Category Archives: Organizations

Jonathan Greenfield Breathes For ALS

It’s been more than a year and a half since I profiled Jonathan Greenfield.

A lot has happened to the man I called The Most Interesting Person in Westport

A few months after that story, the NYU dropout/photojournalist/documentary filmmaker/surfer/triathlete/tea specialist was diagnosed with cancer.

And ALS.

He is battling both diseases with his trademark optimism, good humor and vigor.

Meanwhile, he continues to focus on others. He’s eagerly assumed a leadership role in a crusade to help everyone — those diagnosed with ALS, and all the rest — breathe better. We can enhance our lives — even live longer — Jonathan says, if we learn proper techniques, then take ice baths.

And — oh, yeah — Jonathan is organizing several events, to raise funds for two causes: breathing workshops, and ALS research.

Jonathan Greenfield and his wife, Iris Netzer-Greenfield.

Jonathan’s ALS diagnosis in December 2018 did not come out of the blue. His father had died not long before of what is also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Jonathan’s brother has it too.

Doctors said they caught it early. But the prognosis — muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, paralysis — is grim. Death, Jonathan says, eventually comes from asphyxiation.

He had already heard about the Wim Hof breathing technique. Combined with cold therapy, it’s said to affect the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in greater energy, reduced stress levels, and an augmented immune system.

When a Wim Hof video appeared on Jonathan’s YouTube feed, he took note. He was about to head to Boston to undergo radiation for the liposarcoma in his neck — a difficult procedure in which a mat would be molded to his face, shoulders and upper body. He would be fastened to a table, and lie perfectly still for 15 minutes.

Jonathan Greenfield, in his body mat.

The weekend before the treatment began, Jonathan took a Wim Hof class. He learned the breathing sequence — then took part in a guided ice bath in the snow. “I was on fire!” Jonathan marvels.

He used the breathing method to endure his first treatment. It did even more than he expected. After 2 rounds of breathing, he went into the deepest meditation state he’d ever experienced.

Over the next 5 weeks, Jonathan developed a routine. He awoke in his Cambridge hotel room. He breathed, went to the hospital for radiation, then returned to the hotel to swim, take a sauna and cold shower. Then he sat — in a towel, still wet — on his hotel deck in the freezing cold. For another 40 minutes, Jonathan would breathe and meditate. He felt great.

In the afternoon, he’d work.

Jonathan was excited. He traveled to Spain, for a Wim Hof workshop.

Working with Westporters Brooke Emery Sharfstein and Julie Blitzer, he booked Earthplace for a June breathing event. He brought 300 pounds of ice.

Jonathan Greenfield, deep in an ice bath.

That’s not all. Realizing that breathing could have helped his father’s quality of life in his final days, Jonathan vowed to share what he learned with the world.

He created Breathe4ALS. In August the organization earned 501c3 status. It’s totally volunteer-run. Sixty percent of funds raised go toward research; 30% to breathing sessions for patients, and 10% for website and operational expenses.

It’s pretty clear that neither ALS nor cancer have slowed Jonathan down. They have not dimmed his spirit either.

“Life is fine,” he says forcefully. “Yes, it’s more challenging in some ways. I’ve taken some wild spills, and thankfully haven’t broken anything yet. But this is what life is about: challenges. It’s how you meet them, harass them and overcome them. Otherwise, life is a bore.”

Not long after his diagnoses, Jonathan Greenfield hiked in Spain with Wim Hof (left).

Jonathan does not want anyone to feel sorry for him. Instead, he urges, “come breathe with me. Hike mountains with me. Celebrate all the possibilities with me.”

Jonathan is focusing on his life here, with his wife Iris — an acupuncturist, who practices in New York and Westport — and their 3 children, ages, 10, 8 and 6. His friends, he says, have “selflessly rallied around us.”

On  Thursday, October 17 (7 p.m., MoCA — formerly the Westport Arts Center — at 19 Newtown Turnpike), Breathe4ALS holds its first fundraiser. It features cocktails, bites and an exciting art raffle. Click here for tickets and more information.

