Category Archives: Organizations

Unsung Heroes #66

Hundreds of Westporters enjoyed lobsters (and more) at last weekend’s annual Lobsterfest.

Hundreds more pack downtown every June for the Great Duck Race.

A few take advantage of a specialized wheelchair, to enjoy the sand and shore at Compo Beach.

All are events sponsored — and projects supported — by Westport’s 2 Rotary clubs.

One meets Tuesdays at noon, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall.

The Sunrise Rotary meets Fridays at 7:30 a.m., at the Westport Inn.

Both clubs are filled with busy Westporters, who nonetheless give astonishing amounts of time and energy to raise tons of money. Then they give it all away, to help people in town, across Connecticut, elsewhere in the US and around the world.

I am a huge fan of both the Sunrise and noontime Rotary Clubs. But I admit: I have a hard time keeping them apart.

No matter. Rotarians in both groups put aside their friendly (I think) rivalry, to support each other’s good works — and Rotary International in general.

You may have no idea that so much good comes out of so much hard work, by so many neighbors.

That’s why Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Trevor Noah Headlines “Show Of Unity” Event

An evening with Trevor Noah sounds special.

But the Anti-Defamation League Connecticut offers a lot more than just watching “The Daily Show.”

On November 11, the comedian/political commentator headlines ADL’s 2nd annual “Voices: A Show of Unity” event. Noah will talk intimately with the audience about his life and the world — tying it all in with ADL’s ongoing fight against bigotry, extremism and hate crimes, and for civil rights, interfaith and inter-group understanding.

Trevor Noah (Photo/Gavin Bond)

Noah knows. Born in South Africa to a black mother who converted to Judaism and a white father, his youth under apartheid was difficult. His parents could not be seen in public together.

Since replacing Jon Stewart as “Daily Show” host 3 years ago, Noah has been a leading voice for unity. Last year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

“He’s funny. But he won’t be doing stand-up,” says Steve Ginsburg, a Westporter and ADL’s statewide director. “This will be a chance to hear his take on the world.”

The “Voices” event is both a fundraiser and a community-builder. The ADL gives free tickets to many local organizations, including Project Return, Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Studio, the Triangle Community Center, and churches, mosques and synagogues.

Westporters will have a strong presence at Noah’s show. Sarah Green — co-founder of Kool To Be Kind — serves as artistic director. Claudia Cohen is event chair; Jill Nadel is vice chair.

Westporters will also sing in the choir, joining musicians from Bridgeport and other towns.

“There will be diverse voices on stage — and in the audience,” Ginsburg notes.

“We’ve seen a large spike in incidents of bigotry and bias,” he adds. “The ADL has worked hard to respond. And we’re doing education programs to try to prevent them.”

They’ve been active at Staples High School and with local police. This summer, Police Chief Foti Koskinas attended ADL training for law enforcement in Washington, DC.

The ADL event also features a civil rights award, in memory of Irwin Hausman. It goes to Lorella Praeli, who as a Dreamer child was taunted for her Hispanic heritage, and the loss of a leg.

The ADL provided support. She’s now head of immigration efforts for the American Civil Liberties Union, and works closely with the ADL on anti-bullying efforts.

“Voices: A Show of Unity” is set for November 11 — Veterans Day. Tickets are provided to vets’ groups, and service members will be honored at the event.

(“Voices: A Show of Unity” is November 11, 5 p.m. at the Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport. Tickets go on sale September 27. For more information, click here or call 203-530-7456. )

 

Pic Of The Day #516

Westport musician Warren Bloom enjoys Westonstock. The festival — held at the Weston Historical Society’s Coley barn — brought hundreds of folks back to the ’60s. It started at 2 p.m. today, and ended just a few minutes ago. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Food Rescue: Simple Solution To A Tough Problem

The problem is staggering: Up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten. At the same time, 1 in 8 Americans struggles to put food on the table.

The solution is staggeringly simple: Food Rescue US uses volunteer drivers to move fresh, usable food that would have been thrown away by restaurants, grocers and other food industry sources, to shelters, kitchens and pantries in Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford.

