Category Archives: Organizations

Misty Mae Finds A Home

Last summer, “06880” ran a story on Misty Mae.

The old, blind, long-haired chihuahua was found in a beat-up dog carrier on a Winslow Park bench.

Westport Animal Control, Schulhof Animal Hospital, and Westport Animal Shelter Advocates came to the rescue. They sheltered, treated and loved the abandoned animal.

Kayla Damiano with Misty Mae. She set up a GoFundMe page that raised $1200 for the dog’s eye and dental work.

Then they searched for a loving home.

The other day, WASA president Julie Loparo reported success.

Volunteers drove to Enfield, near the Massachusetts border. They met the couple who will adopt Misty Mae.

They’re skilled and knowledgeable in the care of special needs dogs (they already have 3). Their home is warm and inviting.

Later this month, WASA funds surgery for Misty Mae. After recovering at Schulhof, she heads to her new home.

Julie says: “Unfortunately, Misty Mae was not the first dog abandoned in Westport. She won’t be the last. But we thank Westport for helping us in our efforts to help dogs like her.”

Unsung Heroes #75

It takes a village to raise a child.

It also takes a village to distribute extra donuts, far and wide.

I’ve written before about Food Rescue US. That’s the amazing, app-based organization that enlists volunteers — whenever it’s convenient — to deliver extra food from restaurants, grocers, bakeries and caterers to soup kitchens, food pantries and other hunger relief organizations.

In fact, last April director Nicole Straight was our Unsung Hero #42.

But man does not live by fruits and vegetables alone.

A while ago, alert “06880” reader Marjorie Almansi asked Max Kupperberg — a Staples High School graduate, and Donut Crazy employee — what that very popular train station breakfast-and-more place did with their leftovers.

He quickly put her in touch with owner Joan Tuckman. Just as quickly, they got Food Rescue involved. Now — every day — those donuts find happy donated homes.

Donated donuts — especially Donut Crazy’s amazing varieties — bring smiles to everyone’s faces.

Three times a week, Latisha Williams brings them to Jettie S. Tisdale Elementary School in Bridgeport. She teaches 7th grade social studies there, and says that teachers she never knew before are all friendly to her now.

The donuts go to Westport’s Gillespie Center a few times a week too.

Marjorie often brings them to the custodians at Staples High School. If there are extras, she’ll give them to anyone else she sees.

So — on the eve of Thanksgiving — today’s Unsung Heroes are once again the wonderful Food Rescue US volunteers, and all the participants like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

Plus director Nicole Straight, Donut Crazy, Latisha Williams and Marjori Almansi.

Those donuts are crazy!

New Playhouse Gallery Honors Westport Arts Heritage

Ann Sheffer is among Westport’s most avid arts advocates. Her support of all mediums — visual, performing, classical, new — is abiding and true.

So it’s very fitting that Ann’s latest project involves both an art gallery and the Westport Country Playhouse.

Actually, it’s a gallery at the Playhouse.

This Saturday (November 24, 5 to 8 p.m.), the barn next to the theater welcomes “Amazing Grace.” Noted Westport painter/illustrator Ann Chernow and famed graphic artist Miggs Burroughs offer dozens of mixed media images, photos and oils of real and invented people, from life’s shadows.

Ann Chernow and Miggs Burroughs

It’s the gallery’s inaugural exhibit.

It opens in what is already called the Sheffer Studio Space. The name honors Ann and her family.

As a child, Sheffer’s grandparents and parents took her to the Playhouse. She still recalls sitting in those red seats, for Friday afternoon children’s shows..

At 15, she became an usher. She continued serving the Playhouse long after graduating from Staples High School in 1966. Today, she’s an honorary trustee.

Sheffer has known and admired the 2 artists featured in this first show for decades.

Chernok’s work has been exhibited all over the world. Her Playhouse art focuses on actress portraits from American film noir of the 1930s and ’40s. Of course, many film stars also appeared on the Playhouse stage.

Burroughs — who graduated from Staples a year before Sheffer — has designed Time magazine covers, a United States stamp, Westport’s flag, and hundreds of logos for commercial and  non-profit clients. His lenticular photos line the Main Street and railroad station tunnels. His Playhouse exhibit includes 24 male criminals.

A sample of Ann Chernow’s work (left), and one by Miggs Burroughs (right).

Westport has long been known as an arts community. Next Saturday, we celebrate that heritage — in all its forms.

(The Gallery at the Westport Country Playhouse is a partnership between Friends of the Westport Public Art Collection and the Artists Collective of Westport. Saturday’s opening features music by Warren Bloom, drinks and light bites and more. The exhibit runs through December 22.)

Kids Dodge Cops

Over 100 Staples High School students spent 3 hours last night dodging the police.

It was hard to tell who had more fun: the kids or the cops.

This group of dodgeball players was going for the win — and the Best Costume award. (Photo/Lily Williams)

The event was the annual “Dodge a Cop” dodgeball tournament. Organized by Staples’ Teen Awareness Group and the Westport Youth Commission, in collaboration with Westport’s Police Department — and held in the dodgeball-friendly fieldhouse — it raises scholarship funds for Chris Lemone’s children. The founder of TAG died 3 years ago, age 49.

