Category Archives: Education

Roundup: Leaf Blowers, Long Lots, Taxes …

A leaf blower ordinance — discussed for years, and blowing in the wind for the past few months — was finally enacted last night.

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting voted 22-9 in favor of the proposal, which regulates when and which types of leaf blowers can be used, and by whom. The town of Westport is specifically exempted from the rules. Enforcement will be done by the Conservation Department.

Click here, the scroll down to Slide #28, for the full ordinance, and supporting materials.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education voted 4-3 to request up to $600,000 from the Board of Finance (which meets tonight), for 2 modular classrooms at Long Lots Elementary School. The portables will be placed behind the school, near a small play aea.

The Board also discussed redistricting. Pieces of the puzzle include unbalanced populations at Westport’s 5 elementary schools; Stepping Stones preschool, currently housed at Coleytown El but slated to move to Long Lots after a new building is constructed, and the schedule for that new Long Lots.

The new portable classroms would be placed behind the school, at the upper left on this photo. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

=======================================================

Westporters — especially seniors and those with low to moderate incomes — can once again take advantage of the town’s no-cost full-service AARP/VITA/IRS Volunteer Tax Assistance Program.

On-site personal counseling is available by appointment at Town Hall (Mondays from 1 to 7 p.m.) and the Senior Center (Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursdays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.), starting January 23. Call 860-590-8910 for an appointment.

The service is also available through a secure internet site. Click here for an appointment.

The “SimplyCT” counselor group that services Westport prepared and filed more than 7,000 returns last season – almost all electronically. Federal refunds of over $10 million were received by their clients..

The program is administered by Westport’s Department of Human Services.

=======================================================

Westport is less than $10,000 away from its goal: raising $250,000 to support our sister city of Lyman, Ukraine.

Yesterday’s donations brought the total to $241,700. Our partners on the ground — Ukraine Aid International, founded by Westporters Brian and Marshall Mayer — are arranging for building supplies, a trash truck and more to be delivered immediately to the war-torn town.

It is far quicker and cheaper for those to be sent from Poland and elsewhere in Europe, rather than the US.

Can we reach our goal today?

Tax-deductible donations can be made to Lyman through Ukraine Aid International. Please click here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other tax-deductible donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo). You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here). 

=======================================================

Most of us have already forgotten the recent pre-Christmas wind and rain storm. After all, it happened last year (ho ho).

But Westport’s Public Works Department continues its clean-up efforts. They were out again yesterday — in more rain — at Compo Beach.

(Photo/Pam Kesselman)

=======================================================

Grammy winner Frank London headlines tomorrow’s Jazz at the Post (Thursday, January 5, VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399, sets at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; $15 cover; dinner from 7 p.m.).

The trumpeter will be joined by pianist Roberta Piket, bassist Hilliard Greene, drummer Billy Mintz and saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.

Wall calls London “one of the most inconoclastic traditional musicians I have ever met. I have heard him tear down the walls of parochial practices of old and new jazz, swing, bop, klezmer, Gypsy, Baltic, Cuban, West African and many other musical genres, and create community across the globe while bringing joy to literally hundreds of thousands  of concert goers.”

Wall and he were partners in Hasidic New Wave, a band combining traditional Jewish celebratory music with downtown jazz, funk and “pure improvised mayhem.” They play together now in Zion80, a “mixed marriage of avant jazz and Afro beat.”

London will play new works inspired by Pharaoh Sanders, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Azar Lawrence and others, with an ethnic twist.

Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com

Frank London

=======================================================

The Westport Book Shop’s guest exhibitor for January is mixed media artist Katya Lebrija.

Her works from the “Destinations” collection feature real and imagined places. Much of her work is inspired by her Mexican heritage.

Lebrija’s art has been exhibited throughout Connecticut, New York, Vermont Mexico City.

Her art is on exhibit at the Book Shop through January 31. All work is available for purchase.

Katya Lebrija at Westport Book Shop.

=======================================================

Longtime Westporter Richard Auber of Westport died peacefully on New Year’s Day, surrounded by his family. He was 87.

Dick lived on Long Island before moving with his wife and 5 children here in 1975. He served in the Air National Guard for 6 years.

After graduating from St. John’s University he had a long career in the business world, and retired from the New York Transit Authority in 1987.

He met the love of his life, Elizabeth Mary Schick, in church choir. They were married for 64 years. He enjoyed sharing his singing talents with the St. Luke Church choir every Sunday morning. He also sang with the Hoot Owls and Fairfield County Chorale. He was a gifted storyteller too.

Dick is survived by his wife Elizabeth (Betty) Auber; children Patricia Auber (Tom Magro), Richard (Tatyana Nivina), Ron (Cheryl Fogg), Judy Auber Jahnel (Ferdinand) and Christine Auber (Michael Bauersfeld); 7 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; his sister Marilyn Fitzpatrick, many nieces and nephews, and countless friends and extended family.  He is predeceased by his brother Robert and sister Edna.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday (January 7, 11 a.m.. St. Luke Church). Contributions can be made in his memory to the St. Luke Church Matthew 25 fund, or Food for the Poor.

Dick Auber

=======================================================

Westporters love Compo Beach.

