with more than books, author signings, customers — there’s a link to the next.

Throughout the site, visitors can leave comments (and memories).

The Remarkable Book Shop hosted many noted authors for readings. Pictured here: Erica Jong.

The project was as important to Maya as it was to Mark. As she worked, she felt she got to know Esther and Sidney. She grew nostalgic for a place she never knew. She felt the responsibility — and pride — of producing something that will mean a lot, to a lot of people.

Esther and Sidney Kramer, on TV.

Including those who, like Maya, never set foot inside the Remarkable Book Shop.

And not just new Westporters.

While Mark was teaching recently in Bergen, Norway, the owner of a bookstore asked him where he shopped at home. He told her about his mother’s place — and the website. She said, “I want to see it!”

The Remarkable Book Shop is gone. It lives on now, happily, as a website.

But there are still physical reminders of the legendary store around town. Jane Green’s Bookcycle — a mobile free library — is painted pink, and proudly sports “The Remarkable Man” (the Edward Gorey-inspired dancing figure that hung for years on the front of the store).

The store — and the Remarkable Man.

That’s not the only place to see the famed mascot. The actual, real live (okay, wooden) Remarkable Man now lives inside Cold Fusion. He gazes happily from his new home, at his old one.

Which gave Mark another idea: How about a gathering — at Cold Fusion — for everyone who remembers the Remarkable Book Shop? Friends and former employees could have a very cool time.

Or who goes down its website rabbit hole, and wishes they did?

What a remarkable event that would be!

(Click here to enter the Remarkable Book Shop website. Happy “browsing”!)

(“06880” is your source for remarkable Westport history. Please click here to support this hyper-local blog.)

The Remarkable Bookcycle (and the Remarkable Man), outside the former book shop last year.


Sconset Square: New Identity For Old Shopping Center

For decades since its construction more than 70 years ago, Sconset Square was — well, undefined.

Originally called Sherwood Square, the small plaza off Myrtle Avenue housed a random group of stores. The original Sport Mart, Carousel Toy Store, The Paint Bucket, a camera shop — all were there.

So was a tailor, travel agency and offices (including the Westport News).

A succession of restaurants succeeded the Pickle Barrel, which featured — yes — an actual pickle barrel.

That was then. Sconset Square, now, is very now.

Over the past few years, co-owners David Waldman and Roger Leifer transformed a gaggle of storefronts into a cohesive set of like-minded businesses. All share a common theme: high-end design, aimed at creative-type folks.

Waldman’s vision was for an artistic-type hub, drawing people together. The new mix of stores includes interior design, an art gallery, artisanal florist, jewelry and gifts. The new café/restaurant/bar, Casa Me, opens soon.

Renovations updated Sconset’s look, and unified the exteriors. The esthetic was light, yet New England-y.

Studio Cafe is a new Westport gathering spot.

“People who come here ‘get it,'” says Petra Barguss, an artist who handles the square’s social media.

“But not everyone knows how much has been done here.”

So next Saturday (October 15, noon to 5 p.m.), Sconset Square hosts a Fall Fete.

There will be a pizza truck, and live music by Tangled Vine. Every store will offer a special activity, from cider to raffles to a pumpkin toss.

Bungalow is a long-time tenant in Sconset Square.

Sconset Square has always lacked an identity — and signage.

The new signs are not yet up. But the identity is now strong. Here’s a quick look at the tenants:

UpNorth — Allison Daniels Design: Hand-crafted, custom jewelry and accessories.

SwoonContemporary art and photography; design services, furniture and antiques.

YoyaSources whimsical 0-12 children’s clothing and accessories from exclusive European brands.

Bespoke DesignsElegant, personalized invitations and stationery; hotel silver, tableware and linens too.

Casa MeCocktails, an Italian menu, coffee; light, airy, with a long bar and outdoor dining.

Blossom + Stem: Fresh flower bouquets and arrangements for private homes, corporate events and weddings.

The Brady CollectionCurated collection of luxury wall coverings and textiles from boutique brands (appointment only).

Bungalow: Furniture, antiques, textiles, jewelry and books for decorators and clients.

The Tailored HomeEclectic, locally bench-made furniture, mirrors and lighting, with upholstery fabrics.

Studio CaféCoffee and juice bar with Spanish dishes (empanadas, tortillas) plsu salads and sandwiches.

Jenni Kayne HomeCustom furniture, textiles and homeware in natural finishes; cashmere and alpaca loungewear, organic skincare balms and candles.

Unsung Hero #257

Ellen Botwin’s parents have lived in the same Westport house since the 1970s. Her father turned 100 in June. Her mother is “21-plus.”

The other morning, Ellen’s mother called. Water was coming from upstairs, through the chandelier in the foyer.

Her dad had a stroke in 2018, and uses a walker. But his brilliant mind — he was senior vice president at Norden-United Technologies, and holds over 20 patents — still works.