Also ahead: A Breathe4ALS event at the Westport Woman’s Club on November 3. Attendees will learn about the Wim Hof Method (and can enjoy hundreds of pounds of ice).

It’s not limited to people with ALS, he emphasizes. “For anyone, this is a great tool for deep meditation and biofeedback.”

A similar Wim Hof session is set for Cherry Hill, New Jersey on January 12 (Katz JCC).

Meanwhile, Jonathan has a 19.8-cubic foot freezer in his garage. He’s adding a sauna. He hopes to invite neighbors, friends — and everyone else — over, to breathe and plunge.

Cool!

Jonathan Greenfield’s home ice bath. The temperature is 32.1 degrees.

Town Invited To Big Block Party

The 3 restaurants — one Japanese-inspired, another featuring tacos, the third specializing in meatballs — could not be more different.

But OKO, Bartaco and The Meatball Shop have already joined forces with valet parking. This Sunday (October 6), they’re collaborating on a family afternoon — for a great cause.

National Hall is the site of the 1st-ever Push Against Cancer Block Party. From 2 to 5 p.m. there’ s appetizers from all 3 spots, drinks courtesy of TUCK Gin, and fun activities like Cornhole and an obstacle course for kids and adults, thanks to Upper Deck Fitness.

National Hall and Upper Deck Fitness: the site of Sunday’s block party.

It all benefits the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps — the wonderful site in Ashford, Connecticut for children with life-threatening illnesses founded by Westport’s own Paul Newman.

OKO chef/owner Brian Lewis participated in this spring’s Push Against Cancer push-up contest at Staples High School — also a Hole in the Wall Gang fundraiser. He was so moved by what he learned that he offered OKO — or his other restaurant, The Cottage — for a future event.

PAC organizers Andy Berman and Sherry Jonas were happy to oblige.

Bartaco, The Meatball Shop, Upper Deck Fitness and National Hall’s landlord were equally eager to join in.

There’s a lot going on in Westport this weekend. But if you can, block out time for this great block party.

And yes, there’s plenty of parking.

(Tickets will he sold at the “door.” The cost is $40 per adult, $10 per child under age 12.)

Earthplace: Environmental Center Sponsors Fall Bash

One day last winter, Diana Mashia walked into Earthplace to drop off her kids for a vacation nature program.

She and a staff naturalist began chatting about environmental issues. When executive director Tony McDowell heard that Mashia had an impressive command of the issues Earthplace cares about — science, conservation and education — he did what any good leader does: He asked her to help.

Last month, Mashia — who already was active managing Sustainable Westport‘s social media — joined the Earthplace board. She focuses on the organization’s zero waste initiative, and community engagement.

Diana Mashia (Photo/Tomira Wilcox Photography)

It might seem an unusual passion for a woman who started her career as an equity research analyst. But as Mashia moved into venture capital finance, she specialized in consumers and innovation. She then founded a consulting practice, working with VC firms and startups.

Mashia certainly walks the talk. In addition to her day job and volunteer activities, she’s working on a master’s degree in management and innovation at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She’s studying the intersection of public/private partnerships and sustainability.

“I’m a big proponent of community-building, volunteerism and engagement,” Mashia — who finds time to also be a Daisy troop leader, and dance with a local company — says.

She knows that — for all its wonderful work — Earthplace has a relatively low profile in town.

Earthplace summer campers enjoyed a downpour. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

“This is my passion project,” she says of her board activity. “Tony and his team really explore relevance in program. I love their basic idea: that humans are part of the natural world.

“We all exist in nature. But modern life often leaves us disconnected from the physical world. Being stewards for the environment, and creating better awareness, allows us to connect. It has positive impacts on human health and well-being.”

She believes it is particularly important to educate children to be stewards and leaders. They need to be inspired to seek innovative solutions to environmental problems. Mashia is “proud to live in a community that actively thinks about and finds local solutions” to those issues.