An app enables restaurants and retailers with extra food to request a pick up. Volunteers in the area are immediately pinged.

Food Rescue US is a national organization with a strong Westport presence. Over the past few years, more than 350 Westporters have helped.

Christy Colasurdo is one. At Trader Joe’s she loads fresh salads, breads,  sandwiches, milk, eggs, vegetables and fruits, then delivers it all to the Person to Person pantry in Norwalk.

On her first run, she filled her entire SUV. She was hooked.

Q104.3 disc jockey (and Westport resident, and super volunteer) Ian O’Malley (right) on a recent food run to the Gillespie Center.

The local Food Rescue group is run by dynamic Westporter Nicole Straight. She has 2 missions: match excess food with those who need it, and let everyone know how easy it is to help.

So on Monday, September 17 (6 p.m.), Wakeman Town Farm hosts a discussion about food waste in general, and Food Rescue specifically.

Panelists include Straight, chef Jes Bengtson of Terrain, and chef Jeff Taibe of Taproot restaurant. Sustainable food advocate Annaliese Paik will moderate.

The event includes local food donors from farms, restaurants and grocery stores. Light refreshments will be served.

Tickets are $25; $15 for Food Rescue volunteers. (Click here to purchase.) Proceeds benefit Food Rescue US.

Here’s an unexpected dessert: Each ticket is good for free entry to the October 21 screening of Anthony Bourdain’s documentary “Wasted!” (October 21, Town Hall, 6 p.m.).

That should be enough to convince you to volunteer for Food Rescue US — or at least go to the WTF panel.

If not, consider this recent note, received by local Food Rescue organizers:

I just want to say thanks, and tell you what the food donations mean to me. I get $192 a month in food stamps. It’s hard to stretch that amount over an entire month.

Getting food from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s means a whole lot. This past Saturday we got a lot of good stuff (a lot of it vegan). One of my faves was the spicy falafel.

I look forward to the Saturday deliveries because there’s going to be something different each time. There’s always something I can use. Thank you!

(CT Bites is also a huge supporter of Food Rescue US. On September 29, they’re sponsoring a special “Kitchen Crawl,” featuring 4 local chefs in 4 designer homes, with cooking demos, great food, wine and beer. All proceeds benefit Food Rescue. Click here for details and tickets.)

Person to Person in Norwalk appreciates Trader Joe’s — and Food Rescue US’ — generous efforts.

Bang The Drum, Randy

Work brought Randy Brody to Westport from Brooklyn 40 years ago. The job did not work out, but he stayed.

He did animation and special effects for films. He also wrote, and traveled the world. In his free time, he played drums. More than 25 years ago, he began leading drumming circles in South Norwalk.

Randy Brody

His circles grew to 25 people. No matter what kind of day he or anyone else had, at the end of a drum circle everyone felt good.

When Randy realized that technical writing was not for him, he turned his attention more seriously to drumming. He took classes in music therapy, studied improvisation and music teaching, and improved as a hand drummer.

As he delved into African, Middle Eastern and Brazilian percussion, he thought to himself: “This is why I’m on this planet.”

In 2001 — around the time he turned 50 — Randy left the corporate world.

His first drum circle gig was at The Marvin, a senior residence in Norwalk. He set up in the living room. Within a few minutes, everyone was having a great time. “Even people having trouble walking were drumming and dancing,” Randy recalls.

The director asked when Randy was coming back — and what he charged. He had never thought about either question.

Randy walked into senior centers like Westport’s, and assisted living facilities like the Greens at Cannondale. He had no appointments, but was welcomed in.

No one else was doing anything like it. Within a year or two, he was known as The Drum Guy. He was in demand from New Jersey to Massachusetts.

Randy Brody with adults…

Next, Randy organized drum circles for young adults with special needs.

“I experienced the healing power of drumming. It was therapeutic for them — and me,” he says. “I’d never had that sense of fulfillment in any job. Now I never have a bad day at work.”

