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Tag Archives: Al’s Angels
Westporters may be in the dark about the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge.
But during the holiday season, the historic span glows with festive lights. Driving across the Saugatuck River — surrounded by colors — is one of our town’s magical moments.
It doesn’t just happen, though. The lights need maintenance. In the past year, they suffered severe damage.
Thankfully, Al’s Angels — the volunteer organization that does so much for needy kids and families — is on the case.
This Saturday night (December 1), they’ll replace the lights. Work begins at 11 p.m.
They need 24 volunteers. They ask helpers to bring their own 10-foot ladder or bucket truck. And cutting pliers.
It’s a big job. The trees and walkway side of the bridge will be decorated first. At 2 a.m. Sunday they’ll work overhead, then finish on the other side.
Al’s Angels supplies all the lights and snap ties. They just need folks who want to keep Westport’s bridge tradition alive — and are willing to work.
If you’re in, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And dress warmly!
I guess we shouldn’t call it a “Christmas” tree.
A press release from the Selectman’s Office notes only that the town’s “annual tree lighting” ceremony will take place at Town Hall this Thursday (November 29, 5 p.m.).
Of course, the tree to be lit is a fir tree. You connect the dots.
It’s a fun, festive, kid-friendly event. The Staples High School Orphenians sing “seasonal” songs.
Speaking of Town Hall trees, this year the “Heritage Tree” — a longtime fixture in the building’s lobby — moves across Myrtle Avenue to the Westport Historical Society.
Each year, local artists add ornaments (yes, it’s that kind of tree). Past contributors include Mel Casson, Randy Enos, Stevan Dohanos, Hardie Gramatky, Howard Munce, Jim Sharpe, Leonard Everett Fisher, Jean Woodham and Hilda Kraus.
This year’s ornament comes courtesy of Victoria Kann. The author/illustrator of the popular “Pinkalicious” book series is a longtime Westporter.
Kids can help decorate the Heritage Tree this Saturday (December 1, 1 p.m.). Kann will read from one of her holiday-themed books (and sign them). Snacks will be served too.
The next day — Sunday, December 2 — another tree lighting takes place. It’s at the Saugatuck Center plaza, between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk. Everyone is asked to bring unwrapped toys for children 10 and under. Al’s Angels wrap and deliver them to needy kids.
It’s set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Santa arrives at 5:15 — so I’m on safe ground calling this an actual “Christmas” tree lighting.
And the 28th annual Tree of Light ceremony will be held Thursday, December 6, at 6:30 p.m. It honors the memories of family members and friends who have died.
The site is Saugatuck Congregational Church. So, yeah: That’s a Christmas tree lighting too.
Longtime Westporter Carol Mata died last week, at 73.
She was an entrepreneur, starting a doll-making business in Peru, and an Ecuadorean handcraft store in Westport called El Rondador. Carol also managed many rental properties.
She was a host mother to many foreign exchange students throughout the years, and an adopted mother and grandmother by countless people around the world.
She was an accomplished entertainer, party organizer and self-taught chef. She welcomed hundreds of people into her home with warmth, elegance and epicurean treats.
Carol was also deeply involved in Westport activities. Her daughter — Staples High School art teacher Angela Simpson — sends along this remembrance:
Last week, Westport and the greater community lost a humble and generous servant. Carol Mata, a resident of Westport for approximately 50 of her 73 years, passed away peacefully but unexpectedly in her sleep.
Carol’s generosity extended beyond her kindness to her family. She dedicated her time and talents to the Westport Woman’s Club (in particular the Yankee Doodle Fair), ran Fairfield Prep annual auctions, fundraised for Staples marching band uniforms, and always opened her pocketbook to support charities, especially Al’s Angels and Caroline House.
She was a fixture at St. Matthew’s Church in Norwalk, where she served as a eucharistic minister, delivered home-cooked meals to those in need, and assisted with accounting and event planning.
She also served for years as a CCD instructor at Assumption Church in Westport. She took her lesson planning very seriously, and was delighted to have one of her own grandchildren in her class.
Carol’s philanthropy extended outside Fairfield County, and even outside the country, but her greatest gift was her genuine care for all people. She did so much for so many, and never expected recognition.
Carol was a breast cancer survivor, and understood the importance of cherishing family and friends. From Carol you could count on original, personalized Christmas cards, along with her signature “Christmas Coffee Can Cake,” heartfelt and handwritten thank-you notes, and multi-course gourmet meals served from chafing dishes, always accompanied by beautiful floral arrangement.
Carol will be missed by many. But the many organizations and individuals that she touched are the better for her efforts.
Last year, “06880” posted an urgent plea for help. The Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport was running a toy drive for their elementary school students. But they were falling far short.
Their kids were in desperate situations: the highest poverty brackets, shelters, you name it. 100% are fed breakfast and lunch at school. Their families have no money for basic necessities — let alone holiday gifts.
Westporters came through — big time.
This year, alert — and generous — “06880” reader Alexis Donnerstag remembered the drive. She asked how she could contribute again. I hadn’t heard anything from the school. But I sent her a link to their website.
Within a couple of hours, Benji Labrador called. He’s the school security officer. He said the woman who handled the drive last year is gone. He’s in charge, but did not know about the “06880” connection.
Now he does. And so do you.