But long before we were here, there were birds, and fish.

They’ve been doing what they do naturally for millions of years.

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo of how they do it comes courtesy of Laurie Sorensen.

(Photo/Laurie Sorensen)

======================================================

And finally … Earth Wind, & Fire drummer Fred White died Sunday. He was 67.

The New York Times says he “propelled some of the funkiest songs in pop history, helping to provide a soundtrack to the nation’s weddings, bar mitzvahs, high school reunions and any other function at which people of all ages dance.”

Click here for a full obituary.

(Read about all that jazz — and everything else — on “06880.” Please click here to help support our work. Thank you!)

“Help Santa!” Katherine Miller Asked. Westport Delivered.

Less than 2 weeks ago, “06880” followed up on the story of Katherine Miller.

The longtime Westporter was delivering Uber Eats last winter, to supplement her income. She was assaulted picking up an order, and suffered a head injury. Residents donated $33,000 to help defray medical and rehabilitation bills.

This month, Katherine wanted to pay it forward.

In 2020, she had written a book. “Help Santa!!!” is a clever, light-hearted and rhythmic story about kindness, in which children get a chance to help St. Nick with a chimney problem.

Each book includes a “Magic Key” that — when young readers hold it in their hands and think “magical thoughts,” then hang on their door on Christmas Eve — can help them “help Santa.” She offered them at $12.99 each (far below the price on Amazon, and her website) — with every sale a donation to Bridgeport elementary schools.

“06880” readers responded at warp speed. This week, Miller and Trammi Nguyen — a Westporter who coordinates volunteers in Bridgeport — delivered scores of books to the Bryant and Luis Muñoz Marín Schools.

Miller visited pre-K, and 2nd and 4th grade students.  “They were over the moon with happiness and joy,” she reports. They adored her necklace — the same “magic key” that every child received with the book.

Excited students with Katherine Miller — and their “magic keys.”

The book was read to the pre-K and 2nd grade students.

Younger kids were read to …

The 4th graders took turns reading out loud, with great enthusiasm.

… while older youngsters read “Help Santa!” themselves.

For all, the chance to get a new book was special. Nearly always, schools in need receive donations that are “pre-owned.”

A second grade boy told his teacher it was the best day of his life.

“There is so much love in this world,” Miller says. “I honestly feel so blessed. My heart is so full, being given such an amazing flow of kindness from our community.

“This experience has completely changed my life. It made me realize my bad experience was not a tragedy. It was a window to see a whole new beautiful world.”

Thanks to Katherine Miller, and all those in Westport and beyond who helped open that window — with “magical” books — for all those Bridgeport boys and girls.

(A special hat tip too to Danielle Dobin. She created the original GoFundMe for Katherine, then helped make the book drive a reality.)

More joy (and love) at the holidays.

 

Remember Your 2nd Grade Teacher? Coleytown El Grads Sure Do!

Some of us remember key teachers in our lives.

Usually they’re from high school. Occasionally, middle high.

Elementary school teachers seldom get the love and respect they deserve. We were too young to appreciate them. Often, we forget their names.

Nancy Saipe is not one of those people.

This summer — just before her Staples High School Class of 1971 held its 50th (plus COVID 1) reunion —  she hosted a lunch honoring her 2nd grade teacher, Nicky Bleifeld.

Nancy and several other Coleytown Elementary School classmates from 1960-61 — still friends, half a century later — reminisced about Mrs. Bleifeld’s impact on them.

She was there too — in good health and great spirits. It was a wonderful afternoon, for the former teacher and her (now almost-contemporary) former pupils.

Coleytown Elementary School.

But that’s only part of this story

To honor Mrs. Bleifeld, the women made a donation to the current 2nd grade classrooms at Coletown El. The funds will purchase books for the students.

But that’s still not the end.

On Tuesday, Nancy Saipe — and Nicky Bleifeld — visited CES, the current 2nd graders and their teachers.

Nicky Bleifeld with current Coleytown Elementary School 2nd grade teachers (from left): Melanie Tribe, Abby Miraballes, Caitlin Spisso and Alyssa Carroll. On the wall behind are welcome notes, written by the children.

Principal Janna Sirowich began by reading “Things I Learned in Second Grade” to the students. Then came questions.

The youngsters wanted to know what Coleytown was like, back before some of their grandparents were even born. For example:

  • Did you have a Smartboard in your classroom? (No. They didn’t even have computers! This really surprised the children.)
  • How many students were in your second-grade class?  (30 — wow!)
  • How many recesses did you have each day? (2 — the same same as now.)
  • What subjects did you teach?  (Math, Reading, Current Events, Science)
  • Did you have Field Day? (Yes)

 

The rear view of Coleytown Elementary School, before expansion and modernization.

Principal Janna Sirowich says, “The students and staff were enthralled as they listened to Mrs. Bleifeld and Mrs. Saipe talk about Coleytown. They had such detailed and positive memories to share.

“Mrs. Saipe also encouraged the students to treasure their friendships and their teachers. She spoke about the lasting impact that Mrs. Bleifeld had on her as a student, reader, and friend, and how she remembers these lessons today.”