He knew where the water came from, and tried to fix it. His wife worried he’d hurt himself, and called Ellen.

She lives an hour away, and does not know any Westport plumbers. In a panic she texted Rebecca, her parents’ next door neighbor. She gave Ellen the number for Pat Duffy.

Five minutes after Ellen’s message, Pat replied. She told him the problem. Immediately, he headed over.

An hour later, Pat texted back. The problem was fixed.

Ellen asked for the bill, and how he waned to be paid.

He said that his favorite uncle was named Leo — the same name as Ellen’s dad.

Leo Botwin

“I grew up with guys like him,” Pat noted. “It was nothing but a pleasure working for him. There is no charge. Happy 100th birthday, from Duffy Plumbing!”

Stunned, Ellen sent back her thanks. As they continued texting, she learned that it’s a third generation business. Pat’s father and son are plumbers too.

“My parents have no one really in Westport anymore,” Ellen says. “It’s hard to have friends when you’re 100 — they’re all gone.”

“Pat talked to my dad the entire time he was there. Then he wrote me the most amazing, nicest things about my dad. He showed such amazing respect.”

Pat repaid the compliment. And, he added, “The best part is, I get to sleep tonight knowing I did a good thing.”

For sure. And here’s to another good night’s sleep tonight: You’re “06880”‘s Unsung Hero of the Week!

PS: After Ellen posted about Pat Duffy Facebook, his son Hunter wrote: “My dad wants to thank everyone for their kind words. But he came home yesterday and couldn’t stop talkin about how your father is such a cool guy, and how much he loved talking to him.”

(If you know an Unsung Hero, email

(Every Wednesday, “06880” honors an Unsung Hero. Please click here to help support this feature, and many others.)

Urban Scholars Youth Program May Forge Suburban Ties

It’s hard being a Westport middle schooler.

Navigating academic and social pressures in class, then during a gantlet of after-school sports, tutoring and other activities — it’s a perilous journey discovering who you are, and who you wnat to be.

But being a middle school student in Bridgeport is exponentially more difficult.

Options and opportunities are much more limited. Meanwhile, the burdens — financial, family and the like — are far greater.

Fortunately, there is the Urban Scholars After School Program.

Run by LifeBridge — a remarkable community service organization — Urban Scholars is an after-school STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) program with an important SEL (social emotional learning) component.

Drawing 6th through 9th graders from throughout Bridgeport to a bright, colorful facility in the city’s West End, it offers a welcoming, loving, challenging — even life-changing — home for 3 hours every day.

And it’s completely free.

Urban Scholars provides art, robotics, music (guitar, piano, drums), performing arts, science, dance, yoga, and special interest clubs like baking, games, cosmetology, community service and sports. There is tutoring and homework help every day too.

Teachers, social workers, AmericCorps VISTA workers, volunteers, interns and working artists all help. They expose dozens of boys and girls to opportunities they’d never get, like working with robots or playing a musical instrument.

One of the 2 music rooms.

They urge them to try new things, and encourage every success. They model teamwork and leadership. They help participants with self-esteem, relationships and managing emotions. 

They are, literally and figuratively, “life bridges” at a crucial time in children’s development.

Youngsters hoping to be part of the Urban Scholars program are interviewed; so are their parents, grandparents or other guardians. The directors work with those adults are partners, making sure attendance is regular and any issues are dealt with together.

Things that Westporters take for granted, like transportation, can be big barriers to participation. Participants walk, ride bikes, are dropped off, or ride city buses. Staff members accompany them to bus stops. Small details like that mean a lot.

Staff members in the robotics lab. One of the student-designed robots is on the right.

I know all this because Bill Harmer arranged a tour last week. The Westport Library executive director is committed to sharing his institution’s many resources, with partners that align with its mission.

He is exploring ways that the Westport Library can collaborate with LifeBridge and the Urban Scholars program.

“Our donors, staff and board believe in sharing,” Harmer says. From the Verso Studios, StoryFest and music festivals to its people, he wants the Library to reach out beyond its physical walls.

Ultimately, he hopes that youngsters from Westport and Bridgeport can collaborate — and perhaps other towns too.

Last week’s tour was eye-opening. Program officials proudly showed off the bright rooms on 2 floors of the LifeBridge building. Three working robots sat on lab tables. Student art decorated the walls (a larger mural program is in the works). Musical motifs encourage exploration in 2 rooms filled with instruments. The tutoring center includes both small tables and an adjacent “quiet room.”

Students’ art work is displayed throughout the building. (Photos/Dan Woog)

The Urban Scholars program runs through the summer too. This year, nearly 120 boys and girls took part.

Though families pay nothing — a big reason so many children are able to participate — the program is expensive. The school-year program budget is approximately $800,000; the summer one is another $200,000.