However, she notes, many Westporters think of Earthplace as primarily a pre-school, Mashia — whose own children are 6 and 3 — says.

They may not know about its environmental education and after-school programs, 60-acre sanctuary with walking trails, birds of prey exhibit and scholarships, or that it us home to Harbor Watch, the water quality project.

An Earthplace owl.

So Mashia is excited to pass along word of Earthplace’s Woodside Bash and Festival.

The big fundraiser is a 2-day event. It kicks off this Saturday (October 5, 7 to 10 p.m.) with an adults-only party. There’s a harvest dinner, open bar, live band, DJ, a “haunted trail” and the very popular mechanical bull.

Sunday (October 6, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is for families. Traditional fall activities include an apple slingshot, donut-on-a-tree, pool of corn, climbing wall, food trucks, animal encounters and more.

Either day — or both — are excellent opportunities to support Earthplace (and, if you haven’t already been there, discover its wonders).

Like Diana Mashia, you might even end up as a passionate volunteer.

The earth would thank you.

(For more information and tickets, click here.)

Theater Lovers: Play With Your Food — And Stephen Schwartz

In the mile-a-minute, can’t-stop-for-a-second world that is Westport today, Play With Your Food stands out.

For nearly 20 years, a lunchtime program — the deliciously named Play With Your Food — has combined a gourmet lunch, professional readings of intriguing plays, and stimulating post-performance discussion.

It’s fun, low-key, under the radar.

But when the season kicks off this year, a very big Broadway name will share the bill.

Stephen Schwartz — the multi-Grammy, Oscar and Tony winning composer (“Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Godspell”) — will entertain at “A Moveable Feast of Theater 2.0.” The benefit supports the not-for-profit Play With Your Food.

Stephen Schwartz

In addition to Schwartz’s cabaret performance (for sponsor ticket holders only), 4 one-act plays will take place throughout a private Westport home. There’s also food from AMG Catering, and cocktails from Tito’s Vodka.

Schwartz does not do these things lightly. But he’s a longtime friend of Play With Your Food artistic director Carole Schweid. They met early in their carers, when she appeared in the national tour of “Pippin.”

Stacie Lewis

Later, Schweid realized that Westport-based actress Stacie Lewis — a Play With Your Food fan favorite — had starred as Glinda in the Chicago production of “Wicked.”

Lewis is part of the “Moveable Feast” cast too. She’ll be joined by 9 other Play With Your Food actors, who will perform those comic short plays in “site-specific surroundings” throughout the house.

The full Play With Your Food season opens January 7, and runs through April. Live lunchtime performances are planned for Toquet Hall, Fairfield Theatre Company, the Greenwich Arts Council and Rye Arts Center.

Lunches — catered by local restaurants — are followed by 1-act scripted plays performed by professional actors. Many are recognizable from TV, film or theater. The talkback includes the cast and director — sometimes even the playwright.

It’s a great series. Scoring Stephen Schwartz for the gala fundraiser is just icing on the cake.

(“A Moveable Feast 2.0” is set for Sunday, October 20. The location will be revealed to ticket holders only. The sponsor ticket cabaret with Stephen Schwartz begins at 3 p.m.; the main theater event starts at 4. For tickets and more information, click here or call 203-293-8729.)

Lachat Lets Loose

Sure, you weren’t invited to Keith Richards’ daughter’s wedding.

Neither was I.

But us peons can still hang out there. Or at least at Lachat Town Farm, the site of the biggest event in Weston since, um, ever.

Lachat is a grassroots, volunteer-run initiative. It began when officials decided to tear down a 1770s homestead that had been deeded to the town by dairy farmer Leon Lachat.

But a group of citizens had a vision: turn the beautiful 40-acre site back into a farm.

Friends of Lachat raised enough money to restore the farmhouse. It opened in 2016.

Since then, Lachat Town Farm has become a local gathering place. A 50-plot community garden was built. A grant paid for a greenhouse. A large dairy barn was also restored.