A photo for the ages: Coleytown Elementary School 2nd graders with former teacher Nicky Bleifeld (right). Current teachers are in the back; Nancy Saipe is seated, far right.

The CES staff presented Mrs. Bleifeld with a Coleytown bag, t-shirt and stuffed animal — and an open invitation to visit Coleytown anytime.

“It was a heartwarming experience,” Ms. Sirowich adds. “We are so grateful to Mrs. Bleifeld and Mrs. Saipe for visiting our community.”

Scarice: After “Traumatic” Incident, Vigilance Needed

This afternoon, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice sent this note to Westport families:

Last week, there was a school-related incident in which students became ill after ingesting what appeared to be candy. This is a terrifying sign of the times and a traumatic experience for the students and families involved. Last night at the Board of Education meeting, I made a statement on this matter.

I am not at liberty to share additional information and details about this specific incident due to federal laws that protect student privacy. Additionally, I cannot compromise the outcomes of ongoing investigations regarding this issue.

However, I can take this as an opportunity to advance parent education on this topic, and to implore those who care for children to be vigilant about candy, chocolate, and other foods that could contain substances that may pose a health and safety risk to our children.

On January 10, 2023, retail cannabis sales will become legal in Connecticut. As a result, we expect cannabis to be more accessible in the community, making the necessity of our awareness and vigilance even more important.

As members of the Westport Prevention Coalition, the Westport Public Schools is collaborating with community agencies to raise awareness about the risks associated with the legalization of cannabis and its potential impact on children and adolescents.

In light of this recent incident, I want to emphasize to families that it is especially important for those caring for our youngest students to remind their children not to consume candy, chocolate, or other food from unknown sources.  Children could become very ill, sometimes with fatal consequences, from consuming foods containing drugs or other potentially harmful substances.

In addition, all families should remind their children of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and that there can be serious school-related and criminal consequences for possessing, selling, or distributing drugs and alcohol on school grounds or at school-sponsored events. To be sure, the school district strictly prohibits the possession, sale, distribution, use, and consumption of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, vapor products, and certain other substances on school grounds, on school buses, at school-sponsored activities, and at certain times outside of school.  However, the reality is that these substances still exist in our community, and we must continue to educate our children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

This education must now include ensuring that our youngest children understand the importance of avoiding candy, chocolate, and other foods that they find at school, on a school bus, or somewhere else in the community, or that is offered to them by someone they do not know or do not know well.

Please click this link for additional information on this topic from the Westport Prevention Coalition and WPS Supervisor of Health Services, Sue Levasseur.

I encourage you to discuss this important topic with your children.  To assist you in these conversations, I am attaching factsheets prepared by the Westport Prevention Coalition (www.westporttogether.org/prevention-coalition). More information on this important topic can be found by clicking here.

If you have any questions or would like support from school staff around this issue, please reach out to your child’s building principal who can share appropriate school resources.

Roundup: MLK Day, Club 203 Party, Ruth Bedford Fund …

Westport’s 17th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration next month will be one of its most memorable.

Author/creative artist/filmmaker/playwright/multi-dimensional performance artist Junauda Petrus will be the special guest here.

Petrus’ work spotlights “Black wildness, laughter, futurism, ancestral healing, sweetness, spectacle and shimmer.” Her debut novel, “The Stars and the Blackness Between Them,” received the 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award. She is writing a screenplay adaptation of the book.

Petrus’ visit to Westport will focus on “reimagining community diversity, engagement, and civility.”

On Friday, January 13 she will present at area schools. On Saturday, January 14 Petrus will visit the Westport Library for an experiential workshop with local artists (click here for more information), followed by a panel discussion with them (click here to register).

The 3-day celebration culminates on Sunday, January 15 with her 3 p.m. keynote address at the Westport Country Playhouse. Copies of her book will be available for purchase, with Petrus signing copies after her talk. The program is free with registration (click here), and includes a dance performance by the Regional Center for the Arts.

The Martin Luther King Jr. celebration began in 2006, coordinated by the Westport/Weston Interfaith Council and Westport/Weston Interfaith Clergy. Since 2016 it has been hosted by those 2 organizations, the Westport Library, Westport Country Playhouse, and TEAM Westport.

To learn more about Junauda Petrus, click here.

Junauda Petrus

=======================================================

Tuesday night was magical at Wakeman Town Farm. 120 members of Club 203 gathered for their first-ever holiday party.

The organization offers great social opportunities for adults with disabilities. They’re uplifted by strong community support.

For this week’s festivities, the tent was sponsored by the Riverside Realty Group. Motivators came from TAP Strength. The art project in Tim’s Kitchen was hosted by MoCA.

The hot cocoa bar and snacks were Gold’s, Rye Ridge Deli, The Porch @ Christie’s, Fresh Market and Silverman Farms. The event space came courtesy of Wakeman Town Farm.

A few of the Club 203 party-goers at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

======================================================

The Westport Police have released arrest reports for the December 8-14 period.

Seven people were detained in custody. The charges for each:

  • Forgery, 2nd and 3rd degree; fraudulent use of ATM
  • Larceny, 1st degree
  • Rick of injury to a child; criminal mischief; disorderly conduct
  • Criminal violation of a restraining order; harassment
  • Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol; stop sign violation
  • Failure to appear.

