Category Archives: Organizations

Roundup: Postal Service, Parks & Rec Programs, More


A reader warns:

“Don’t put checks or anything important — such as your absentee ballot — in your mailbox.

“Although many people pay bills online or by phone, checks are still being mailed as gifts. Bring them directly to the post office.

“A card containing a check, which I put in my mailbox around noon, was stolen out of the mailbox before the mailman arrived. By the end of that day the thief removed the ink from the check, changing the payee’s name and the amount of the check to thousands of dollars more than the original.

“Fortunately my bank contacted me, the funds were restored, and the checking account frozen. I was told that this crime is occurring often in other towns as well.

“Since the current election is so heated, it probably isn’t safe to put the absentee ballot in our home mailboxes.”

Safer than your own mailbox.


Westport’s Parks and Recreation Department has extended its fall programs — and added more sessions through the end of November. The goal is to keep folks active, and outside, as long as possible.

Programs include Keep Kickin’ Soccer, IST Multi-Sports, adult tennis clinics (see below), Wakeman Town Farm, ice skating, and others that are virtual.

Click here for program information. Click here to register.


Speaking of Parks & Rec: Last weekend they sponsored a tennis tournament for 16 women in their Advanced Beginner class. All had great fun — and look forward to continuing. They’ll form small groups, and play outdoors as long as they can.

Interested in joining? Call Dave Kardas (203-520-9815), Alex Walsh (203-644-8779) or Gabriella Gatto (203-803-8472).

Participants at the Town Farm courts.


And finally … the latest rock star to die is Spencer Davis. He was 81.

He was not the lead singer for the group — that was 16-year-old Stevie Winwood — but Davis played rhythm guitar and helped form the band. It was named after him because he did not mind doing interviews — allowing the other musicians to sleep more.

The Spencer Davis Group had several big hits. This one epitomizes them — and their role in rock ‘n’ roll.

Roundup: Munchkins, Drugs, Halloween, More


Hey, Westport kids (age 5 to 13 ). If you’ve wanted to be in an amazing Staples Players production, here’s your chance!

Players’ radio theatre kicks off with “The Wizard of Oz” this Sunday (October 25, 6 p.m.) — and they want to hear your best munchkin voice.

Send a recording of you saying “follow the yellow brick road!” (munchkin-style). Players’ senior officers will pick 5 winners. Those recordings will be played on air during the live “Wizard of Oz” broadcast. (Click here for details.)

Winners also receive a $10 gift card to Saugatuck Sweets.

Click here, then click the blue “Submit Recording for Munchkin” button to upload your file. Include your name and phone number in the recording. The deadline is 6 p.m. Friday (October 23).

Need inspiration? Click below.


This Saturday (October 24) is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

You can celebrate with the Westport Police Department. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they’ll be at the Senior Center collecting unused and/or outdated pills and patches. Vape pens are okay if the batteries can be removed.

If the vape pen battery cannot be removed, try an electronics chain store. Also not accepted on Saturday: liquids, needles and sharps.

The service is free and anonymous — no questions asked. For more information, click here.

PS: A year-round collection bin is located in the lobby of Westport Police headquarters. Prescription drugs can be properly disposed of there at any time.


The good news is: This Saturday  (October 24) over 100 Westport kids will take part in the 10th annual Window Painting Contest. They’ll vie for prizes in 3 categories: Scariest Artwork, Best Halloween Theme, and Most Original.

The more good news; 48 businesses all around town — shops, restaurants, services, delis, fitness centers and more — have offered up their windows.

The bad news: That’s not enough. The sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce needs at least 20 more, to fill the demand.

They plead: Please donate your business window! You’ll do the town a service. In fact, it will be the perfect Halloween “treat.” Click here to register your window.


This Saturday (October 24), the United Nations turns 75 years old.

For over 50 of those years, Westport has celebrated that birthday with colorful flags. They fly every UN Day on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. That’s fitting: its namesake founded by the local United Nations Association, and Westport’s’ UN International Hospitality Committee.

On Saturday (11 a.m., Town Hall front steps), a public ceremony marks United Nations Day. First Selectman Jim Marpe, Hospitality Committee vice chair Bill Hass, and Staples High School Model UN president Lucas Slater and vice president Aidan Rogers will speak.

Special guest speaker Aye Aye Thant will discuss the importance of the UN. She should know: The Westport resident’s father is former UN Secretary General U Thant.

After the event, a bipartisan expression of support for the UN takes place at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. Marpe and local legislators will gather near the flags of UN member countries — which have flown there proudly, for decades.