Once a month in summer, an early evening farmer’s market with live music, children’s crafts and food trucks draws a crowd. Music in the Meadow concerts feature a variety of performances. In the winter, there’s a Fireside Concert series. Adult and children’s programs range from tai chi to pickle making.

Lachat Town Farm

It’s all done without tax dollars. The Farm is self-funded through programs, donations, grants and fundraisers.

Lachat’s major annual fundraiser is this Saturday (October 5, 4 to 8 p.m.). All ages are invited to a country barbecue and hoedown. Renowned square dance caller Eric Hollman will be accompanied by the Flying Fingers Jug Band.

The ticket price includes dinner from Odeen’s Barbecue of Ridgefield, plus wine and beer. There are no tickets at the door; click here for reservations.

NOTE: Keith Richards’ family donated $15,000 to Lachat, after the wedding. It was a great gift — but hardly enough to keep the farm operating.

Saturday’s event is great — and important.

Wild horses shouldn’t drag you away.

Morning Movies: There’s A Club For That

It’s tough owning a movie theater. Among many other pressures, you depend on brief windows of time for nearly all your revenue.

For patrons, time is tight too. Besides evenings, it’s hard to sneak away for a couple of hours to see a film.

Which is why theater owners and movie-goers alike love the Morning Movie Club.

The premise is simple: Organizers rent an entire theater. Once a month from October through May, promptly at 10 a.m., club members have their choice of any film being shown on that theater’s screens. There are no previews; you’re in and out. As the credits roll you head back to carpooling, the office or your other daily responsibilities.

The Morning Movie Club came to Fairfield County thanks to Kerry Anderson and Michelle Howe. The women heard of a similar effort in New Jersey, and figured it would be perfect for this area.

Kerry Anderson (left) and Michelle Howe.

Kerry’s background is in banking; she also served as director of Swim Across America. When her first son was born she stepped out of the workforce. But she wanted to engage her mind, in the limited hours she had.

Kerry and Michelle proposed a Morning Movie Club to their local Bowtie theater in Greenwich. That’s the same company the New Jersey club used; the owners knew the formula worked.

The Greenwich Bowtie has 3 screens. It’s an “arts theater,” so the films are targeted to adults.

Last year, the Morning Movie Club expanded to a 4-screen Wilton Bowtie. It’s a “family theater,” meaning many of the offerings were “kid-friendly.”

Too kid-friendly, in fact. Which is why this year, the Morning Movie Club has moved its Wilton chapter to Westport.

Well, Kerry calls it Westport. They use the Bowtie in Norwalk — just over the border on Route 1, which in our neighboring town is called Westport Avenue.

It’s a great venue. There are 6 screens; the seats are very comfortable, and there’s a full concession stand. (Including a bar. Kerry notes drily, “I hope our folks don’t use it at 10 a.m.”)

It really is a “club.” A yearly membership costs $100, for 8 movies. Non-members are not allowed in to the morning movies.

Organizers also partner with local businesses, offering amenities like discounts. In Westport that includes Shoes & More, Aux Delices and Green & Tonic.

A photo from the Morning Movie Club website.

Morning Movie Club members include stay-at-home parents, and those with paying jobs. There are also retirees, like Kerry’s father. He’s in his 80s; he doesn’t like to drive at night, so the show time — and lunch after, with friends — is perfect.

“The idea is so simple. You slow down, and take 2 hours for yourself, to see a film,” Kerry says. “You may be better in the office, or as a mom, afterward.”

It’s all pretty clear. In fact, the only question mark is which movie to see.

Theater managers make purchasing decisions on Mondays, Kerry says. As soon as they do, she and Michelle send an email with that month’s options to all members. They add preview links to all films on that theater’s screens.

Which is great. Because there are no previews at the morning movies themselves.

That in itself is worth the subscription price.

(For more information on the Morning Movie Club, click here.)