The following citations were issued:

  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 7
  • Stop sign violation: 6
  • Failure to drive in the proper lane: 3
  • Cell phone, first offense: 2
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension: 2
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 2
  • Failure to grant right of way at an intersection: 1
  • Distracted driving: 1
  • Failure to obey control signal: 1
  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian: 1
  • Disorderly conduct: 1.

The crosswalk on Riverside Avenue, at South Sylvan. Like many others, it’s clearly marked that drivers must yield to pedestrians.

=======================================================

For the second year in a row, all 22 Kings Highway Elementary School classes participated in the Connecticut Education Foundation’s Holiday Bear program.

Each class received information about a child in our area who might not receive gifts for the holidays. Families shopped for items on the youngsters’ holiday wish lists. They ranged from toys and crafts to necessities like coats, hats, gloves and pajamas.

Students worked with their teachers and parent volunteers to wrap each gift.  ,

In addition, KHS teachers banded together to sponsor an additional child on their own.

Earlier today, CEF picked up all 23 Holiday Bear duffle bags, bursting with wrapped gifts from teachers, students and staff.

Congratulations to the Kings Highway Elementary School community. That’s the holiday spirit!

Kings Highway students, with a few of the 23 Holiday Bear duffel bags stuffed with gifts. (Photo courtesy of KHS PTA)

======================================================

The Westport Domestic Violence Task Force had its own successful holiday drive.

For the past week, they collected gift cards, to benefit the Domestic Violence Crisis Center safehouse and community clients.

Residents donated $3,250 in cards to department specialty, and grocery stores. Survivors purchase what they most need or want for their families this season.

This can be a dark time for victims of domestic violence. The WDVTF thanks all who help make it a bit brighter.

=======================================================

In 2015, the Westport Weston Family YMCA received a large and unexpected gift from the estate of Ruth Bedford.

The granddaughter of Edward T. Bedford — who founded the Y — she had died the previous year, at 99. The board of trustees established the Ruth Bedford Social Responsibility Fund. Its endowment supports grants to organizations that provide direct or supplemental educational opportunities in Fairfield County.

This week, the Y honored the 31 recipients for 2022.

Representatives from each group described how their grants would be spent. For example:

  • The Carver Foundation of Norwalk serves 2,500 K-12 students. Funds will towards supporting its middle school program.
  • Homes with Hope will help housing insecure people get back on their feet.
  • Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport will use the grant for its Early Childhood Education program.
  • New Beginnings Family Academy serves Bridgeport’s most vulnerable children. The donation will help “level the playing field.”
  • Wakemen Memorial Association (Boys & Girls Club) sponsors after-school and summer camp programs. They’re also building a second location in Bridgeport,

CEOs Marcie Berson (Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestra) and Novelette Peterkin (Carver Foundation) share a table at the Westport Y’s Ruth Bedford Social Responsibility Fund ceremony.

======================================================

Staples High School’s December Students of the Month are seniors Zoe Webster and Mia Vindiola; junior Andrew Cerrito; sophomores Ethen Perry and Kensley Laguerre, and freshmen Benjamin Barger and Annabelle Katz.

The award recognizes students who “help make Staples High School a welcoming place for their peers and teachers alike. They are the ‘glue’ of the Staples community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students that keep the high school together, making it the special place that it is.”

Students of the Month are nominated by their teachers, who are asked to think of “all-around good citizens” of the school.

Staples High School’s December Students of the Month. From left: Benjamin Barger, Zoe Webster, Annabelle Katz, Kensley Laguerre, Andrew Cerrito, Ethen Perry. Absent: Mia Vindiola.

======================================================

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo …

(Photo/Stephen Raffel)

=======================================================

… leads naturally to our “And … finally” song:

(“06880” is your hyper-local blog. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Give The Gift Of Giving

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

And to give.

This year — which despite economic headwinds, was a good one for many Westporters — as we buy presents for loved ones, friends, and people whose good graces we need to keep, we should also think about helping others.

Give what you can.

(Of course, helping them can also ease our own tax burdens a few months from now.)

But who to give to?

Far be it for “06880” to say. So here is a list — off the top of my head — of some worthy local organizations. Each one has a clickable link 🙂

I know I’ve missed some. Rather than bite my head off (very un-Christmas-y), please mention them in the “Comments” section. I’ll add them to this list.

And please: Keep your suggestions local (southern Fairfield County). There are way too many very worthy national and international groups to include. Thank you!