Police chief Foti Koskinas (2nd from right) joined in the fun. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Twenty-four teams competed. Each included at least one police officer. Staples staff and community members served as referees.

Staples’ popular resource officer Ed Wooldridge (far left) also joined a team. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Despite an evening of hurling balls at each other, no arrests were reported.

Lefty Pendarakis (center) gathers his team (including a police officer, right) for pre-game strategy. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Hey, girls play dodgeball too! (Photo/Lily Williams)

It wasn’t easy dodging these cops. But it sure was fun. (Photo/Westport Police Department)

After Coleytown: School District Considers 9 Plans For Next Year

When mold closed Coleytown Middle School in September, school administrators, teachers, staff, students and parents scrambled to adjust.

Sixth and seventh graders moved to Bedford Middle School. Eighth graders headed to Staples. That temporary measure will last through the current school year.

Now — with the fate of CMS still undetermined — educators and townspeople must plan for the next school year.

Yesterday at Town Hall, superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer presented 9 options to the newly formed Community Advisory Group. Comprised of teachers, administrators, PTA members and others, they have a December 10 deadline to present a 2019-20 plan to the Board of Education.

The options — which may be amended as work continues — include:

  1. Keeping 6th grades at elementary schools; all 7th and 8th graders would remain at Bedford. Stepping Stones Preschool would move from Coleytown Elementary to a rented facility; Long Lots kindergartners would attend CES in that space.
  2. As above, but Long Lots 6th graders would attend Coleytown El in the current Stepping Stones place.
  3. Stepping Stones would move to a rented facility. Long Lots 6th graders would attend CES; Saugatuck and Kings Highway 6th graders would go to Bedford Middle School (which would include portable classrooms); Greens Farms 6th graders would remain in that school, and CMS 7th and 8th graders would remain at BMS.
  4. All 6-8th graders would attend Bedford on a staggered schedule. For example: grade 6, 7 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.; grades 7-8, 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  5. Maintain the current plan: All 6th and 7th graders at BMS; CMS 8th graders at Staples.
  6. All students in grades 6-8 attend Bedford on the same school schedule.
  7. All students in grades 6-8 attend Bedford, with double sessions. For example: Session I, 7 a.m. to noon; Session II, 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  8. Housing one of the following at a different, rented location: Early learning center (Stepping Stones Preschool and all kindergarten classrooms districtwide); 6th grade; 8th grade; all of Coleytown Middle School.
  9. Utilize 1 of the 5 elementary schools to house CMS. Those elementary school students would be redistricted to the other 4 elementary schools.

The Community Advisory Group’s next meeting is tomorrow (Tuesday, November 20, 7:30 p.m., Bedford Middle School).

If You’re Wondering Why The US Postal Service Loses $2 Billion A Year …

… just check out this mailer:

I have no idea how many Westporters will dash on down to Playhouse Square on those 2 magical Sundays next month.

But I’ll bet you a sackful of Santa’s toys that it won’t come near covering the cost of this glossy, colorful postcard.

Which (I think) was sent to every single mailbox in town this week.

Teen’s VFW Project Propels Community Effort

A year ago, “06880”‘s Veterans Day story highlighted Dylan Mace.

The Staples High School junior was raising funds for Westport’s VFW Post 399.  The Riverside Avenue building lacked a handicap-accessible bathroom. Dylan was appalled — “brave men and women who serve could lose limbs!” he said — and vowed to help.

Dylan Mace

Dylan — whose grandfather was a Korean War vet — went to work. Singlehandedly, he raised almost $8,000.

And then he got more help from the community.

Early in his fundraising, architect Lou Lefort and electrician Barry O’Reilly offered their services.

General contractor Scott Rochlin contacted Dylan too. Scott’s son Charley was a decorated Marine.

After Charley died in an automobile accident, Scott’s family set up a foundation to help veterans and their families. Scott volunteered to oversee the project — and said his organization would cover any extra costs.

Scott also brought in Dino Meloni, from Nicolia Marble and Tile. He installed the bathroom tile, gratis.

Bender donated a handicap sink and toilet. Lowe’s and The Tile Shop in Norwalk gave Dylan contractor discounts on supplies. Westport Glass chipped in too.

One of the specially created VFW tiles.

But Dylan wanted this to be extra-special for veterans. He found Custom-Tiles.com online, and asked if they could make special tiles with the emblems of the 5 US military branches. The owner worked with Dylan, creating amazing ones for the walls.

Dylan was so moved by the project, and the people he met through it, that when it came time to plan his service project for the National Honor Society, he asked to paint the inside of the VFW — and spruce up the outside.

Congratulations, Dylan, for all you do.

I’m sorry I couldn’t post this a few days ago, on Veterans Day.

But thanks to you — and all who helped — every great day at the VFW will now be even better.

2 For The Weekend

Looking for something to do this weekend?

A couple of great ideas just crossed my desk popped up in my inbox.

