Tag Archives: Bridgeport Rescue Mission

A Farmers’ Market Tale

Today, the Westport Farmers’ Market begins its 12th season.

Its growth — from tentative beginnings in the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot, to a vibrant, beloved and very popular Imperial Avenue Thursday tradition — is remarkable.

A typical scene at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Every shopper, farmer and vendor has their own story about what the Market means to them.

But none is more remarkable than this.

Each week, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission selects men to pick up extra food. They bring the produce, bread and more back to the center, where chefs make meals. They also offer recipes to folks who pick up the food that’s not cooked.

The honor to be selected to gather the goods is reserved for men who are winning their battles against alcohol or drug addiction.

Two helpers from the Bridgeport Rescue Mission pick up produce at the Westport Farmers’ Market. (Photo courtesy of CTBites.com)

“These guys are great,” says WFM director Lori Cochran-Dougall. “We get to know them well. They’re so supportive of our staff and the vendors. They stay, they help us break down the tents, they do so much for us.”

Last year, one man came every Thursday. He was excited about graduating from the Rescue Mission. But he worried he might not find a job.

At the end of the market season last November, he still did not have one. Cochran contacted a few area restaurants.

One hired him. But she didn’t know it …

… until a couple of weeks ago, when she and her husband went out for dinner at a Barcelona group restaurant.

The man approached her. He told her he was working there.

He added that he goes to church every Sunday. He has his own apartment.

And he got married.

Joyfully, he showed her pictures of his new life.

As Cochran left, the restaurant manager pulled her aside.

“All he keeps saying,” the manager said, “is that the Farmers’ Market gave him hope things would work out.”

A Very Humane Story

The Westport Humane Society has taken some hits lately — right here on “06880.”

So it’s nice to hear this story from alert reader Lori Cochran, director of the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Lori also volunteers at the Humane Society.  Staff members there know the Market collects food for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and Westport Gillespie Center.

Last week, a Humane Society staffer named Mindy pointed out the Humane Society’s 2 raised beds, used to grow vegetables and herbs to feed rabbits.

Mindy wondered if the Humane Society could harvest them for donation to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission at the Thursday Farmers’ Market.

Could they?  Of course!

“How cool, right?” Lori writes.

“At a time when every non-profit is looking inward at how they will survive, the Humane Society thought about how it can help others.  To me, that is the definition of community.”

And, Lori notes, there are no rabbits at the shelter now.  So no bunnies were harmed in the making of this donation.

Farmers’ Market Comes In From The Cold

If the term “farmers’ market” conjures up images of outdoor tables laden with fresh tomatoes and corn, you haven’t paid attention to the local sustainable food movement.

It’s year-round now.  And even that summertime staple, the Westport Farmers’ Market, is going 24/7/365.  Or at least 3/1/365.

They’ve teamed up with Gilbertie’s Herb Garden to provide “the hottest winter farmers’ market around” (ho ho ho).  Starting this Thursday (Dec. 9), and continuing every week through March 31, the Farmers’ Market will be open at 7 Sylvan Lane.  Hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

It wouldn’t be a farmers’ market — at least not in Westport — without organic vegetables, greenhouse greens, eggs, milk, indoor plants, tamales (of course), wood-fired pizza (ditto), cheese, baked goods, pork, chicken, lamb, beef, gluten-free options, raw food choices, and more.

More than 25 vendors have signed on — and so have “this area’s hottest chefs.”  Boxcar Cantina, the Dressing Room, Fat Cat Pie, Le Farm, Schoolhouse and Skinny Pines will provide lunch items, and prepared food to bring home.

Those chefs were not chosen randomly.  All provide local, healthy, environmental and sustainable food in their restaurants.

The Farmers’ Market will also feature a lecture, short class or tour.  Topics range from making a holiday wreath to determining the best soil for your plant.

As it does during the summer, the Westport Farmers’ Market will donate food to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.  “Chef Paul” will prepare weekly meals, and offer a shopping day for those in need with donated goods.  Anyone attending the Market can donate too.

So, the weather outside may be frightful.  But let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.  You can still get your organic veggies, greenhouse greens and Farmers’ Market tamales right here in Westport, all winter long.

Farmers’ Market To The Rescue

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission feeds 40,000 people a month.  To the working poor, homeless and chemically dependent people who stream through its doors, the mission is literally a life-saver.

40,000 people need a lot of food.  Most of it is donated by area churches, community group and individuals.

One very important partner is the Westport Farmers’ Market.

According to the CTbites blog, Farmers’ Market manager Lori Cochran Dougall searched for a long time for a Fairfield County shelter that would accept vendors’ unsold produce at the end of the day.  But issues ranging from potential food spoilage to funding restrictions prevented her from helping.

Chef Paul Byron. (Photo courtesy of CTBites.com)

Finally, someone referred her to chef Paul Byron of the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.  He immediately sent a truck, with 2 residents, to Westport for a Thursday 2 p.m. pickup.

Word spread at the Farmers’ Market.  The 2 p.m. pickup is now a regular event.

The impact of Westport’s weekly donation of fresh produce is enormous.  CTbites quotes mission executive cirector Reverend Terry Wilcox:

Because we prepare and serve food  every day, spoilage is not an issue.  Chef Paul’s passion to feed the hungry allows him to take all of the food in.  He puts it all to good use.  With only 50% of kids in Bridgeport graduating from high school, better nutrition through fresh food is vital to their growing and being able to learn.

Thanks to the Westport Farmers’ Market, at 3 p.m. each Thursday — just 1 hour after the food has been picked up — fresh produce is available to anyone stopping by the mission.  It’s displayed on long dining tables; guests select as many fresh fruits and vegetables as they can fit in 1 grocery bag.

Cochran Dougall’s impact on the Bridgeport Rescue Mission extends far beyond the produce donation.  She recently helped secure a $70,000 grant from a couple in Jackson Hole.

Cochran Dougall told CTbites:

My husband and I attended a a 70th birthday celebration  in honor of our good friend, Foster Friess.  In lieu of gifts, he requested that each guest propose an organization that would benefit from a $70,000 donation.  We made our case for why the Bridgeport Mission needed these funds so desperately.  We fully expected him to choose one recipient.  Instead, he awarded each of the proposed organizations the same generous amount!

Two helpers from the Bridgeport Rescue Mission pick up produce at the Westport Farmers' Market. (Photo courtesy of CTBites.com)

The mission returns the favor.  According to Cochran Dougall,  one Thursday the weather suddenly turned wildly windy and rainy.  Two men who make regular pickup runs stayed with her until all of the vendors’ tents were dismantled.

They didn’t want her to be alone.

Thanks to Cochran Dougall and the Westport Farmers’ Market, thousands of men, women and children in Bridgeport are not alone — and hungry — either.

(The Westport Farmers’ Market runs every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through November 18.  It’s located at the Imperial Avenue parking lot, near the Westport Woman’s Club.)