Animals

Christine’s Critters: Rehabilitation of big birds
Connecticut Humane Society
: Westport branch
Save Our Strays: Animal rescue
PAWS: No-kill animal shelter
Rising Starr Horse Rescue: Gives at-risk horses a second chance at life
TAILS: Spaying and neutering
Westport Animal Shelter Advocates: Care, shelter and adoption of homeless dogs
Wildlife in Crisis: Preservation and emergency help

Arts and history

Artists Collective of Westport: Creativity, education, shows, forums and more
Beechwood Arts and Innovation: Exhibits, salons, talks, food — wow!
Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County: Supporting cultural organizations, artists and creative businesses
Levitt Pavilion: More than 50 nights of free entertainment
MoCA Westport
: Exhibitions, concerts, education and more
Music Theatre of Connecticut: Musical theater education for youngsters ages 4 through high school
Remarkable Theater:
Providing entertainment and employment for people with disabilities
Westport Country Playhouse: 92-year-old cultural institution
Westport Museum for History & Culture: Exhibits and education
Westport Public Art Collections: Bringing art to schools and public spaces

Community aid

Al’s Angels: Help for children and families battling diseases and hardships
Bridgeport Rescue Mission: Fighting poverty, offering help
Center for Family Justice: Provides services to fight domestic, child and sexual abuse
Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants: Service and advocacy for immigrants, refugees and survivors of human trafficking and torture
Integrated Immigrant & Refugee Services: Resettlement agency
Lifebridge Community Services: Bridgeport youth development behavioral health and family resources organization
Norwalk Hour
: Aid to families in need
United Way of Coastal Fairfield County:
Access to food, shelter, transportation and childcare
VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399: Helping veterans, servicemembers and their families
Westport Department of Human Services “We Care”
:
Many options, including financial help with school supplies and heating costs
Westport PAL: They do it all: college scholarships, youth sports programs, fireworks, ice rink, etc., etc., etc.
Westport Weston Family YMCA: Help in many ways

Community-building

06880: This blog — now a non-profit — sponsors community-wide events. Projects include the Holiday Stroll, an educational seminar at the library, and a soon-to-be announced Westport/Marigny/Ukraine school project. “06880” also publishes this daily blog, to help create community.

Disabilities

Catch a Lift: Westport supports veterans through fitness programs
Circle of Friends: Teens work with children with disabilities
CLASP
: Group homes and opportunities
Club 203: Provides fun, engaging activities for adults with disabilities
MyTEAM Triumph:  Road race support for children, adults and veterans
STAR Lighting the Way: Support for all ages
Sweet P Bakery: Provides jobs for adults with learning disabilities; supplies The Porch at Christie’s with delicious baked goods

Education and youth

A Better Chance of Westport: Education and support for outstanding minority boys
Achievement First: Schools provide Bridgeport families of color with a high- quality education at no cost
Adam J. Lewis Academy: High-quality experience for Bridgeport youngsters
Carver Foundation: K-12 pre- and after-school programs in Norwalk
Child Advocates of SW Connecticut: Providing advocates for abused children
Child & Family Guidance Center: Counseling and support for youth and families
Kids in Crisis: 24-hour support, including emergency housing and crisis counseling
Kidz Give Back: Children helping children
Neighborhood Studios: Arts education for Bridgeport youngsters
Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities: Helping fulfill potential; support for parents too
Staples Tuition Grants: Need-based scholarships for Staples High School students and alumni
The Susan Fund: Scholarships for young people affected by cancer

Environment

Aspetuck Land Trust: Preserving open space; maintaining 45 preserves
Connecticut Audubon Society: Protecting birds, other wildlife, and their habitats through conservation, education and advocacy
Earthplace:
Education, wildlife exhibits, and a 62-acre sanctuary
Friends of Sherwood Island: Preserving, maintaining and enhancing our state park
Future Frogmen: Teaching students to protect the oceans
Norwalk River Valley Trail: Maintaining 30 miles of open space 
Save the Sound
: Protecting Long Island Sound
Sustainable Westport: Helping our town become Net Zero by 2050
Wakeman Town Farm: Sustainability center, with plenty of programs
Westport Farmers’ Market: Food, education, programs and more

Food and shelter

Filling in the Blanks: Providing weekend meals for children in need
Food Rescue:
Helping volunteers pick up and deliver excess food
Homes with Hope: Supportive housing, food pantry, food distribution and more
Open Doors Shelter: Aiding Norwalkers in need
Person-to-Person: Food, rent help, clothing and more

Grant-giving and foundations

100 Women Who  Care of Fairfield County: Raising funds to give them away!
Fairfield County Foundation: Philanthropy to strengthen communities
Near and Far Aid:
Fighting poverty in Fairfield County
Newman’s Own
: Okay, they’re global — but they’re headquartered in Westport!
Westport Rotary: Noontime chapter meeting of Rotary International
Westport Sunrise Rotary: 7:30 a.m. chapter meeting of Rotary International
Westport Woman’s Club: Raising funds for charitable, educational, cultural and public health services
Westport Young Woman’s League: Building community through volunteerism and social activities

Health and Safety

Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation: Funds for non-medical expenses
Domestic Violence Crisis Center:
Help for victims and families
Fairfield County House: End-of -life facility, providing hospice and palliative care in a home-like setting 
Mission
: Helping survivors create lives after cancer
Pink Aid: Financial aid and services to woman and families facing breast cancer
Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service
: Providing staffing, supplies and apparatus to keep the town safe

LGBTQ+

Triangle Community Center: Providing programs and resources for the LGBTQ+ community
Westport Pride: Our town’s own LGBTQ+ organization — sponsors of the June festival, and much more


Literacy

Mercy Learning Center: Life skills training for low-income women
Read to Grow: Promoting children’s literacy from birth, supporting parents as babies’ first teachers
Westport Book Sales: Providing employment for people with disabilities — and offering books, while providing funds for the Westport Library
Westport Library: They do it all!