Unsung Heroes #117

Alert “06880” reader — and Homes with Hope CEO — Jeff Wieser writes:

I was at the Gillespie Center community kitchen the other night. I often go at 5 p.m. to thank the volunteers. This generous group of Westporters and Westonites has served dinner there every night since 1989.

I went this time especially because Dolores (“DoDo”) Bacharach was serving with her friends from Assumption Church. She’s done that every month, since she and others formed the community kitchen in Save the Children’s offices around 1983.

It got me thinking that DoDo has done this community service quietly and loyally for all these years — and so have 500 or so volunteers every year since the kitchen started.

Generous family teams, groups of friends and business colleagues, groups from houses of worship and local clubs — all contribute their time, cooking expertise, and the food to serve 20-30 people every night.

Not only do they not ask for thanks, they usually enter and leave the Gillespie Center noticed only by those grateful souls whom they feed. Yet the diners are appreciative. DoDo once said that she loved cooking at Gillespie because “everyone is far more grateful than my family ever was!”

Assumption Church “Ladies of the Ladle” volunteers (from left): Michele Harding, Mary Welsch-Lehman, Katya Lebrija, Marilyn Moran, Dolores Bacharach.

Westport is unique among Fairfield County suburbs in having this sort of facility. Shelter residents get the chance to interact with caring neighbors, and local residents can teach our children and friends that this is not just a bubble of privilege in an enormously blessed community.

These Unsung Heroes — those 500 volunteers every year — quietly show a commitment to social justice and support of our neighbors that should be applauded.

We don’t get many chances: For the few volunteer appreciation events we’ve had, the turnout was light. Our volunteers don’t ask for thanks; they simply want to do what is right for some disadvantaged neighbors.

Chef Cecily Gans’ students prepare food for the Gillespie Center.

So I nominate volunteers from the following organizations who serve dinner at least monthly at Gillespie:

  • Staples High School culinary classes
  • The Service League of Boys (“SLOBs”)
  • National Charity League
  • Staples High National Honor Society
  • Elayne Prince & Friends
  • John Karrel & Friends
  • Wilton Friends Congregation
  • Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
  • Greens Farms Congregational Church
  • The Conservative Synagogue
  • United Methodist Church
  • Unitarian Church Youth Group
  • Norfield Church
  • Temple Israel
  • Emmanuel Church
  • Assumption Church
  • Saugatuck Congregational Church
  • Sunrise Rotary Club
  • Peter’s Weston Market
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority
  • Westport Rotary Club
  • Westport Young Woman’s League
  • Weston Kiwanis Club

… and all the families and friends who fill in throughout the year.

Westporters of all ages volunteer at the Gillespie Center.

 

Minuteman Yacht Club Welcomes All

Half a century ago, Joe Schachter bought a boat. He, his wife Irma and their young kids loved leaving their slip at Longshore, and heading out on the Sound.

Except when they couldn’t get out, because the basin was silted over. In fact, the only time that worked was half tide or more.

A few similarly disgruntled boat owners started talking. They realized their individual complaints to town officials went nowhere.

Meanwhile, over at Compo, there wasn’t even a real “marina” at all. Boats were tied to buoys. After a day on the water, boaters blew air horns, then waited for a tender to fetch them from the gas dock. On busy days, it took an hour.

They formed a group, to advocate for all Westport boaters. They named themselves the Minuteman Yacht Club.

Irma and Joe Schachter

It took 30 years, but they finally got action. Twenty years after that, Schachter — now 94 years old — is still involved.

And, in a measure of how far the Minuteman Yacht Club has come, one very important town official — 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — attends many of the group’s events.

The organization’s efforts paid off in the renovation of Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach. A gangway — to walk to boats — replaced the old blow-your-horn-and-wait-for-a-lift system. Both it and Longshore were dredged, dramatically increasing their capacities.

Compo now has “one of the best marina set-ups of any town on Long Island Sound,” Schachter says proudly.

Ned Dimes Marina.

