Category Archives: Organizations

Staples Tuition Grants Announces Covid-19 Community Challenge

One month ago, Staples Tuition Grants was wrapping up its 2020 efforts.

For 77 years they’ve helped high school seniors — and graduates — close the gap between the cost of higher education, and what they could afford.

Applications were in. Interviews were scheduled. In June there would be a ceremony at which over 100 students would receive over $300,000 in grants.

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck. Suddenly, life got much tougher for Westporters. Loss of income was compounded by plunging portfolios — many of which included college funds.

In response to this urgent need, STG has partnered with a small group of generous donors. Together, they have pledged $50,000 to establish the STG COVID-19 Community Challenge.

Now they’re challenging Westporters — and Staples grads around the country — to meet (or exceed) an additional $50,000 in donations.  The goal is $100,000.

All funds raised in this campaign will go to this year’s STG student grant recipients. They’ll supplement whatever other grants will be awarded in June, for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.

STG says:

You know our grant recipients. They are your neighbors, babysitters, camp counselors, lifeguards, baristas, and local restaurant and retail store staff.

Many lost those jobs — this summer and beyond — and live with a parent or grandparent who also lost income or college savings through this crisis. For most of our grant recipients, their ability to pursue or continue higher education this fall will be determined by the amount of financial aid they receive in the next few weeks.

The STG COVID-19 Community Challenge is your opportunity to help! If you have a current college student receiving a refund on tuition, room and board, please consider donating a portion to this effort. If you planned to attend a fundraiser or charity event this spring that was canceled, please consider directing part of what you had planned to give to this challenge.

This is our opportunity as a strong and united community to show Staples graduates attending college next year that Westport supports them.

Click here to donate to the STG Covid-19 Community Challenge. STG also accepts checks, made out to “Staples Tuition Grants” and sent to PO Box 5159 , Westport, CT 06881-5159. Include your name as you’d like it to appear, your address and email, and write “Community Challenge” in the memo field.

A highlight of the annual Staples Tuition Grants ceremony is when recipients meet people with a fund named after a loved one. Several years ago Dr. Al Beasley posed with Megumi Asada, who received the Dr. Jean Beasley Award. Megumi has gone on to a career in medicine.

COVID Strikes Nearby Nursing Home

“06880” reader Michèle Kellner Perkins says:

I am devastated to write that COVID-19 has entered my mother’s nursing home.

Jewish Senior Services in Bridgeport — which serves the elderly of all faiths — is bracing for a rise in the number of cases.

Four residents have already contracted it. Two have died. JSS needs to buy more masks, gowns and other protective gear and equipment, which are in woefully short supply. Plans are underway to hire additional staff and pay overtime hours to existing staff, if necessary.

At the same time, the home has been hit with declining revenues.

Most people don’t realize that approximately 80% of nursing home residents are on Medicaid. JSS is no different.

A total of 330 residents live in individual “houses,” with 14 people in each. Each house has 2 certified nursing assistants. Two nurses generally cover 3 houses. No volunteers are allowed in the building so the staff is on its own, working tirelessly to care for their vulnerable residents.

Anyone with access to personal protective equipment of any kind should email mkperkins@optonline.net or dhayden@jseniors.org, or call 203-365-6409.

All financial donations are deeply appreciated. Click here to contribute. Please help spread the word to friends, family, churches, synagogues, and anyone else you can think of.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. — Michèle

COVID-19 Roundup: Family Fun; What If?; Podcast Answers; Beechwood Arts; Holiday Meals, And More

Marley Brown is a clever — and now homebound — Staples High School freshman.

Last week she challenged her family to a week of “theme nights.” Everyone had 30 minutes to create their own costume. Then they took a photo together, and ate dinner dressed up.

Themes included Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Gala, Movies and Broadway. “Gala night” ended up with a dance party. On Sunday her brother, Pierce, picked the winner. (It was his 13th birthday.)

“It was a great idea to break up the monotony of our days, and give us a way to jump start our creativity each evening,” says her mom, Shandley McMurray.

What’s your family doing to break up routine? Email dwoog@optonline.net!

A typical night in the Brown house.


Years ago, Miggs Burroughs wrote a book. The What If? Book of Questions is a quick and simple read — but it’s hardly quick and simple. The thought-provoking, inspirational work gets you thinking in random, odd ways. You think about things you’ve thought of often, and things you never imagined would enter your brain. For example:

What if the most important moment in your life is this one? Can you handle the power it gives you to choose how you will spend the next one?

Westport knows Miggs as a brilliant graphic artist and photographer. He is the go-to guy for designing company and non-profit logos, t-shirts, even the town flag. He is very generous with his pro bono work.

