Category Archives: Organizations

Food Allergies: “Fluffy” Name Masks Real Danger

Lisa Hofmeister’s family had no history of food allergies. She was vaguely aware of concerns about kids and nuts, but never gave a thought to things like birthday party food.

A couple of years ago, Blake — then 3 1/2 — ate a peanut butter M&M. Two hours later, he was covered from head to toe in hives.

His Landmark Preschool teachers reacted calmly, quickly and professionally. EMTs used an EpiPen to control the reaction.

Since then, Lisa worries constantly about brownies and cupcakes. She reads the labels of every food item she buys.

FARE logo

Blake — who is allergic to peanuts, pistachios and cashews — is handling things well. On Halloween, the 5-year-old asks everyone handing out candy if it contains any of those nuts.

Landmark is 100% nut-free. Kings Highway Elementary — Blake’s new school — has a nut-free cafeteria table.

Lisa is realistic. “Parents worry that their kid will get hit crossing the street,” she says. “This is just one more worry.”

She also knows that actions speak louder than words. So she’s gotten involved in Food Allergy Research & Education, an educational, research and advocacy organization.

On Saturday, September 24 (1 to 4 p.m.), FARE sponsors a fundraising, awareness and community-building program at Sherwood Island State Park. Besides a half-mile walk, there will be face painting, relay races, carnival games, arts and crafts, a magician and live reggae music.

Participants run at FARE's 2015 walk.

Participants run at FARE’s 2015 walk.

This is FARE’s only Connecticut event. Because it’s in our back yard — and free — Lisa hopes many Westporters will participate.

As a woman who never cared about food allergies until they struck home, Lisa knows that raising awareness is key.

It’s also hard.

“It’s scary that doctors don’t know what causes this, or why it’s increasing so rapidly,” Lisa says.

“It’s also too bad that this doesn’t have a scarier name. ‘Food allergy’ is fluffy. Maybe if it was called something different, more people would be more aware.”

(For more information — or to register for the September 24 event, or volunteer — click here.)

 


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“We Love Our Dogs In Westport”

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates posted this on Facebook:

Last week at about 6:15 p.m., when the air was still very muggy with the temperature in the high 80’s, a group of diners (and Westport residents)  at Sherwood Diner became aware of a large SUV in the parking lot with a small dog inside — and New York plates. The windows were completely shut.

It was determined that the car had been there at least 45 minutes. A call was made to Westport Police, as Westport’s animal control officer was off duty.

Officer Wong Won and another officer (whose name we don’t know) responded quickly. The owner of the car was identified (mid-meal). She became belligerent and defensive, and stated, “this wouldn’t be an issue in Westchester.”

Officer Won responded, “Ma’am, this is Westport. We love our dogs in Westport.”

The dog owner was ticketed, and warned about leaving her dog in a hot car.

Westport Animal Shelter AdvocatesWASA would like to thank Officer Won and his fellow Westport officer for coming to this dog’s rescue, and handling the situation so beautifully. Tails are wagging all over Westport in appreciation.

Our thanks too to the Westport residents who were advocates for the little dog.

Yes, Officer Won, this is Westport. And we do love our dogs!

(Hat tip: Kendall Gardiner)

9/11 Memorial: Friends Of Sherwood Island Respond

The other day, “06880” reader Ellen Bowen complained about the unkempt, goose-drop-filled state of the 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park.

Yesterday, Friends of Sherwood Island State Park co-president Liz-Ann Koos said:

First, it is  very important that you understand  some facts about birds nests. If house sparrows are making nests in the indoor memorial, they can be removed, even while they are building their nests. They are one of the few bird species not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A volunteer Friends member (and dedicated birder) will check and remove whatever  nests are in the 9/11 Memorial area now. However, if a protected bird such as a swallow built a nest, nothing can be done until after the birds leave the nests. Most migratory birds have left their nests by now.

Second, please understand that controlling the Canadian geese is impossible. No one, including the Town of Westport, can remove every goose dropping..

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

Third, the Sherwood Island supervisor and his staff work  hard to keep the Park looking its best, in spite of the many visitors leaving garbage all over the grounds and not using dumpsters. You are correct that the  responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the 9/11 Memorial  is indeed part of the staff’s responsibilities. Rest assured it will be in order for the September 8 (5:30 p.m.) service.

However, I am sure that you have been reading about the huge budget cuts impacting the size of the staff and other matters relevant to your concerns, which brings me to my last point.

One of the reasons for the founding of Friends of Sherwood Island State Park was to supply assistance to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in the form of advocacy, volunteers, and funds (through memberships, donations, fundraising projects and events). We need concerned people like yourself to join our ranks to produce positive changes and support for our beautiful Sherwood Island  State Park, where state budget dollars fall short.

Friends of Sherwood Island logoPlease consider buying a ticket or two for our upcoming ShoreFest in the Pavilion (strikingly reconstructed including solar-heated year-round restrooms, with your tax dollars) on Friday September 9 (6 to 9 p.m.). Proceeds from the silent auction will be specifically targeted for our 100 Trees for 100 Years Project, aimed at replacing and maintaining trees and shrubs that were devastated in major storms.