(Photo/Jeff Simon)

Mike Burns spotted this sign on Compo Road South, near Longshore.

Finally, a candidate we can all agree on!


The Westport Public Schools’ guiding principles include social and emotional awareness, sincere kindness, principled thoughts and actions, and constant learning.

Several students have been selected, for embodying those principles. They are Caroline Caggiano, James Dobin Smith, Rachel Greenberg, Colin Konstanty, Natalia Maidique and Kyla Race.

Congratulations to all!

Three honorees (from left): James Dobin-Smith, Colin Konstanty, Caroline Caggiano.


How foggy was it last night? Very, as Andrew Colabella’s shot of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge shows:

And finally … in honor of Staples Players’ “Wizard of Oz” radio broadcast (see story above):

 

 

Unsung Hero #162

Randy Herbertson is president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He writes:

Jacqui Bidgood has been an on-and-off resident of Westport for over 15 years, and WDMA events director for 4. Under her very capable management we have hosted many well-attended events, from the Fine Arts Festival to Westoberfest and Fashionably Westport. All have contributed to the relevance of our  downtown district.

Additionally Jacqui has spearheaded the selection and management of our beautiful summer baskets, working with local growers, as well as our 2020 barrel program. Both further enhanced the public and private beautification of the area.

Jacqui Bidgood, with Fine Arts Festival volunteers.

When the pandemic struck and our big events could no longer happen, Jacqui rose to the challenge to show our community the DMA could mount safe events that would continue to attract local residents (and our many new transplants) to our stores and restaurants, in a much-needed time.

In barely 6 weeks, Jacqui will have made three diverse events happen: Fitness & Wellness Day, Fall Fashion Day (replacing the traditional sidewalk sale), and Family Pumpkinfest (replacing the Halloween parade).

All this took many hours of planning, close collaboration with town officials, and tireless effort to secure sponsors that enable these events to run well — and for free.

Her great attention to detail, tenacity and creative problem solving have turned all these ideas into welcome reality.

Randy is right. These events did not just happen. They happened in large part thanks to this week’s Unsung Hero, Jacqui Bidgood.

Roundup: High School Mock Election, Playhouse Video, More


Bipartisan politicians gathered in front of Staples High School yesterday. The mission: introducing a statewide initiative to educate Connecticut students about the voting process.

All week long, the state Department of Education is partnering with the lieutenant governor to hold a virtual mock election.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz headed the dignitaries. She noted that 20% of all 20-year-olds vote in elections — but 80% of 80-year-olds do.

First Selectman Jim Marpe noted that Westport has already received 9,500 requests for mail-in ballots for the presidential election. So far, 4,700 have been returned, via mail or the Town Hall drop box.

State Senator Tony Hwang said that his parents — who escaped from communist China — knew that the ability to vote was “foundational” to a democracy.

Will Haskell graduated from Staples in 2014. Four years later, he was elected to the State Senate. He said that young people are underrepresented in Hartford and Washington, but that “all voices are valued.”

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg — another Staples grad — added that “young people want to be engaged, in positive ways.”

From left: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas, State Senator Tony Hwang, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, members of Staples’ Social Studies Honor Society, and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg. Also in attendance: State Senator Will Haskell, and Westport 6-12 social studies coordinator Lauren Francese. 


Saturday’s Remarkable Theater screening celebrating 90 years of the Westport Country Playhouse was a smash.

Response was so great — both at the Imperial Avenue drive-in and online — that it will remain available on demand through tonight (11:59 p.m.). Tickets are $25. (Ticket-holders from Saturday: Your unique link is also live through tonight.)

The Playhouse is just $20,000 of their goal for the event. Funds help make up for the loss of the gala this year. Click here for an on-demand ticket, and to make additional gifts.


The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is hosting a series of online discussions called “CCM CARES – Getting Comfortable With The Uncomfortable.”

CARES stands for “Communities Advancing Racial Equity Series,” On the panel today (Tuesday, October 19, 6:30 p.m.): Westport 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

To register, click here. You can watch without registering on Facebook Live(Hat tip: Peter Gold)

First Selectman Jim Marpe


And finally … on this date in 1973, Richard Nixon fired Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, after they refused to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. After what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, Cox was finally fired by Robert Bork, the #3 man at the Justice Department.

 

Roundup: Remarkable Playhouse, Pop Art, WVEMS, More


Stage and screen met Saturday night. The Westport Country Playhouse’s gala was held outdoors, at the Remarkable Theater.

Doug Tirola and Mark Lamos’ short-form documentary saluted the WCP’s 90-year history, and many of the artists who have appeared onstage.