The first is a world premiere. Westport-based Connecticut Theater Dance kicks off its 2018-19 season with the original ballet “Drosselmeyer: The Toymaker’s Story” at Fairfield University’s Quick Center on Saturday (7 p.m.).

Artistic director Michelle Sperry wrote the fictional story of how the legendary toymaker created the magical nutcracker. Renowned choreographer Rodney Rivera — with 13 professional dancers, and supporting roles from CTD students (including young Westporters) — brings the ballet to life.

Writing and producing a totally new ballet is never easy. It’s especially tough when you’re a true non-profit, with a 100% volunteer board.

Sperry did it in just 2 months. But it could not have happened without plenty of help from Westporters.

Local businesses contributed funds. The company raised money by organizing a Halloween costumefest, renting a movie theater for a private showing, creating and selling calendars, and (of course) running a bake sale. Sperry even secured a private bank loan to make up the shortfall.

The young dancers augmenting the professionals in “Drosselmeyer” include Westporters.

The CTD’s mission of promoting diversity produced housing challenges. Sperry opened her home to a dancer from El Salvador for 5 weeks. Resident choreographer Alejandro Ulloa hosted a Nicaraguan dancer. Choreographer Rodney Rivera –from Puerto Rico — was welcomed in by another CTD family.

Most sets were made in Sperry’s garage — including a train big enough for cast members to ride on. Local residents offered rocking horses, dolls and beer steins.

CTD families donated food, helped sew (staying up until 3 a.m.!), and done much, much more. They’re honored to support dancers who commute up to 2 hours each way.

This is a labor of love for everyone. It should be an inspiring evening. And hey — how often do you get to see a world premiere?

Click here for tickets, or call 203-254-4010.

Meanwhile, Joan Nevin raves about the Westport Country Playhouse’s production of “Thousand Pines.”

The longtime Westporter — who has no connection with the theater, other than as a patron — calls the current play “groundbreaking and heartbreaking.”

It was developed in the Playhouse’s New Works Circle last year — the first to come out of the program with a full production. 

Playwright Matthew Greene explores how families and communities try to cope after a school shooting, in “an incredibly moving, intelligent way.”

Five characters — playing roles in different families affected by the tragedy — are “brilliantly nuanced.” Nevin won’t give away the ending, but calls it “brilliant. The play comes full circle with a powerful, heart-wrenching understanding among members of the community.”

She says it connects to devastating current events “without political implications or easy answers, but with  emotional depth and power.”

“Thousand Pines” runs through this Saturday (November 17). For more information and tickets, click here.

 

Mystery Object #12

Westport leads the nation in nail salons per capita.*

But our obsession with nails is not new.

Back in the 1890s, Westporters may not have had 27,915 salons to choose from. But they did have Victorian Nail Buffers.

The wooden blocks were finished with felt, covered with leather chamois, then topped with a sterling silver filigreed handle. They gave nails pleasing shines.

Victorian nail buffer

I didn’t know any of this. Neither did you (I’m sure).

But Laura Mozier knew what a Victorian Nail Buffer was. That’s why she’s the winner in the most recent Westport Historical Society Mystery Object contest.

It’s part of their ongoing “Westport in 100 Objects” exhibit. Every 2 weeks, the WHS displays something new. If you stop in and identify it, you — like Laura — can win something from the gift shop.

There are plenty of good items to choose from. Though they don’t carry gift certificates to nail salons.

*#FakeNews. But close.

Unsung Hero #74

Pamela Einarsen moved to Westport 26 years ago. She was pregnant with her first child. She and her husband Paul raised 2 boys here.

A former oncology nurse, Pam switched careers in 1998. She started a photography business in her home. With Paul by her side, and sons Connor and Carson as assistants, it’s grown to 2 studios. Clients adore her wonderful eye and attention to detail, and return year after year.

Pamela Einarsen loves photographing children and families. 

As she did in her oncology work, Pam connects with people. She learns their stories, then tells them through photographs. She is creative, warm and loving.

Pam Einarsen is also giving. Every year, she donates her time and talents to worthy organizations and causes: A Better Chance of Westport. Staples Tuition Grants. Al’s Angels. The Westport Library. Near & Far Aid. Westport Animal Shelter Advocates.

Pam has photographed many local favorites, like Paul Newman, Michel Nischan, Maxine Bleiweis and Bill Derry. Her A-list of celebrities includes Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie and Deepak Chopra.

For the Westport Library’s “I Geek…” series, Pamela Einarsen photographed Miggs Burroughs wearing a t-shirt with the Westport flag he designed. 

Fellow photographer Katherine Bruan — who nominated Pam as this week’s Unsung Hero — says, “I’ve never met anyone who enjoys her work more. Every new client brings a new experience and a new story. Pam comes back from her shoots exhilarated, every single time. She appreciates life, and loves connecting with people so she can document their stories.

“Pam uses her photography to help people chronicle their lives and experiences. She captures the moments that matter, and sees everyone as beautiful and necesssary. Her photographs are priceless. It’s a gift to love your work as much as she does.”

For her 20 years photographing Westporters — and giving back to us all, through so much superb pro bono work — Pam Einarsen is this week’s Unsung Hero.

Picture that!

Pamela Einarsen