Once again, Miggs’ generosity knows no bounds. Though What If? is still available on Amazon he’s now providing a free digital version. It’s “a way to offer a small distraction and meditation on our current situation.”

Click here to download, at no cost. Then, What If you have your own questions about the crisis? Just click “Comments” below!


Like many of us, Peter Saverine knows the importance of wearing a mask.

His day job is director of development at STAR Lighting the Way. But he may have a second career as a designer.

He created his own (very) inexpensive mask using a cheap coffee filter, 2 rubber bands and scotch tape. Then he let his imagination run wild.

The result is below. Enjoy — and to show off your own creations, email dwoog@optonline.net.


Staples High School 2004 graduate Brittney Levine hosts a podcast: “Be My Neighbor.”

Yesterday, her guest was Rebecca Boas — a neighbor, and a Staples 2005 grad.

What makes this particularly COVID Roundup-worthy is that Rebecca is now Dr. Boas. She’s an assistant professor of medicine at NYU.

These days, she’s very busy. But she took time out of her Sunday to answer all kinds of listeners’ questions about treatment, masks, etc., etc., etc. Click below for the fascinating segment.


Beechwood Arts’ next immersive, interactive event is this Wednesday, April 8 (6 to 7 p.m.). The theme is “Homebodies,” which should resonate with every Westporter. There’s live music, art and special guests. For more information — including how to log in — click the video below.


Still wondering where to order a Passover or Easter meal? Click on the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s 2 great lists of restaurants, grocery stores and markets that may offer them (scroll down on the home page). OneWestport is another site with similar information.

Statewide, CTBites has its own lists too (including a few caterers).

The crowd may be smaller this year. But the food can be as good as ever.


They should call it “Face the Nation Featuring Scott Gottlieb.” For the 2nd straight week — and 3rd time in 4 — the former FDA commissioner was on the CBS Sunday morning show.

Once again, he appeared live from his Westport home. Click below; jump to 5:58 to see our neighbor. (Hat tip: Dennis Jackson)


And finally, an opera singer serenaded residents of a retirement community in Santa Cruz, California. But he wasn’t the only one there who could sing!

 

Kids’ Art Contest Honors Earth Day

With all the excitement over Easter and Passover, we may forget that Earth Day is coming.

And not just any ol’ Earth Day. This is the 50th anniversary! It could not have come at a more appropriate time.

To celebrate, the United Nations Association’s local chapter invites students throughout the area to submit art work — all kinds, in any media. There are 3 prizes — $300, $150 and $75 — and the first 50 submissions will be posted on Instagram.

Winners will also be invited to the UN.

Winners can choose to have part or all of their prize money donated to UN agency working with at-risk populations. Donations will be matched by an anonymous donor.

Unsure of what to do, or how to do it? Beloved Westport artist Miggs Burroughs will tell you everything you need to know — and offer suggestions.

Just click here this Thursday (April 9, 3 p.m.).

Entries are due April 16. Include name, age, school and grade, and make the submission via a parent or guardian’s email address. For submissions and questions, email UNASWCTIG@gmail.com.

[UPDATE] Remembering Joe Hawley

The coronavirus has claimed the life of a well-known local volunteer.

Joe Hawley lived in Norwalk. But he was very active in both Sunrise Rotary and the Y’s Men. He died on Wednesday, at 67.

An entrepreneur and sales and marketing executive, he worked with global beauty and fashion accessories firms like Healthtex, Liz Claiborne and Avon. He served as a mentor and coach to many in the industry.

Joe Hawley

In retirement, Joe devoted himself to serving his community, as a volunteer with Westport Sunrise Rotary and Y’s Men.

Roy Fuchs — who know Joe through both organizations — says, “Joe’s abilities, judgment and willingness to get involved, to help wherever he could, were respected.

“In Sunrise Rotary he held no office, but was a leader. He took over our already successful annual wine tasting fundraiser. He led, he organized, he managed — he joked, he cajoled. He made it successful beyond our wildest imagination.

“At our meetings Joe was quick to speak, but always with a purpose. Always with a message. He got most of us to think just a bit harder about what’s important, in our lives and in the spirit of Rotary, as we follow the motto of ‘Service Above Self.'”

“We will miss his joy, his laughter and his willingness to help others.”

Joe was an avid kayaker and bike rider, and a wonderful neighbor. In fact, he said being president of his Norwalk neighborhood association was his “best job ever.”

Joe loved to travel, and loved his family. He was happiest when they intersected. His 2 grandchildren were the lights of his life.

He is also survived by his wife Susan; daughters Ashley and Signe; son Trevor; 2 brothers, a sister and 21 nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life will be organized by his family at a later time. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Westport Sunrise Rotary or Norwalk Hospital Community Care Team.