Group drumming creates high energy and builds community, Randy says. It reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

It helps people with chronic diseases. One person told him, “For an hour, I forget I’m fighting cancer.”

He’s heard a nurse say of an Alzheimer’s patient, “He can’t do anything.” Five minutes later, the same person is drumming — and smiling.

Randy also does one-on-one sessions with autistic children. Sometimes the entire family joins in.

… and a younger drummer.

These days, his main work is with Abilis. Several times a months, he leads drum circles for the Greenwich-based special needs non-profit.

“It’s so rewarding, sitting in a circle playing hand drums,” he notes. “There’s such a connection between the group, the therapists, social workers and me. They’ve become my family.”

Some autistic youngsters can’t speak, or express themselves. But, Randy says, they relate to drums. And when they see him coming, they smile.

Every drum circle is different. But each time, Randy leaves with a full heart.

In the last few years, Randy has had his own medical issues. But he brings his drums to the hospital. Even after surgery, he plays.

It helps with pain management. The doctors think it’s helpful for recovery.

And, Randy smiles, “All the nurses start dancing.”

(Randy Brody will put together a drum circle for anyone — including corporations. Click here for more information. Hat tip: Sarah Gross.)

 

Name That Lot!

You may have heard the name Sigrid Schultz.

A pioneering female war correspondent, broadcaster and author who risked her life to expose Nazi secrets to the world, she hid her Jewish heritage from the likes of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels, whom she loathed but entertained in her Berlin home for the sole purpose of extracting information.

Sigrid Schultz

After Schultz and her mother fled Germany, they bought a house and barn at 35 Elm Street. When Sigrid died in 1980, the town demolished her home to expand the Baldwin parking lot.

This famous woman has remained largely unknown in her adopted hometown. But that may change soon, if a Downtown Plan Implementation Committee recommendation to name the new Elm Street parking lot — the one next to Bedford Square, created by the demolition of Villa del Sol directly opposite the Baldwin lot — is approved by the Board of Selectmen, acting as the town’s Traffic Authority.

Then again, it may not be named the Sigrid Schultz Parking Lot.

DPIC member Dewey Loselle suggested celebrating former Public Works head Steve Edwards. The longtime but low-key director nixed that idea.

Another suggestion was to honor the residents of 22 1/2 Main Street — the African American boardinghouse that went up in flames (probably arson) nearly 70 years ago. The location was adjacent to the new parking lot.

It might be tough coming up with an appropriate name — “22 1/2 Main Street lot” would be too confusing for the Elm Street address.

But that hasn’t hasn’t stopped one Westporter from taking a second look.

Chip Stephens grew up here. As a Planning & Zoning Commission member, he attends DPIC meetings. He wants to make sure the name of the new lot reflects town sentiment — not simply the will of one committee.

Pete Wassell

Perhaps, he says, the lot should be named after the Wassell brothers. Harry, Bud and Pete were all killed within 15 months of each other, during World War II.

Or, Stephens says, maybe there are other Westporters we should consider.

So let’s have a townwide discussion, right here on “06880.” Click “Comments” to offer suggestions, and debate the ideas.

Sure, it’s only a parking lot. But, as Stephens notes, “it will be there forever.”

FUN FACTS: So who is this Baldwin that the other Elm Street lot is named for? Herb Baldwin — a former first selectman. 

And on the other side of Main Street, Parker Harding Plaza is named for co-sponsors Emerson Parker and Evan Harding. Fortunately — considering the state of that parking lot — everyone has forgotten those two.

36 Elm Street was demolished in January, to make room for a new parking lot next to Bedford Square. (Photo/Jen Berniker)

 

Bikers Honor 9/11

Around noon today, more than 2,000 motorcyclists roared through Westport.

Police blocked all side roads, and waved the bikers through traffic lights. They sped up Saugatuck and Riverside Avenues, then along Wilton Road, on their noisy way from Norwalk to Bridgeport.

Some Westporters fumed at the delays.

Many others cheered.

The bikers were part of the CT United Ride. Held annually since 9/11, the event honors all the lives lost on that tragic day, 17 years ago.

