Category Archives: religion

Pic Of The Day #1077

Found at the base of a Christ & Holy Trinity Church fence post (Photo/Karen Murphy)

Livio Sanchez’s “American Portrait”

Last month, Westport’s Livio Sanchez was chosen to be part of an elite team.

As part of its 50th anniversary, PBS selected 100 videographers and photographers from around the country — 2 per state — to help define what it means to be an American today. The “American Portrait” project will focus on the beliefs, traditions and experiences that make up this vast nation.

Little did Sanchez — or anyone else — know that soon, life in America would abruptly change.

Livio Sanchez

Sanchez — an award-winning editor, producer and director who has worked with top ad agencies, Google, Microsoft, Amazon Studios, Netflix, Nike, GM and the New York Times — quickly shifted gears.

He’d already done 3 stories. Now he’s documenting life during the coronavirus crisis.

PBS has pivoted too. They’re planning a special broadcast. Sanchez’s subjects are being considered as possible leads.

The videos are short, but compelling. Subjects include Stephen “Doc” Parsons and Griffin Anthony. Sanchez met both while playing men’s baseball for the Westport Cardinals.

Also included: Saugatuck Congregational Church Rev. Alison Patton. Sanchez met her and her husband Craig when their sons played on the same Little League team.

A screenshot from one of Livio Sanchez’s PBS videos.

Click below for links to several videos. As we all grapple with COVID-19, these clips provide compelling looks into American life, yesterday and today.

Stephen “Doc” Parsons

Griffin Anthony

(In addition to pros like Sanchez, the PBS series will include submissions from the public. Click here to see the trailer for PBS’ “American Portrait.”)

Pics Of The Day #1076

Westport in the coronavirus crisis: scenes from yesterday and today.

Empty chairs at Longshore (Photo/Sandy Rothernberg)

Social distancing at the beach (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Empty Compo Beach pavilion (Photo/Sarah Menninger)

One of the final days for dogs on the beach (Photo/Sophie Pollman)

With drive-thru service only, Starbucks’ line was long (Photo/Robert Hauck)

A plea for help (Photo/Jen Kobetitsch)

Westport’s Unitarian Church (Photo/David Vita)

Unsung Heroes #139

As the coronavirus pandemic rages, we are surrounded by heroes.

Neighbors look out for the elderly, the infirm, the lonely. A doctor collects face masks for her colleagues. Teenagers run errands for strangers.

There’s a different vibe today than 2 weeks ago. And while much of it is dark and foreboding, another part is as bright as the spring that is right around the corner.

I could cite hundreds of folks as Unsung Heroes. In the weeks ahead, I will.

Please email me with individual nominations (dwoog@optonline.net). Countless people are doing wonderful things, every COVID day. Some impact thousands; others, just one.

All are important. I want to hear — and celebrate — them.

But today, if you’ve done something nice and good and kind in the days since the coronavirus came to town, give yourself a pat on the back.

You are our Unsung Hero!

The Greens Farms Congregational Church food collection for organizations in Bridgeport and Stamford — at a safe social distance, of course — is one of countless acts of kindness we’ve seen over the past two weeks.

 

 

Rev. Alison Patton: The Story The NY Times Should Have Told

The New York Times’ now-famous piece on the coronavirus in Westport — “How a Soirée in Connecticut Became a Super Spreader” — included a photo of The Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton.

The caption noted that the Saugatuck Congregational Church minister “led an online fellowship hour with parishioners on Sunday after her church in Westport closed.”

That was it. No quotes or insights from one of our town’s most caring residents — a wise, insightful observer of all that goes on here.

Many Westporters thought there must have been more to her brief appearance in the Times. 

There is. Rev. Patton writes:

When a New York Times reporter called to ask me how Westport was responding to the virus, I thought she had a great opportunity to write an article about the creative ways that communities are navigating the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s not the story the Times chose to publish. So I thought I’d write that story.

Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton

This has been a profoundly trying few weeks. Contending with the virus itself, the related fears, and the disrupted schedules has put a strain on all of us.