#WestportConnected: Week 2 Video

How are you coping with the coronavirus?

That’s the question a group of Westporters asks. Then they share the answers in a great informative, entertaining video.

The 2nd installment of #WestportConnected builds on last week’s debut. There are messages of encouragement, photos of folks doing neighborly things, and businesses letting everyone know they’re still open.

Therapists, restaurants, retail outlets — all are represented in the 3-minute montage.

Just click below. And if you’d like to be part of next week’s video, just send a photo or video (10 seconds or less) to westportconnected@gmail.com

Thanks again to these very connected Westporters: Marcy Sansolo, Darcy Hicks, Lisa Newman, Jaime Bairaktaris and Melissa Kane.

In Uncertain Times, Rob Slosberg Offers Sanity, Knowledge

When the coronavirus outbreak hit, Westporters leaped to help.

Physicians treat physical symptoms. Therapists handle emotional ones. CVS and Walgreens clerks ease customers’ fears. A career coach provides free resume consultations.

But if you’re in advertising, what can you possibly do?

Rob Slosberg is a creative director. That’s apt: The 1982 Staples High  School graduate is quite creative.

His first thought was to spread “sanity and knowledge.”

That evening in his Westport home, he created a video. The goal: to show how staying home can prevent others from getting sick — and save lives.

He wrote a script, found stock footage, and spent all night editing it.

Rob Slosbereg

In the morning he sent it to Ellis Verdi, co-founder of Rob’s firm DeVito/Verdi.

He loved it too. Quickly, Ellis sent it to his connections at The Partnership for New York City.

They loved it. But they had one request: Could it include a quote from Governor Cuomo?

Sure!

“That made the video much stronger,” Rob says. “It brought it to reality, and the present moment.”

By the next day, the video was in front of Cuomo. He must have loved it too.

The spot went from concept to on-air in 1 week. The average commercial takes 4 to 6 weeks.

It will run on donated media throughout the tristate area, and on Hulu.

“I just wanted to do something to try to help,” Rob says. “I never thought it would make it all the way up to the governor.”

I could tell you how compelling the PSA is. But it’s far more powerful to watch it yourself.

Just click below:

COVID Roundup: Fields Monitoring; Free Coding Class; Mask Making; Easter Baskets; STAR Funding; More

Beginning yesterday, town personnel are monitoring facilities closely. The goal: making sure that physical distance standards are adhered to by all.

Director Jen Fava says, “We continue to find people not only using our closed facilities, like athletic fields, courts, and other recreational areas, but also gathering in groups at these and other Parks & Rec and school facilities. In addition, there continues to be an issue with people not having dogs on leash.

“Parks and Recreation Department staff, in conjunction with school security staff and the Westport Police Department, will monitor the facilities to ensure compliance in an effort to protect the health and safety of our residents. Any non-compliance with staff will be referred to the Westport Police Department.”

Crowds have been gathering at the Staples football field, among other venues.


Looking for a new hobby, for yourself or your kids?

Learn to code — for free.

Staples High School Class of 1992 graduate Mark Lassoff has made a career offering tech ed videos online. Now he’s paying it forward.

Lassoff’s Fairfield-based Framework TV COVID-19 Code Camp teaches digital skills like coding, web development and digital design — for free. No prior experience is needed.

Video lessons and activities are offered 4 times a week. It’s interactive: Participants get to know each other, and ask questions of instructors.

For more information and registration, click here.

Mark Lassoff


For the past 2 years, Virginia Jaffe helped make costumes for the Greens Farms Elementary School play. Now she and her fellow designers are putting their creative skills to use by making masks for men and women on the front lines — in food stores, markets, hospitals, medical offices and the like.

Virginia, Jurga Subaciute, Marisa Zer and Taran Gulliksen set up production lines in their homes. They make over 100 masks a day. “We’re home schooling, house cleaning and meal making,” she says. “But we can also cut fabric and sew.”

As national and state officials urge Americans to wear masks, the need will grow.

The women need unused flat 5mm or thin rope elastic. Colors do not matter.

In addition, they’re looking for people with sewing machines who wants to help. “We’ll give you instructions and patterns for making masks,” Virginia says. “And we will coordinate where they need to be sent.”

If you can’t sew but want to get involved through a financial contribution (to purchase fabric, threads and elastic directly from a Norwalk supplier who offers heavily discounted prices), see below.

If you know of a group of local front line workers who need masks, she’d like to know too.

To donate elastic and/or funds, offer to help, or suggest recipients, email Westportmasks@yahoo.com.


With all that’s going on, add another stress: how to fill an Easter basket.

Savvy+Grace’s doors are closed. But energetic, creative owner Annette Norton offers safe (curbside pickup) for orders. And every one includes a solid chocolate bunny!