Funding comes entirely from grants, individual donations and AmeriCorps VISTA.

It’s less than 10 miles from the Westport Library to the Bridgeport Urban Scholars After School Program at LifeBridge. If Bill Harmer’s vision comes true, that distance may soon be even shorter.

(To learn more about the Urban Scholars After School Program, click here, or contact CEO Edith Boyle:; 203-368-5550. To donate, contact Lori Goertz:; 203-368-5581.   

(LifeBridge also runs a community closet, with free clothes, school supplies, books, infant goods and more. Once a month, every member of an Urban Scholar’s family can choose three complete outfits. It’s also open to everyone getting any services through LifeBridge. To learn more bout the community closet and other LifeBridge programs — including how to donate –, watch the video below, and click here.)

(“06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.” To help us do that, please click here.)

Dale And Daniele Make ABC House A Home

When Dale Mauldin picked up Daniele Dickerson for their first date 7 years ago, he got an early look at her passion.

The California native had come east to spend 4 years at Ridgefield High School, through that town’s A Better Chance program. Now — after earning a degree in English literature at the University of North Carolina, and an MFA in writing — she was working at a different ABC house. Daniele tutored and mentored young girls in the nationally recognized program that offers high-performing students of color a chance to attend high-achieving schools.

Daniele was giving back to the organization that had given her so much. At Ridgefield High school she took Advanced Placement courses; was elected to the National Honor Society, and headed the Diversity Club. After college she became a freelance writer, working on arts and culture projects, while also helping with ABC.

If Dale was going to have a chance with Daniele, he had to learn about A Better Chance.

He did — quickly. The Massachusetts native and Norwich University graduate was in the middle of more than a decade as an ESPN broadcast and post-production editor. As a documentary filmmaker, he won 2 Emmys.

“I like sports. But the stories behind athletes — showing their community outreach, their impact on kids — is more interesting to me,” Dale says.

“I saw that impact when I met Daniele. She made me realize you don’t have to be rich and famous to impact someone’s life.”

Dale left ESPN to become a freelance editor, working on projects with the likes of Serena Williams, LeBron James, and a town hall meeting with President Obama. His most recent project is a documentary on Black cowboys.

They got married. They moved to Colorado, and had a daughter, Sage.

Dale Mauldin, Daniele Dickerson and Sage.

Meanwhile, Daniele reached out to A Better Chance national headquarters, in New York. She and Dale were interested in becoming resident directors — adults who live in an ABC house, oversee the daily lives of 7 or 8 teenagers, and help shape the entire experience for those scholars.

Westport was looking for new resident directors (or, as they’re now called here, executive directors of student life). During Zoom interviews, Dale and Daniele found the local board to be “the most energized, purposeful, and open to new ideas” of any they’d seen.

“It was clear we would have agency, and could shape the program,” Dale recalls.

In July, the couple — and 4-year-old Sage — moved east, into Glendarcy House on North Avenue.

Daniele had been there years before, as an ABC scholar and then a tutor. The closest Dale had come to seeing his new home was on a Zoom walk-through.

Glendarcy House, on North Avenue. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Late last month, the 7 scholars arrived. The quiet summer — unpacking, getting acclimated, getting the house ready — suddenly shifted into high gear.

“It’s a big job. It’s 24/7,” Daniele says. “We took a leap of faith.”

It’s paid off. “Having kids here is a game-changer,” Dale notes.

A former ABC scholar herself, Daniele is keenly aware of the stresses they face: leaving their families, attending a pressure-filled school in a new community, surrounded by people who don’t look like them.

Staples and Westport embrace A Better Chancc, offering time, talents, energy, enthusiasm and funding.

Still, Daniele and Dale know, the success of the program depends strongly on the types of experiences the teenage boys have living together at Glendarcy House. The student life executive directors play a key role in creating that home-away-from-home environment.

In 2018, scholars enjoyed dinner at Glendarcy House. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

The couple will listen closely to the scholars’ ideas. “We want their input. We want them to advocate for themselves,” Daniele says.

“We want this house to feel like their home,” Dale adds. That includes art on the wall, that represents the scholars. A new additions is a striking work by Sean Ramos, an 11th grader at Glendarcy House. He calls it “ABC: A Brotherhood Created.”

Dale Mauldin and Daniele Dickerson, with Sean Ramos’ “A Brotherhood Created.”

Daniele and Dale will work with other ABC programs in Connecticut, helping scholars in different houses develop friendships and make bonds.

But “for their health and well-being, it’s important that the kids disconnect a bit, and be in nature,” Daniele says. “We want to go biking, camping, kayaking. We’ll take them to plays.” They’ve spoken with the Westport Country Playhouse, about possible projects, and will connect soon with the Westport Library.

“The resources here are immense,” Dale says. “Whatever our kids are interested in, there’s a group that wants them to join.”