He should know. After a career change from advertising, he developed a concrete flotation system that completed 400 projects around the East Coast. Compo was his last major one.

But — like so much else in Westport life — boating has changed in the 50 years Schachter has been involved.

Whether its clubs Minuteman or Kiwanis, “it’s hard today to keep them going,” says Barbara Gross.

She should know. A Westonite who does not own a boat — she’s a kayaker who loves the Sound, Cockenoe and nearby islands — she enjoys Minuteman Yacht Club for its social events.

The calendar is filled: Commissioning Day party, post-race parties, clambake, reggae party, commodore’s reception, change-of-watch dinner, even a winter holiday party.

“There’s a real camaraderie, a fun spirit,” Gross says.

She hopes families with young children will consider joining Minuteman Yacht Club. “It’s important to give kids a taste of boating,” she says. “And this is a great way for parents to have fun with them. You don’t even need to own a boat.”

It’s a good way too, she says, to introduce youngsters to the wonders of Long Island Sound.

And maybe they will grow up to be — like herself, Schachter and many others — the voice of sailboat and powerboat owners, all over town.

(For more information on Minuteman Yacht Club, click here.)

Of Course: Restaurant Week Returns

There’s always something new on Westport’s dining plate.

The Meatball Shop opened last summer, to spicy reviews. If you haven’t tried it yet — now’s your chance.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s “Restaurant Week” starts this Monday (September 30).

Actually, that’s a misnomer. The event is 2 weeks — it runs all the way through October 13.

Throughout the event, 24 restaurants — from Saugatuck to Southport — offer prix fixe meals. They range from $15 to $25 for lunch, $25 to $40 for dinner, $20 and up for brunch.

A meatball meal to look forward to.

This is a perfect chance to head to new spots. Then visit an older one you’ve always wanted to try.

And after that, hit up an old standby.

On October 14, you can head to the Y.

Participating restaurants:

  • 190 Main
  • Amis
  • Boathouse
  • Gray Goose
  • Harvest
  • Julian’s
  • Le Penguin
  • Mama Chow
  • Pane e Bene
  • Pink Sumo
  • Rio Bravo
  • Rive Bistro
  • Rizzuto’s
  • Rothbard Ale + Larder
  • Sakura
  • Spotted Horse
  • Tarantino
  • Tarry Lodge
  • Tavern on Main
  • Terrain Garden Café
  • The Meatball Shop
  • Tutti”s
  • Via Sforza
  • Wafu Korean Barbecue

For more details — including menus — click here

Election Day Near; LWV Is Here

It’s fall! Time for leaves, pumpkin everything, and elections.

The League of Women Voters Westport “leaves” raking to you, and pumpkin lattes to Starbucks. But it’s all over the ballot box.

As the non-partisan, men-are-welcome-too organization prepares for Tuesday, November 5, they offer several programs and services to help Westporters register, and learn about candidates. For example:

Tomorrow (September 24) is National Voter Registration Day. You can register at the Westport Library (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

October 6 is the LWV’s annual Fall Brunch (11 am to 1 p.m.). It’s a meet-the-candidates event. For more information or to RSVP, call 203-293-7687.

On October 21 (Town Hall, 7 p.m.), the LWV co-sponsors debates with the Westport Library and PTA Council, for Board of Finance and Board of Education candidates. Email your questions to lwvwestportct@yahoo.com (specify which office you are asking about).

On October 28 (Town Hall, 7 p.m.) there’s a second debate, for Board of Assessment Appeals, Planning and Zoning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals candidates.

Of course, Election Day would not be complete without the LWV Voter’s Guide. It will arrive in the mail of all 10,500 Westport households shortly after October 25.

The League seeks donations to help defray the $3,900 cost of printing and mailing this important tool. Checks can be sent to the League of Women Voters of Westport, PO Box 285, Westport, CT 06881-0285 (write “Voter’s Guide” in the memo line.

For more information on the League of Women Voters Westport, click here.