Email savvyandgracewestport@gmail.com. Include:

  • Your full name and cell phone
  • The age, name and gender of the gift recipient
  • The gift recipient’s size (top and bottom)
  • The recipient’s interests (dance, theater, type of sport, etc.)
  • Pierced ears? Likes jewelry?
  • Any other info that might be helpful.

Annette will text back with photos and prices, for your perfect basket.

Annette Norton is ready for Easter.


Laura Blair is one of STAR’s best fundraisers. This time of year, she’s usually a familiar figure outside stores and Staples sports contests, collecting pledges and donations for the annual Walk, 5K and Roll at Sherwood Island State Park.

STAR serves individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. The event helps support 12 group homes and 10 apartments, assisting 110 people with independent living, plus training and job placement to nearly 250 adults.

This year, the fundraiser is online. Click here to help Laura reach her $15,000 goal.

Laura Blair is a fundraising STAR.


And finally, what better way to end the week than with the wonderful Louis Armstrong:

Emma Heads Straight To EMS

Emma Straight’s interest in medicine was strong. Certified as an EMT when she was just 16, she spent 20 hours a week with the Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. Her usual shift was 6 to 11 p.m.

In addition, at Staples High School Emma founded and led the Prosthetic Hand Club.

After graduating last spring, she headed west to Santa Clara University. She intended to major in biology. But an Introduction to Public Health class in the first quarter — covering the spread of disease, our healthcare system and the socioeconomic impact of illness — sparked her interest.

She switched majors, to public health.

Emma Straight

Emma had no idea of the public health crisis just around the corner. But when her college shut down in mid-March and she returned home, she knew exactly what to do.

On March 16, Emma headed to WVEMS. She’s been working 3 shifts a week ever since.

“I always felt comfortable there,” she says of the Jesup Road headquarters next to the police station. “It was a calming place for me.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still is.

Despite the public health crisis, it’s also a very safe place, Emma emphasizes.

“I’m really, really proud of our leaders, like Marc Hartog and Kevin Doherty,” she says. “They prioritize our safety, and give us a lot of up-to-date information. We have to be safe. If we get sick, we can’t help anyone.”

The safety protocol begins with detailed questions asked by dispatchers, for every call. Many are now COVID-related. EMTs must be certain of every situation, before they arrive.

Once on scene, EMTs keep their distance while asking their screening questions. If a patient shows symptoms of the virus, they don protective gear.

But, Emma says, “Our patient care is the same as always. It hasn’t changed at all.

“We’re super cautious,” she reiterates. “We don’t know who has been exposed to what. Everyone is on edge. But there are so many precautions, we feel good.”

The public has been great about donating masks too, Emma notes.

When she was in high school, Emma felt good about giving back through WVEMS. Now rather than just sitting home, she feels “really, really good. I feel like I’m really able to do something, at a very tough time.”

Madison Educator Is Westport’s New Schools Superintendent

Proclaiming himself fully aware of Westport’s challenges — and eager to get started — Thomas Scarice was named tonight as Westport’s new superintendent of schools.

For the last 8 years, Scarice has served as superintendent in Madison — an affluent and high-achieving New Haven suburb.

But he’s no stranger to Fairfield County education. Prior to that post, Scarice was assistant superintendent of the Weston public schools.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

Before their unanimous (and socially distant) online vote, the 7 Board of Education members praised the new schools’ head with enthusiasm and passion.

He was hailed as “a great communicator,” “intelligent,” “driven,” “innovative,” “a strategic thinker,” “warm” and “engaging.”

Interim superintendent David Abbey — who also was warmly praised for his leadership over the past year — called him a “thought leader.” In fact, Abbey said, “I follow him on Twitter.”

The board noted that even among a “truly exceptional pool” of candidates, Scarice stood out.

In his remarks, the new education leader acknowledged both the coronavirus crisis, and the difficulties Westport public schools have endured. (In the past two years, Coleytown Middle School was closed due to mold, and former superintendent Colleen Palmer resigned after a tumultuous 3-year tenure.)

But our recent national crisis, he said, underscore the crucial role that public schools play. Referencing both 9/11 and Sandy Hook, he noted that helping students in times like these are “part of my calling as an educator.”

Scarice thanked search consultant Joe Erardi, the Board of Education, Dr. Abbey (“an educational giant — a Yoda”), and praised the Westport staff he will soon lead.

Scarice — whose Twitter profile reads “Husband of Kerry, Father of Ella, Owen, and Gavin. Superintendent of schools. Mission driven to transform schooling. Child-centered is the only way I roll” — begins officially on July 1.

Thomas Scarice tonight on the Board of Education livestream, moments after being Westport’s new superintendent of schools.