In the words of pastor and public theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber: “We’re not only experiencing a pandemic of COVID-9, we are also experiencing an ‘epidemic of disappointment.’”

How many of us have had plans derailed: championship games, theatrical performances, business engagements or family vacations? How many have lost income, access to hot meals or life-saving support systems?

That’s a lot of grief, even if we do manage to avoid or ride out the virus itself. And of course, there are those who have contracted COVID-19. This pandemic has been hard on our hearts.

We are all scrambling to adjust, to stay safe and grounded. But here’s what has struck me: We are also working hard to stay connected as a community. Saugatuck Congregational Church, along with most other faith communities in the region, has suspended in-person worship.

But like all our other faith communities, Saugatuck is finding alternative ways to stay in touch, counter isolation, encourage people and feed spirits. We are urging physical distancing while sustaining social connection. The responses I’ve witnessed remind me that we have an amazing capacity to adapt, when our connectedness is at stake.

I have so many examples. There’s the 91-year-old member who asked for technical assistance so she could participate in our online bible study by Zoom, and the member who joined our Sunday morning social hour via Zoom from his hospital bed — just 2 days after major surgery!

Saugatuck Congregational Church has anchored Westport for centuries.

There’s the patience everyone has shown, as we figure out how to use technologies that are new to many of us. We are muddling through with remarkable humor.

As one Saugatuck member observed, in response to our Zoom social hour and online small groups, ”What we’re doing is totally different, but really touching and human.”

I know it’s not just Saugatuck Church. Creative efforts to stay connected are springing up all over town. I suspect that everyone reading this will have a story to add. There’s the Westport neighborhood where residents circulated red, green and yellow cards in mailboxes, to help vulnerable neighbors safely signal if they need supplies or other assistance.

There’s the high school student who created a Twitter account to report on the local impact of the Coronavirus and share helpful information, and the families who compiled a website designed to support local businesses by encouraging online shopping.

There are the local artists who are sharing photos and music online, to inspire and encourage us. The list goes on and on. For my part, I am grateful for and inspired by all those who have responded to these trying times with such generosity and innovation.

Westporters have expressed their emotions in many ways. A neighbor took this opportunity to thank our first responders. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Crisis can do 2 things: it can bog us down in our own anxiety or kick start our creativity. Surely, both are happening here.

We all have days when we are worn out from having to revise our habits again and again, in order to stay ahead of an invisible threat. But I hope we can also lean into those creative impulses, bearing in mind that isolation is hard because we are, fundamentally, interdependent. So we figure out how to reach and sustain one another.

The best story isn’t how this virus started or who may have contributed to its spread. It’s how we will get through it, and eventually stop the virus, because we can only do that together.

COVID-19 Roundup: Neighbors Rally; Face Mask Collections; Informative Videos, And More

Someone’s doing great things in the Gorham Avenue/Evergreen neighborhood.

They’re distributing notes in residents’ mailboxes, along with colored paper. The notes ask residents to put the appropriate color in a street-facing window. Green indicates “all ok.” Red means “need supplies.” Yellow is for “elderly/living alone or isolated/mobility issues.”

The note promises that neighbors will monitor the signs, and act as needed. It also offers a phone number to call or text if supplies are needed. Residents can also call that number if they want to help others.

What a great idea — and easy to replicate, in any neighborhood! (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)


Westporter Stephanie Webster’s CTBites is always a great way to keep up with restaurants and bars all around the state. This week’s edition offers comprehensive coverage of places that are open for pickup and delivery throughout Connecticut. There’s also a story about chefs doing good things, and ways everyone else can help them and others.

Click here for details. There are tons of them!


Greens Farms Congregational Church worship, meetings and religious school are now held online.

But yesterday congregants gathered together — 6 feet apart, of course — at a drive-thru food drive for Inspirica in Stamford (where homeless families struggle without the usual supply of donated food and volunteers to help), and Pivot Ministries (a men’s recovery mission in Bridgeport). It’s social distance — and social support — at its best.


The Yale New Haven Health System needs disposable head covers and caps; disposable gowns, gloves and face masks; N95 respirator face masks; powered air purifying respirators; face shields and goggles; coveralls and scrubs; shoe covers; disinfection wipes and liquids, and general purpose hand cleaners.