Please go to our website (www.friendsofsherwoodisland.org) to learn about joining Friends, or purchasing tickets for ShoreFest (where you will have an opportunity to discuss your concerns with the park supervisor, State legislators who have adopted the park, and our board and other Friends).

Please contact me directly at  lizannlwv@gmail.com if you would like to know more.

Ellen Bowen: Sherwood Island 9/11 Memorial Now An “Embarrassment”

“06880” reader Ellen Bowen recently visited  Sherwood Island State Park. She was stunned at the condition of the state’s official 9/11 memorial. Among the Connecticut residents honored there are several Westporters. 

With the 15th anniversary of that tragic day near, Ellen writes:

Imagine my surprise and disgust to find the plaques covered with goose poop,  and the walkways and grassy areas (including near the water fountain and picnic area) overrun and filled with weeds. The condition was disgusting. And I paid $9 to park.

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

I am appalled and saddened that a beautiful and contemplative place remembering the victims and heroes who lost their lives that day has become an embarrassment to our town and the state of Connecticut. I will share some of the pictures I took with the Friends of Sherwood Island, local and state government officials, and anyone else I can think of.

I hope they clean it up in time for the governor and 9/11 families’ visit, and the memorial service, on September 8. But I sincerely hope they consider maintaining the memorial on a year-round basis, and not just “for show.”

Westport’s Charter Oak Connections

If you’re new to Connecticut, you may not know about our charter oak. They don’t teach state history in school — I don’t think so, anyway — and most of the state quarters that were minted nearly 20 years ago are out of circulation.

But longtime residents know the charter oak. And one of its descendants may still live in Westport.

The story involves a large white oak tree that dates back to the 12th or 13th century.  Apparently our royal charter — given by King Charles in 1662, to the Connecticut colony — was hidden in a hollow in 1687, to prevent the governor-general from revoking it.

Connecticut's charter oak.

Connecticut’s charter oak.

The tree was destroyed in 1856, during a strong storm. But its legend remains.

So, supposedly, do many of its seedlings.

In 1965, a “Committee for the location and care of the Charter Oak Tree” was formed. Its purpose was to “accept the seedling  descendant of the Charter Oak from Mr. John Davis Lodge, care for it during the winter, select a location in which it can be planted in the Spring, and organize a planting ceremony.”

Lodge — a former governor of Connecticut and ambassador to Spain, and future ambassador to Argentina and Switzerland — lived in Westport.

Minutes of a November 20, 1965 meeting show that a seedling was intended to be donated to Staples High School in the spring.

Legend has it that the seedling was planted in the school courtyard on North Avenue. No one today knows authoritatively if that was done, or exactly where. If it ever existed, it was bulldozed away during construction of the new building more than a decade ago.

Connecticut state quarterThe committee also discussed the best location for another seedling, downtown. Members — including representatives of the RTM, Westport Garden Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Daughters of the American Revolution — agreed that Jesup Green was the best area. It could be “the first step in setting a centrally located civic center.”

Discussion then turned to the erection of a plaque, commemorating the gift to the town by Lodge.

“It was agreed that watering and care after the planting should be delegated to a Town employee who would be responsible for its care,” meeting notes read.

Arbor Day in April was suggested as a good time for the planting, and that school children should be involved.

The committee then went outdoors to study possible locations. They agreed to store the 2 seedling oaks in the “cold barn cellar” of Parsell’s Nursery. Garden center owner and civic volunteer Alan U. Parsell was a committee member.

And that’s the last bit of information I dug up about Westport’s charter oak.

Joshua Bell Plays Westport

It’s one of the little things that make Westport special.

Frederic Chiu has known Joshua Bell since they were kids in Indiana. So when Chiu — an internationally renowned pianist — asked the universally acclaimed violinist to help celebrate the 5th anniversary of Beechwood Arts & Innovation, Chiu’s innovative, immersive arts-and-culinary salon, Bell’s answer was “of course!”

Which is how last night, Saugatuck Congregational Church hosted an intimate concert of world-class music.

Joshua Bell, on the Saugatuck Church stage.

Joshua Bell, on the Saugatuck Church stage.

Chiu and  his wife Jeanine Esposito hold most Beechwood events in their handsome 1806 Weston Road home (highlighted by a spectacular 300-year-old copper beach beech tree). But the Bell venue needed a somewhat bigger venue, and Saugatuck Church was happy to help.

Chiu and Bell (on his 1713 Stradivarius) performed Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” sonata and the rousing “Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs)” by Sarasate. They were joined by soprano Larisa Martinez for numbers by Gounod and Puccini. The appreciative audience roared its approval after every piece.

Before they played, WQXR’s Elliott Forrest led a conversation with Bell and Chiu. They talked about their long friendship, the rigors of touring — and the importance of arts education for all.