Mental health and addiction 

Laurel House: Mental health and recovery resources
Positive Directions: Treatment and prevention for addictive behaviors

Seniors

Jewish Senior Services: Skilled nursing and other care
Friends of the Westport Center for Senior Activities: Support for the Senior Center (below)
Westport Center for Senior Activities
: Senior Center provides programs, meals and more

Women and girls

AWARE: “Assisting Women through Action, Resources and Education”
Dress for Success Mid-Fairfield County: Empowering women by providing professional clothes and other support
LiveGirl: Leadership development and mentoring for females, grades 5 through college
Malta House: Shelter and programs for young pregnant women and their babies

[OPINION] Long Lots Must Be A Sustainable School

The process for renovating Long Lots Elementary School, or replacing it, has begun.

This could be the first new school in Westport since Staples High (completed in 2005) and Bedford Middle (several years earlier). Coleytown Middle School reopened last year, after a long renovation project.

Sustainable Westport — an advisory group that helps town officials set environmental policy, and educates residents and businesses on  gree issues — has some ideas on the future of Long Lots.

Their website says:

Facing capacity and infrastructure issues, Long Lots Elementary School is currently being considered for renovation, rebuilding, or some combination of both. This fall, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) appointed a building committee to determine if a new build or renovation is the best course of action, and develop plans and specifications for the new space.

Long Lots Elementary School will be renovated or rebuilt. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Whether Long Lots Elementary is renovated or rebuilt, the building represents an important opportunity to support and advance the town’s resolution to become Net Zero by 2050. But why should Westport consider building a “sustainable school”?

Sustainable schools deliver major health, educational, financial, and environmental benefits to students, teachers and communities. Sustainable schools more efficient, leading to lower operating costs. They also provide learning spaces that significantly improve the wellness and productivity of those in and around the building.

Better ventilation and air quality: A hallmark of sustainable schools is improved ventilation and air quality. Better ventilation will decrease the spread of illness and diminish the effects of asthma, allergies, and other respiratory problems. Put simply, cleaner air will result in healthier spaces with fewer absences for students and educators. With proper ventilation, air quality improves, which results in higher student productivity. High amounts of COz slows cognitive functioning, lowering both memory and concentration levels.

Long Lots Elementary School’s entrance is surrounded by trees.

Increased access to daylight: Sustainable schools are designed in a way that provides access to natural sunlight in as many spaces as possible, reducing the need for artificial light. Allowing sunlight to permeate deep into interior spaces provides numerous health benefits, including improved emotional well-being and sleep. In addition to mental and physical benefits, studies have also shown that daylight increases students’ test scores: students in classrooms with windows perform 20% faster on math tests and 26% faster on reading tests than students in windowless classrooms. Not to mention, increased daylight also reduces the reliance on artificial lighting, which decreases overall energy costs.

Lower operating costs: America’s K-12 schools currently spend $12.5 billion per year on energy costs. In Westport, the district budgeted over $3.2 million dollars for electricity, natural gas, and heating oil this school year. Pursuing net zero construction not only reduces building emissions and improves climate resilience, it also saves districts money that can then be used to re-invest in additional infrastructure updates. Compared to traditional school buildings, sustainable schools cost less than 2% more to build but use 33% less energy and 32% less water. The nation’s first net zero school opened in 2010. In its first 8 years of operation, the school saved $11.5 million.

Educational Opportunity: Sustainable schools provide a unique opportunity for students and the larger community to develop a deep connection and understanding of environmentalism and sustainability. Exposure to and education about the benefits of net zero buildings will help change mindsets leading to increased awareness and public support. Research shows that one year of climate change education can have a meaningful impact on a lifetime of emissions.

Environmental Impact: With less reliance on fossil fuels (high-performance) or no reliance on fossil fuels (net zero), sustainable schools release less pollution and greenhouse gases while also using less energy and water. These schools are carefully designed to utilize renewable energy sources and passive systems like daylighting and natural ventilation to reduce overall energy load. As a result, sustainable schools leave a microscopic carbon footprint, while also contributing to the health and well-being of their communities.

With the rebuild or renovation of Long Lots Elementary School on the horizon, we hope to champion the development of Westport’s own net zero school for the health of our community and to advance the town’s resolution to become net zero by 2050.

(To help sustain “06880,” please click here.)

Roundup: Board Of Ed, Downtown, Scam Alert …

This week’s Board of Education community conversation was wide-ranging, robust and fruitful. If you missed

It was so successful, the board will schedule another conversation. They’ll begin with the topics they ended with: books in the high school library, and equity action planning.

The next event will be scheduled in the evening. When the date is finalized, “06880” will let you know.

======================================================

“Reconnecting the Riverfront” — the town’s plan addressing downtown parking and pedestrian access — moving into its second public engagement phase.

Initial design concepts and a second public survey are available here. The public is invited to complete the survey, and add comments.

Screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee’s website. A public survey is on the site too.

=====================================================

Sure, Buffalo got whacked with a super snowstorm yesterday.