The evening included filmed performances by Playhouse alumni like Kate Baldwin, a long with Jane Alexander, Lissy Newman, Christopher Plummer, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Thomas and more.

Don’t worry about the photo below: Everyone was masked, except while eating.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


Speaking of stars:

Paul Newman, I Love Lucy, Martha Stewart, Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Ludlum, Redford, Superman, Dennis the Menace, Great Gatsby, Bewitched, Anne Hathaway, Christopher Lloyd, Helen Hunt and gazillions of others — all lived in Westport, had a show based here, or were otherwise connected to our town.

This multi-media original showing them all is now available exclusively at Westport River Gallery (corner of Riverside Avenue and Post Road West).

It was created by songwriter Frankie Vinci. His rock journey has led him to create raw, colorful pop art/mixed media pieces.


Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service’s annual fundraising drive is underway.

Nearly 100 volunteers and 6 full-time staff provide superb pre-hospital care to anyone living, working or passing through Westport. They give more than 18,000 hours of their time each year, responding to over 2,300 emergency calls. They also teach CPR, EMT and Stop the Bleed classes.

This year has been especially trying. Because of COVID, over 900 calls meant  donning full PPE. Still, they answered the calls.

WVEMS purchases all of the equipment needed — from a box of Band-Aids to an entire, state-of-the-art ambulance. But they could not do it without us.

Tax-deductible donations make it all possible. Click here to help.

So Westport Volunteer EMS can continue to help us.


And finally … did you know that October is National Pasta Month?

 

Photo Challenge #303

Who knew where last week’s photo of a carved owl was? (Click here to see.)

Susan Iseman, Jennifer Piseck and Elaine Marino, that’s “who.”

It’s at Earthplace. It’s just one small part of a magnificent, sometimes overlooked Westport facility. If you haven’t been to the science, conservation and education center off off Stony Brook Road, click here — then check it out in person.

This week’s Photo Challenge shows a different bit of nature. If you know where in Westport you’d see this watery scene, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Roundup: CVS, Mistletoes & Margaritas, More


Bob Weingarten is frustrated. He writes:

Yesterday around 9:40 a.m., I called CVS pharmacy. It took them more than 53  minutes to answer.

At about the 45-minute mark I called their customer service (800-746-7287) to complain. They answered within 30 seconds. After I explained the issue, they tried to call the Westport CVS — but could not get through.

They send a note to the store manager, and told me he would answer me within 2 to 4 hours.

Not sure if other readers have had this problem, but I believe they have. When standing in line to pick up a prescription, I always hear calls are “waiting to be answered.”


Friday’s rain was heavy. For most Westporters, it was a minor inconvenience.

For residents of Saugatuck Shores though, it was the usual story: flooding.

Here’s a shot of Canal Road, at midday:

(Photo/Gene Borio)


Adam’s House is based in Shelton. But the organization — which helps youngsters grieving the loss of a loved one — has a strong local presence.

It was started by Allison Wysota. Her husband Adam died suddenly in 2012, when their 3 boys were in Weston schools.

Adam’s House is launching a “Mistletoes & Margaritas” online shopping fundraiser. It will be live November 30.

Area businesses are invited to join the e-commerce site. Bill Taibe is participating as a sponsor/vendor. He will sell gift certificates, and may do a bartending event with Don Memo.

Clem Butt, who sells wines all over Westport, will do a virtual wine-tasting. Jim VElgot will sell his artwork. Adam’s House volunteers hope many more Westport shops, restaurants, artists and others will offer their goods and services too.

Click here for the “Mistletoes and Margaritas” website.


And finally … Esperanza Spalding turns 36 today.

 

Roundup: Lynsey Addario, Bistro Du Soleil, More


Congratulations, Lynsey Addario!

The 1991 Staples High School graduate (and MacArthur “genius grant” award winner) has been named to the International Photography Hall of Fame. She’ll be inducted October 30.

The photojournalist has covered conflict and humanitarian crises around the Middle East and Africa for the New York Times, National Geographic and Time magazine for nearly 2 decades. Her work is powerful, thought-provoking, and very, very human.

The aftermath of a miscarriage in a Somali hospital. (Photo/Lynsey Addario, courtesy of NPR)

Lynsey joins such legendary figures as Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon and Mathew Brady. Click here to read more about the “pioneers of photography.” Click here for Lynsey’s website.

Lynsey Addario


Yesterday, “06880” highlighted outdoor dining in Westport. Jana Malakoff writes about her favorite restaurant — which has not added al fresco tables:

“Bistro du Soleil is open for take out only from Wednesday through Saturday.  They offer a wonderful 4 course dinner for only $32. Bistro is off the beaten track, south of Saugautuck center and north of the restaurants near the railroad station.