Bell pointed to the balcony, where a number of young musicians sat. Their seats were sponsored by area residents, whom the violinist praised for their generosity.

Westporters sometimes wonder whether we’ve lost a bit of our arts heritage.

Chiu’s appearance last night with his friend — and their stunning performance — proved we’re still at the top of our game.

Feral Cats Return To Compo

Nearly 2 years ago, a pack of feral cats caused havoc near Compo Beach. Finally, police and PAWS came to the rescue.

Now the cats are back.

A few weeks ago, a resident found a cat in his garage. They thought the cute animal was exploring.

But it never left — because it was nursing 4 kittens in the back of the garage.

A feral cat mother in the back of a Compo Beach neighborhood garage.

A feral cat mother in the back of a Compo Beach neighborhood garage.

The resident’s wife — who had volunteered for an animal welfare shelter in New York — knew she needed to get them help. She also had to act quickly: The beach home had been rented, and tenants were arriving in 3 days.

Dorrie Harris — co-founder of TAILS — arrived with another rescuer to safely remove the cats, which will be socialized and placed for adoption.

Dorrie told the homeowners that the cats were feral. Turns out, they came from the same Norwalk Avenue home as before.

Another neighbor’s cat was then attacked by a feral cat, and nearly lost an eye. Her owner is out $2,000 in veterinary fees.

The feral cat woman leaves food for the cats — and other neighborhood animals — with her porch door open.

A neighbor says she is breeding “bazillions” of kittens. They overrun porches and cars, and leave messes everywhere.

The feral owner has had issues with hoarding — and been helped by the town. Neighbors — who are sympathetic to her blight plight, but also fed up — find the cat problem tougher to solve.

Again.

[UPDATE] Red-Tailed Hawk Rescue

Alert — and humane — “06880” reader Colleen Zapfel writes:

While driving on Sasco Creek Road today, we saw a man named Rob stopped next to an injured osprey. [NOTE: Readers — including Audubon experts — have identified this as a red-tailed hawk.]

It was sitting in the middle of the road, not moving, as cars drove by. We got out to help.

Osprey

We called animal control, went back and put him in a box for safety.

Gina from Westport animal control picked him up. She took him to Dr. Plunkett  in Fairfield.

So if the osprey red-tailed hawk you love to watch is gone for a few days from its normal nest — now you know why. 

Westport Arts Center Offers A Bully Pulpit

Whether you’ve got a school-age kid or not, these days it’s tough to avoid hearing about bullying. Its causes, its effects, how to change it (or whether we’re overreacting) — bullying everywhere, from our schools and the media to the presidential campaign.

Soon, even the Westport Arts Center will tackle the topic.

WAC - More than WordsAn exhibition called “MORE Than Words” opens September 9. Utilizing artists, speakers, panels and films, it examines bullying within a broad cultural context. The exhibit focuses on courage, resilience and empowerment in the face of bullying, and considers how imbalances of social, physical and political power can marginalize others.

The WAC show includes artistic expressions of gender, racial, religious, geopolitical and age inequality, and includes cyber-bullying. The goal is to inspire dialogue and change.

Recognizing that the best responses to bullying are community-wide, the WAC has enlisted the help of important local organizations. They include the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Library, SKATE/K2BK, Neighborhood Studios of Bridgeport, Anti-Defamation League and Norwalk’s LGBT Triangle Community Center.

Also involved: Athlete Ally and the National Charity League.

WAC exhibition - Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer’s piece in the “MORE Than Words” exhibition.

The exhibit was conceived by board member — and father of 2 young girls — Derek Goodman.

“We’ve all dealt with bullies,” he says. “At the same time, a number of well-known, influential artists have used their work to address it. We hope we’ve put together a platform to open dialogue, so that people in Westport feel comfortable discussing it.”

As the WAC partners with a variety of local organizations, he says, the town has an opportunity to take a leadership role in the battle against bullying.

“We’re not the experts,” he notes of the Westport Arts Center. “But we’re honored to put together a show for experts to help lead the conversation.”

(An opening reception is set for September 9, from 6-8 p.m. The exhibit runs through October 29. For more information on “MORE Than Words,” click here.)

Farmers’ Photos Fan Favorites

Two of our town’s most creative institutions — the Westport Farmers’ Market and Westport Arts Center — have teamed up to showcase the creativity of one of our town’s most important assets: our kids.

The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition highlights images taken all summer long at the Farmers’ Market.

The remarkable shots — from every angle imaginable — pulse with life. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, people — they’re all there, showing off the vitality of the Thursday market in colorful, imaginative ways.

If you like what you see (and you will) you can vote for your favorite. There are 3 age groups: 8-11, 12-14, 15-18. But hurry: voting closes at midnight tomorrow, Tuesday, August 24.

Winners will have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor), and will receive a membership to the Arts Center. Really though, virtually every image is a winner.

Click here for the photos, and to vote. Warning: Don’t do it on an empty stomach.

One of the many entries in the Westport Farmers' Market photo contest.

One of the many entries in the Westport Farmers’ Market photo contest.