But at Compo Beach, the temperature was a balmy 42

So these 8 intrepid folks went for a midday swim.

Happy November 18!

(Photo/Matt Murray)

======================================================

Meanwhile, around the corner, a wedding took place on the Old Mill Beach sand.

Because of the cold, it was quick — almost over before it began, reports Andrew Colabella.

No word on who the bride and groom are. Or where they headed next.

Hopefully, some place a bit warmer.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

======================================================

More proof it was cold yesterday: A crew was at work early, warming up Hillspoint Road to fill in the cracks.

It’s one of those little things most people never see. Or even think about.

Jonathan Rosenoer spotted it, and took a photo. Thanks to all the workers on this project.

Little things mean a lot.

(Photo/Jonathan Rosenoer)

======================================================

Meanwhile, last night, a couple of hundred people enjoyed dozens of wines (and excellent hors d’oeuvres), at Westport Sunrise Rotary’s annual (but first since COVID) “Uncorked” fundraiser.

The tastings were courtesy of The Fine Wine Company. The dining came courtesy of the host Inn at Longshore.

And the money raised? It all goes to the many worthy program — here and abroad — supported by our excellent Sunrise Rotary Club.

Last night’s “Westport Uncorked,” at the Inn at Longshore. (Photo/Dan Woog)

=======================================================

Scam alert!

A reader writes: “The other day I dropped an envelope into a mailbox between the diner and dance studio. I felt something sticky, and realized the envelope was not falling into the box.”

“I called the check’s recipient a few days later. They had not gotten the check. I went to the box to see if I could retrieve it. I couldn’t, so I went to the post office. They gave me a number to call.

“I called, and found out I was scammed. The sticky page catches my envelope. Thieves erase and change all the information they need: signature, amount, routing and account numbers.

“I had to go to the bank, get new account numbers, order new checks, remember all my direct deposits and notify them.

“Why isn’t something posted about this scam? The post office and bank know about it. Why hasn’t he public been alerted?

======================================================

Since graduating from Staples High School in 2013, and Middlebury College 4 years later, August Laska has done many things.

He worked for Snapchat and Disney. He co-produced an Off-Broadway show. He was a marketer.

Now — after being furloughed in the pandemic — he’s got a new gig. He owns The Old Yew Plant Shop on Horatio Street in the West Village.

It offers plants for all tastes and plant-growing abilities, plus landscaping and installation services, expert advice, and anything else city dwellers need (for their plants, anyway).

August always loved plants. But not until his temporary COVID-induced move back to Westport did he have a chance to indulge in his passion.

Work on his yard led to requests by relatives and friends. When someone asked him to do his work indoors — bingo.

This week, Off the Grid — a Village blog — profiled August and The Old Yew Plant Shop. Click here for a story that’s even livelier than Audrey II.

But August is not sitting around twiddling his (green) thumbs. He’ll open a second Manhattan location soon.

August Laska at The Old Yew Plant Shop. (Photo courtesy of Off the Grid)

=======================================================

Westport’s oldest church has its newest organ.

And its most up-to-date technology.

Tomorrow’s Green’s Farms Congregational organ rededication — with a concert by renowned improvisationist Justin Bischof, in honor of organist Rick Tripodi, who oversaw the reinstallation but died just before completion — is set for 4 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday, November 20).

Can’t make it? Click here for the livestream.

=================================================

Longtime Westporter Dick Rauh is 97 years old.

But you’re never too old to have a Westport Library exhibit.

His botanical paintings will be featured in the Sheffer Gallery, from December 5 through February 28. An artist talk and reception, with Rauh and Miggs Burroughs, is set for January 20.

“I am extremely fortunate to be granted the ability to continue to function as well as I do as the years pass,” says Rauh, who took up botanical painting in retirement, after a long career in motion pictures special effects.

“Spread along these walls are the results of what I have observed looking closely at flowers over the years. Whether in my quest for the accurate I have managed to bring a personal statement is for you to judge. It is enough for me that you will look at flowers in a way you never have before.”

Rauh won the gold medal and Best in Show awards at the 2006 Royal Horticultural Society Show in London, and his work is in several permanent collections. He has taught in the botanical illustration certificate program at the New York Botanical Gardens since 1994 and was named its Teacher of the Year in 2010. He also teaches widely in  senior centers.

Two other exhibits will be featured at the Library too: “Speak to Me” (woven art by Westporter Tina Puckett), and 8 works from the Westport Public Art Collections.

Click here for more information.

Dick Rauh, and his art.

====================================================

Westport’s Thiel Architecture + Design is known for its office, restaurant, retail and residential projects.

Now they’re known by the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architect too.

Thiel’s design of a Brooklyn office will receive an Excellence in Interior Architecture award. It and 5 other designs are in contention for Connecticut Project of the Year.

The design is for a company that downsized after the pandemic. The new Williamsburg space “functions less as a ‘workhouse’ and more as a ‘clubhouse,’a gathering place where employees come together to re-energize, zoom with remote clients and collaborators, and do intermittent touchdown work.”

Thiel is currently designing the future Weston Town Green, and last year worked with the Westport Farmers’ Market on a concept for a permanent home at the Imperial Avenue lot. 