All should be in original, unopened packages. Email donationsppe@ynhh.org. Include contact information so staff can respond.


Meanwhile, Elizabeth Newman — a physician assistant at New York Presbyterian / Weill Cornell — is collecting face masks because of the critical shortages at all hospitals in the are, including hers.

She  has already picked up hundreds in the area, and can pick up tens to hundreds more from doorsteps in the evenings. Email elizabeth.h.newman@gmail.com. Anyone with access to larger quantities shoud contact masks@nyp.org to ship them directly.

Elizabeth notes, “I don’t want to take supplies from local hospitals if they need them. If anyone has any to spare they can also try to donate to the local hospital or EMS station. If they don’t need them I’m happy to bring them into the city.

“Also if owners of spas, tattoo parlors, salons, etc. that are shutting down can spare theirs, I know Governor Cuomo is willing to purchase masks at a premium,which could help offset their business losses.”


Garelick & Herbs offers 20% off for any orders of in-kind donating to elderly, low-immune deficiency or in need neighbors. Contact them to help coordinate this; also contact if you are interested in helping in other ways: social distancing delivery, phoning those who are isolated, etc. Email Garelickandherbs@gmail.com or pgarelick@aol.com; call or text 203-913-9737.


As students adjust to distance learning, Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas is a clear, calming presence.

This morning he offered his second video update. He discussed next steps for students and staff, AP tests, social distancing and more. You don’t have to be a high schooler or parent to appreciate today’s news. Click here, then scroll down under “Announcements” to March 23, and click on the video.


Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb appeared yesterday on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.” He spoke “outside his Connecticut home” — which, as “06880” readers know, is in Westport.

Click below for the informative interview.

(Hat tip: Dennis Jackson)


As visitors to Aspetuck Land Trust’s 44 trailed preserves increase dramatically — particularly Trout Brook Valley — the non-profit reminds visitors to leave dogs at home. Unfortunately, they create too many opportunities for close human contact. In addition, Aspetuck will closely monitor all areas, to make sure there is proper social distancing. Click here for information on all the preserves.

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Back to face masks.

Lea Kaner is the mother of former 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner and fellow Westporter Celia Offir. When the virus hit, over 1,300 employees in her family’s business — Morton Williams supermarkets — had no face masks.

Unpacking shipments, stocking shelves and checking out customers, those men and women are on the front lines. So Lea — an expert seamstress — stepped up.

Kaner and his wife Liz found pattern cut sheets and instructions on the internet. They drove to a store in Milford, and filled the car with fabric and ribbons. Then Lea went to work.

She’s still working almost non-stop to make sure every employee is protected. Plus, they’re the best looking face masks around.

 

Pic Of The Day #1067

(Photo/Janet Gomez Duffield)

Janet Gomez Duffield reports: “My children’s teachers at Christ & Holy Trinity Preschool have been creating amazing videos and reading stories, sharing ideas of things to do, etc.

“Yesterday, my son’s 3 class lesson was about planting seeds. The teachers delivered the seeds and dirt to our mailboxes/doors (adhering to social distancing). Here is a photo of my kids and dog, and their super-excited teacher delivering the items.

“They were so happy to see each other. We are very lucky and grateful to have teachers who care so much.”

Unsung Heroes #138

This one’s a no-brainer.

If you are anyone who, over the past couple of weeks, has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are an Unsung Hero.