Anyone can order gifts online — at Amazon, for example — and have them shipped to Benji at the school: 606 Howard Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606. Click here for a direct link to Amazon’s Cesar Batalla page. You can drop gifts off at Vincent Palumbo Salon (616 Post Road East) — or directly at the school too.
For more information, email email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, closer to home, there’s a tree lighting — plus hot chocolate, s’mores and sliders — at the Riverside Avenue plaza (between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk) this Sunday (December 3, 4:30 to 7 p.m.) Santa arrives at 5:15 p.m.
The Gault family invites everyone to come. But they hope you’ll bring an unwrapped toy for a child age 10 or under. All gifts will be donated to Al’s Angels.
Who are they? Well — in addition to providing holiday joy for countless kids in the area — they’re the volunteers who light the William Cribari Bridge, just a couple of yards away from the plaza.
Now we know the holiday season is really here.
The lights are lit on the William Cribari Bridge.
Al’s Angels’ gift to Westport won’t make the traffic flow more smoothly over the Saugatuck River. In fact, this time of year it’s heavier than ever.
But if you’re going to be stuck there, it’s a beautiful place to be.
…the Minute Man Monument, decked out in a Santa cap …
… and the William Cribari/Bridge Street bridge, decked out in Al’s Angels lights:
Pete Romano is a legend.
The native Westporter has followed his parents — PJ and Joan — as an avid supporter of everything every local kid does. He’s now one of the prime movers behind Al’s Angels, touching youngsters and their families in extra-special ways.
He’s helped build his company — Landtech — into a well respected civil engineering and environmental consulting firm.
Pete was a driving force behind the long-running, very popular Festival Italiano, and now he’s a leader in the redevelopment of Saugatuck.
But — in the same way Paul Newman is known to a new generation as a food purveyor rather than a movie star — many Westporters know Pete only as an owner of Saugatuck Sweets, the riverfront ice cream-and-candy shop that will be remembered fondly years from now by every kid growing up today in town.
So it’s fitting that Saugatuck Sweets is the site this Saturday (August 8) of Westport’s celebration of Pete’s 60th birthday.
The festivities go on all day. At 2 pm, First Selectman Jim Marpe will present an official town proclamation.
At 7 p.m. there’s a concert with Silver Steel at 96 Franklin Street, near Luciano Park. There’ll be ice cream, zeppoles and soft drinks, plus a chance to “touch a fire truck” from the Saugatuck station.
The event would have been held at the plaza Pete helped create next to Saugatuck Sweets. A noise complaint earlier this summer shut that concert series down.
But Pete and his pals are problem solvers. Their creative solutions have helped make Westport a better place for — well, in Pete’s case, 60 years.
Happy birthday, Pete! See you in Saugatuck on Saturday!
Just over a decade ago — a few days after his 10th birthday — Aaron Gaberman was diagnosed with 2 rare and aggressive brain tumors.
His life suddenly became a blur of doctor visits, spinal taps, blood tranfusions, surgeries and long stays in the ICU.
But he never gave up. Thanks to indefatigable courage, a strong will to succeed, and the loving support of family, friends and community members, Aaron forged on. He played baseball, golf and the violin, while becoming an excellent student, good friend, leader and inspiration.
Aaron was the 3rd patient in the US to participate in a new clinical trial. The results were good — but 3 years later a routine MRI revealed a growth behind his right eye. It was removed in a lengthy procedure, and Aaron persevered with his quiet resolve and unflagging determination.
In December 2013, after his 1st semester at Marist College, another regular MRI detected a spinal nerve tumor. Once again, Aaron endured lengthy surgery. Despite pain and loss of mobility, he made the dean’s list.
But the tumor grew back aggressively. Another operation was successful. Through lengthy physical therapy sessions and conditioning workouts, Aaron grows stronger every day.
To pay forward the many kindnesses he’s received, Aaron and his family joined Al’s Angels. The Westport-based non-profit provides assistance to children and families suffering hardship due to life-threatening illnesses or poverty.
In founder Al DiGuido, they saw a true “angel” whose organization provides hope to many. They were particularly impressed that after an exhausting trip home from the hospital, Al’s Angels surprised them with a Thanksgiving dinner. Now, they help prepare holiday food baskets for others.
Al’s Angels depends on the generosity of local residents. This month, we’ve all got some clever — and fun — ways to help.
On Saturday, June 6 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), over 100 lemonade stands will pop up in front of stores, and in residential neighborhoods, throughout Fairfield County.
The “Angel-ade” stands will include lemonade products donated by Newman’s own, and cookies from ShopRite and Westport-based Nothin’ But.
In addition, dozens of national retailers and local merchants — including
Bartaco, Castle Wine, Coffee An’, Downunder, Edge Fitness, Fetzer Tire, Freshii, Garelick & Herbs, JoyRide, Saugatuck Rowing Club, Saugatuck Sweets, SoNo Baking Company, SoulCycle, Splatterbox, Stiles Market, Vespa, Viva Zapata, Westport Hardware, Westport Wash & Wax and the Westport Family YMCA — are donating products or retail space for each stand.
Throughout June too, more than 25 Connecticut bars and restaurants will offer “Angel-ade cocktails.” They’ll donate $2 per cocktail to Al’s Angels. Local sites include Blue Lemon, Bobby Q’s and Spotted Horse.
Kids have done the toughest things: persevering through horrible illnesses. Al’s Angels have done the next hardest: helping them.
Now all you have to do is buy some lemonade, or a cocktail.
Life is really not that rough.