Thiel Architecture’s award-winning Brooklyn office. (Photo/Sam Sachs Morgan)

=====================================================

With winter near (despite the Compo swimmers, above), Westporters are stocking up on wood.

James Parisi is one of the few who chops his own.

And probably the only one who takes such a dramatic photo of his work.

Now it will warm him 3 times: Once when he chopped it. Then when he burns it. And now, when he sees it featured as today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/James Parisi)

=======================================================

And finally … Happy International Men’s Day!

Yes, it’s a thing.

 

 

 

 

Asia Bravo: From Staples To Space Force

Winning the lottery changed Asia Bravo’s life.

But it wasn’t easy.

The lottery she won was Open Choice. That’s the program that allows students from Bridgeport to attend Westport public schools, on a space-available basis.

She entered Long Lots Elementary in 1st grade, continued through Bedford Middle School, and graduated from Staples High in 2011.

“It was a rollercoaster,” Asia says. She had a caring social worker in Julie Horowitz, and a wonderful mentor in Heidi Hammer.

Asia Bravo, in the 2011 Staples  yearbook.

But her home life was difficult. She tried to play basketball at Staples, but because of transportation issues, and the need to take care of 2 younger brothers, she could not pursue it.

After graduation Asia took classes at Housatonic Community College, then transferred to Southern Connecticut State University. She worked 3 jobs to afford tuition — while taking a full load of classes — so in January of 2016, after a year at Southern, she enlisted in the Army.

She did boot camp at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was sent to Fort Gordon in Georgia, then spent more than 5 years in Germany. She worked as a human relations liaison, and with computers in IT.

“I learned how to push through. The Army instilled mental toughness,” Asia says.

“Good leaders helped me. And I figure a lot out on my own.”

Asia enjoyed Europe. She met good people, and traveled often.

In July 2021 she was reassigned to Fort Gordon, teaching trainees.

Asia Bravo, her Open Choice mentor Heidi Hammer and Heidi’s daughter Kate.

The next month, her father passed away. Four months later, an Army friend died by suicide.

A couple of years earlier, Asia had applied to Space Force. The newest branch of the military was created by President Trump, in recognition that space is a national security imperative.

Much of the work involves computers, which Asia enjoys and is good at. This past February, she was selected for Space Force. That’s not easy: It’s the nation’s smallest armed forces branch, with just 8,400 military personnel.

“I’m helping build the foundation for a new organization,” Asia says proudly She can’t provide details about her work, other than to say it’s in cyberspace and computer intelligence, helping defend space. She is stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“Space Force is an amazing branch, and this is a great opportunity,” Asia says. “I’m really growing, professionally and personally.”

Asia Bravo with B. Chance Saltzman, Space Force director of space operations.

She has a message for Staples students: “Be ready to go after whatever you want in life. Don’t accept limitations. Don’t let anyone tell you ‘can’t.’ 

“I was told I couldn’t do things. I had a rough background. But I put a lot of hard work into my career. It all paid off. I am greater than I ever presumed I could be.

“I think my dad would be proud of me.”

Greens Farms El Salutes Veterans

There’s a good reason why Westport schools are in session on Veterans Day.

It’s a chance for students to learn the meaning of the holiday. Some classes have special discussions. Some buildings hold special assemblies.

At Greens Farms Elementary School, youngsters hear from veterans themselves. Some served in long-ago wars. Others — including the father of at least 2 current students — are serving now.

Greens Farms School principal Kevin Cazzetta welcomes Lieutenant Commander Ryan Weddle, father of students Ben and John. He has served in the US Navy since 2008, with deployments to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Qatar.

Each year, teachers organize a ceremony. Several dozen servicemen and women are honored. This year, nearly two dozen took the stage.

Veterans on stage. The “Missing Man” table in front is decorated with symbols representing missing family members (rose), love for country (red ribbon), tears shed for those lost (salt), missing soldiers 9inverted) glass and hope (lit candle).

They were serenaded with songs of all the armed forces branches — including, this year, the new Space Force tune.

The Greens Farms PtA sponsors a reception too.

GFS 3rd grade teacher Karen Frawley (right) with her mother Doris Serbu Seipel. She is a first lieutenant in the Air Force Nurse Corps, and a captain in the New York State National Guard.

“It’s the best assembly of the year, every year,” says longtime music teacher Suzanne Sherman Propp. “It’s really heartwarming.”

Greens Farms 3rd graders are ready.

She helped organize the event, with colleagues Amy Murtagh, Karen Frawley, Dan Seek, Jason Hubball, Catherine Vanech and Lisa Doran.

Greens Farms Elementary School 3rd grade teachers (from left): Karen Frawley, Catherine Vanech, Amy Murtagh, Jason Hubball.

Former Bedford Middle School math teacher Salpi Tokatlian (right) with her granddaughter, GFS 2nd grader Ella, and husband Sgt. Matthew Charles Tokatlian, US Army 1968-71. He served in Vietnam, and earned a Sharpshooter Medal.

(Hat tip and all photos: Suzanne Sherman Propp)

(“06880” is your hyper-local blog. Please click here to support our work.)