This is the 20th anniversary of A Better Chance of Westport. Its first 2 decades have been marked by plenty of success, and a few growing pains.

“We’re proud of that first 20 years,” says Daniele, who knew the program as a student in Ridgefield and is now learning more about its history.

“And we really look forward to the next 20. But we can’t do it without community support. We want everyone — especially newcomers like us — to join us as we begin.”

(NOTE: A Better Chance of Westport can always use volunteers. Among the ways to help: Host (or alternate host) families for weekends, and transportation. Click here for more information.)

(“06880” is proud to report on organizations like A Better Chance. That’s the joy of a hyper-local blog. Please click here to support this blog.)


It took years for the Memorial Day parade and 4th of July fireworks to become Westport institutions.

It’s taken LobsterFest just about 10.

The Westport Rotary Club’s mega-fundraiser has become one of the hottest tickets (on an always-perfect mid-September Saturday).

There’s something (lobsters, oysters, steak, burgers, beer, wine, soda, music, kids’ stuff) for everyone. What began as an event for Rotarians and their friends has become a party for folks of all ages. This year’s LobsterFest drew more families, with more young kids, than ever.

The goal was to raise $200,000 — for the Rotary Club to distribute to many worthy causes, in Fairfield County and around the globe.

If the lines of cars and crowds are any indication, they made it.

And if the smiles and full stomachs are any indication of what the event means to Westport — well, mark your calendars now for Lobsterfest 2023!

The money shot.

Quick service, with big smiles.

You can’t have lobster without clams.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker helped pour some cold ones …

… as did this bipartisan crew of Planning & Zoning chair Danielle Dobin, and 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore.

There were plenty of non-alcoholic drinks. (“Liquid Death” is of course sparkling water.)

LobsterFest drew older Westporters …

… and several generations …

… and members of Norwalk Rotary too.

The band played on …

… and Mr. Bumbles played to the kids’ crowd.

Volunteers from Sustainable Westport made sure that nearly every bit of trash was recycled properly.

Hook’d provided the ice cream. Their sign, though, was a bit of wishful thinking.

This sign covered all the bases …

… while this one was great for the Westport Rotary Club, not so great for anyone without a ticket. (All photos/Dan Woog)

(Like LobsterFest, “06880” serves the entire community. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)

Tom Henske Makes Total Cents

For a small town, Westport has been known for many things.

We’ve been an artists’ colony, the marketing capital of America, and the home of the world’s biggest hedge fund.

Now, Tom Henske wants Westport to be “the epicenter of kids’ financial literacy.”

If anyone can make it happen, he will.

A financial advisor for 27 years, a Westport resident for 20, a man of boundless energy, a relentless competitor (goalkeeper on 3 University of Virginia national championship teams), and the father of 2 children he was determined would learn about money, he has made children’s financial literacy the heart of a multi-pronged project.

Henske is the type of person who comes up with one great idea, spins it off into several others, then weaves them all together into a seamless web.

He also loves his town. He’ll use every resource here, to show it off to the world.

The first part of his project is a book. It Makes Total Cents is an easy way for parents to help their children understand finances.

Twelve chapters cover topics like budgeting, saving, compound interest, taxes, borrowing, insurance and philanthropy.

Parents read one short chapter a month (15 minutes). Each chapter has a corresponding podcast (created with the Westport Library — more on that later). In that short podcast, Henske helps parents frame questions that they can ask their children …

… at dinner, after they’ve sent one of Henske’s TikToks to the kids, to pique their curiosity.

There is no book like this on the shelves, he says. And certainly no corresponding material, to help parents raise financially literate kids.

Henske knows, because he looked. He did not want his son Spencer and daughter Sammi to be financially illiterate — “the shoemaker’s kids with no shoes” — so he searched for information.

Tom Henske and (from left) daughter Sammi, son Spencer and wife Stacey check out financial literacy information online. (Photo/Jerri Graham)

He found plenty for parents. But nothing for children and teenagers.

So he created it himself.

The Library is a perfect partner. Henske tapes his podcasts at Verso Studios *(they sound great).

He’s also spoken with Staples High School Financial Literacy teachers Lenny Klein, Sarah White and Stacey Delmhorst about having interested students help the project. They would be teaching their peers. It’s one more way to connect the schools and Library — and make Westport the financial literacy capital of the universe.

Now comes a uniquely Henskean twist. In an effort to get Total Cents into as many hands as possible, he’s worked overtime on marketing. In addition to his countless contacts, he’s got an idea: Westporters can help spread the kids’ literacy gospel.

For every Total Cents book someone here buys for a friend or relative beyond the “06880” Zip Code (click here), he’ll buy one for the local resident to pick up. Just send Henske the invoice:

It’s one more way, he says, “where Westport meets the world.”

And where Westport leads the world, in financial literacy for kids.

(For more information, click on

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