It’s Connecticut’s largest 9/11 commemoration. And it’s a fundraiser, supporting state firefighters, law enforcement and United Way.

“06880” reader Susan Birk was caught in the traffic.

She did not mind one bit.

She says, “It was very moving. It was my pleasure to wait for them, watch, pray and remember.”

She took this photo from her rear view mirror. She particularly likes the family with the flag, near the train tracks. They too honor the many victims of 9/11.

(Photo/Susan Birk)

Soggy Slice

Weather services said there was a 0% chance of rain yesterday.

Yet rain began at 2 p.m. — right at the start of Slice of Saugatuck. It fell steadily throughout the 7th annual event.

The wet weather dampened the crowd (and lowered their number). But everyone who showed up had a great time.

Good food (and plenty of it), excellent entertainment, and bouncy houses can’t stop this Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce show!

Dancing to a steel band at the Whelk/Saugatuck Sweets plaza.

Taekwando demonstration on Railroad Place.

A bit wet, but plenty of food from Roly Poly, Cuatro Hermanos, Dunville’s and more.

Mystery Object #9

No one likes a trip to the dentist.

But if you lived in the 1700s, you would have liked it a lot less.

The Westport Historical Society‘s most recent Mystery Object was a tooth key.

Also known as a dental key, it was used to extract diseased teeth. (Stop reading now if you’re squeamish.)

Modeled after a door key, the tooth key was inserted horizontally into the mouth. Its claw tightened over a tooth. The dentist then rotated it, loosening the tooth.

The original design featured a straight shaft, which caused it to exert pressure on the tooth next to the one being extracted. A newer (1765) version featured a slightly bent shaft.

The photo above shows the earlier design. It was donated to the WHS by Mrs. William L. Coley.

The tooth key was part of the ongoing “Westport in 100 Objects” exhibit. Every 2 weeks there’s a new mystery object. If you stop in and identify it, you can win something from the gift shop.

There was no winner this time.

Which  may be good. It means no one in Westport has had actual experience with a tooth key.

Slice Is Nice This Saturday

Seven years ago, the 1st “Slice of Saugatuck” street festival drew 27 participants, and a few hundred people.

For this Saturday’s event (September 8, 2 to 5 p.m.), 56 establishments have signed on. A crowd of more than 2,000 is expected to stroll the streets, nibble food, listen to live music at 7 venues, and enjoy kid and family activities like an obstacle course, bouncy houses and Maker Faire area.

The list of attractions includes over 30 restaurants. They’ll put tables outside, open their doors, then let the fun begin.

From Bridge Square to Railroad Place — and everywhere else — Slice of Saugatuck is packed. (Photo/Terry Cosgrave)

Slice of Saugatuck also boasts 2 beer gardens with wine, plus specialty drinks at many venues. After the festival, a Saugatuck Happy Hour keeps the celebration going at most restaurants and bars.

Musicians include the Mill River Band, Silver Steel, the 5 O’Clocks and School of Rock. there are dance and taekwando demonstrations too.

More than 20 stores and businesses participate as well. Newcomers this year include Mystic Market, Coldwell Banker and Effi’s Salon.

The “Slice” name comes from the street fair’s shape. Ranging from Riverside Avenue on one side and Saugatuck Avenue on the other, narrowing to Railroad Place, it resembles a pizza slice.

Of course, for many years Saugatuck was a heavily Italian neighborhood. There are still plenty of premier pasta-and-pizza places there — along with restaurants specializing in seafood, steaks, Mexican and Thai cuisine and more.

But you know that already. Saugatuck is a favorite destination for Westporters, and everyone else in Fairfield County.

It’s a little slice of heaven, right here in town.

(Tickets for the Slice of Saugatuck — $15 per adult; 2 for $25; children under 13, $5 — go on sale on-site at 1:45 p.m. the day of the event; cash only. Proceeds help fund the Gillespie Center’s food pantry. The Slice is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. For more information, including a map and list of participants, click here.)