Perhaps you:

  • Man and woman the Westport Health District — performing coronavirus tests, administering aid, answering questions, soothing nerves
  • Serve in emergency operations with the police, fire, EMS departments — or anyone else in government called on to plan, execute, render assistance or in any other way help the town
  • Work in a medical practice, helping some patients who may have been infected and many more with their usual ailments, knowing all the while you had more contact with, and less protection from, sick people than anyone else

  • Are teaching students online, while at the same time soothing nerves, offering non-school advice, and ensuring continuity of education despite having never done so before
  • Are a school custodian or maintenance worker elsewhere who put on a mask and gloves, and spent days deep cleaning every square inch you could find, and did it well, despite your very real fears and anxieties
  • Own a business, and decided (or had to) to shut down, for the good of the community, and despite all your fears, still worry more about your employees and customers
  • Work in a store or market overrun by panicked customers; despite your low pay and own fears you stocked shelves, worked registers, answered questions, and did it all with grace and courtesy
  • Ditto all those restaurant workers who are adapting to a rapidly changing environment, preparing and serving food while observing new rules and regulations, and doing it with enormous care and concern
  • Reach out through your religious institution or civic organizaiton– even though its doors are closed and meetings canceled — to someone in need

Temple Israel is one of the many religious institutions now conducting services, classes and programs virtually.

  • Are suddenly thrust into the role of teacher, in addition to the disruption of having to work your own job remotely, or worry about what was going on at the office because you had to be home
  • Calm a child’s nerves, bring food to an elderly neighbor, or help a stranger figure out what to do now that the library, Senior Center, YMCA, Town Hall — and every other gathering place — is closed
  • Or are doing anything else to help someone else during these unprecedented days.

Thank you for helping make this town a “community.”

We’ll need you — and everyone else — to keep doing it for a while.

No one knows what’s ahead. But with all these Heroes in our midst, we’ll get through all this.

There’s no other choice.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net to let us know!)

 

[UPDATES] 12-Step Members Wonder: Is My Group Canceled?

For people battling alcoholism and other addictions, 12-step programs are a lifeline.

The human connection of meeting, sharing with and finding support in other people is crucial to the day-by-day process of recovery.

Saugatuck Congregational Church and St. Luke’s Stables has not yet closed its doors to 12-step meetings. All groups are taking precautions, of course. [UPDATE: After this story was posted, word was received that St. Luke’s Stables has closed its meetings.]

If they do, getting together outdoors — keeping distance, of course — is Plan B. But even that is strongly discouraged.

Plan C is virtual meetings. Zoom licenses are available. Skype is another option. Group members should email aawestportct@gmail.co for help with technical issues.

The go-to source for meeting updates is a special Westport AA page on Facebook. Click here for information, including important phone numbers and resources.

[UPDATE] High Watch — the noted AA-based recovery center in Kent — is running 2 online meetings a day (noon and 7:30 pm). Click here for details.

For Al-Anon and Alateen groups, click here. For Narcotics Anonymous, click here.

Self-isolating can be difficult for anyone. For those with addiction issues, the peril is exponentially higher. AA members are doing all they can to provide support in these difficult times.

A 12-step meeting — before the coronavirus.

 

Closings, Cancellations, Postponements: A Partial List

COVID-19 has knocked out everything from the NBA to Broadway.

Westport is not immune. Here’s a list of what’s happening, alphabetically. Feel free to add your organization or event in the “Comments” section below.

A Better Chance of Westport: The Dream Event gala is postponed to May 1 (6 p.m., Rolling Hills Country Club, Wilton).

Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church: Closed for 2 weeks. No meetings, church events or classes will be held on the property.

Closing a religious institution is very rare.

EarthplaceClosed until further notice. Trails are open.

Maker Faire: The April event is postponed. A new date will be announced.

MoCA WestportThe gallery and all classes are temporarily closed. The April 25 gala is postponed to a later date.

Positive DirectionsOffering teletherapy options for safe, convenient counseling. Call 203-227-7644.

Wakeman Town Farm: Closed for public events until further notice.

WTF? Everything is closed!

Westport Country PlayhouseCanceled: “the Pout-Pout Fish” (March 15); Connecticut Dance School benefit (March 20); Broadway Method Academy gala (March 21). No decision yet to cancel or postpone events after March 21.  

Westport Library: The library is closed. It will reopen at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 16.

Westport Museum for History & Culture: The museum is closed, and all programming has been suspended through March. Exhibitions are available for viewing online.

Westport Weston Family Y: The Y will close at 10 p.m. today, until further notice.

Westport Public Schools, including Staples Players’ “Seussical”:  All public school buildings and activities are closed, until further notice.