“I am a senior citizen and have not felt comfortable dining in or out, nor do I want a fine dining experience marred by faceless servers. I have enjoyed my weekly dinners from Bistro du Soleil since they opened for takeout earlier this year.

“I hope ‘06880’ readers know that Bistro Du Soleil is in business, and certainly worth ordering dinner from.”

Bistro du Soleil


Interested in statehouse candidates’ environmental stands?

Earthplace and Sustainable Westport are sponsoring virtual debates for local Senate and House of Representatives candidates.

This Tursday’s event (October 22, 6 p.m.) features State Senate hopeful Kim Healy and incumbent Will Haskell. Click here to register.

The next day (Friday, October 23, 6 p.m.) House of Representatives incumbent Jonathan Steinberg debates Chip Stephens. Click here to register.


POP’T Art’s new show, “96% STARDUST,” features Brendan Murphy. With a focus on “transmitting positive energy” through his work, he’s making his area debut — at a time when joy, inspiration and hope are needed more than ever.

The show opens to the public next Saturday (October 24), at the 1 Main Street gallery. Email haviland@havilandreed.com for timed reservations, and for private preview showings beginning October 21.

Brendan Murphy’s work.


And finally … in honor of the new “Stardust” art show at POP’T Art:

Westport Woman’s Club Wants To Give You $$$

Like all local non-profits, Westport Woman’s Club’s fundraising efforts have been battered by COVID.

But that just inspires the 113-year-old organization to help all those other groups even more.

Last spring — as it does every year — the WWC Community Services Committee was finalizing its 2020 grants. When the coronavirus struck they pivoted, awarding funds to 5 community health challenges.

“Everyone has a favorite Fairfield County non-profit,” the WWC says. “And every non-profit needs a helping hand.” So — as the Woman’s Club accepts grant proposals for 2020-21 — they encourage “06880” readers to share awareness of the opportunity. The application deadline is October 30.

The WWC offers both monetary grants, and a one-time use of the Bedford Hall meeting space for an event. Grants are considered each year for organizations working in education, health and safety programs, and the arts.

Click here for an application. Questions? Email gsmithson@optonline.net.

The Westport Woman’s Club opens its doors to grant applications — including the use of its clubhouse.

Roundup: Amy Oestreicher, Joey’s By The Shore, Jamie Lebish, More


Amy Oestreicher — daughter of Westport dermatologist Dr. Mark Oestreicher — has had a tough life.

At 18, a blood clot caused her stomach to explode. After a months-long coma, she endured 28 surgeries, and 7 years without food or drink. She also came to terms with a long-kept secret: sexual abuse by a trusted mentor.

She persevered, and developed a one-woman show about her challenges and triumphs. Then she wrote “My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey  from Gutless to Grateful.”

On Thursday, October 22 (7 p.m.), she’ll talk about her book at the Fairfield University Bookstore. The inspiring event — celebrating positive mental health strategies and the transformative power of creativity — will be broadcast on Facebook Live.

Amy Oestreicher


After a very successful summer, Joey’s by the Shore is pivoting to fall.

It’s a slower time for the beach deli, but they’ve made some menu tweaks and added a few features.

There’s are seasonal specials, like pumpkin spice latte, along with homemade peanut butter chocolate pie, Boar’s Head meats, fresh salads and rotating soups. Breakfast is offered all day long.

Monday through Thursday, they open an hour earlier — 7 a.m. — to catch the Old Mill sunrise. They close those days at 2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Joey’s has added more (socially distanced) outdoor seating.


Jamie Lebish has led quite a life. He left Staples High School before graduating with the Class of 1977. He’s battled drug addiction and been incarcerated.

He’s also used music to heal a relationship with his father Irwin, a noted jazz pianist.

After moving to Maine, Jamie founded El Rancho De La Vida (“The Ranch of Life”) — a fully licensed substance abuse agency and non-profit recovery home.

But COVID has hit El Rancho hard. Federal and state funding dried up. Potential residents are finding it tough to go there.

Jamie says, “As my fiancee and I look at the road we left behind, from what was once our hometown on Main Street to the home we have built here in Maine, in the spirit of recovery and living a life with dignity and purpose, it is our hope that our hometown will support us as we navigate through these turbulent times.”

Click here to learn more about El Rancho De La Vida.  Click here to contribute. (Hat tip: Stevi Lee)

El Rancho De La Vida


And finally … happy 43rd birthday (!) to Fairfield’s own John Mayer.