Tag Archives: Cesar Batalla School

To Cesar Batalla School, With Love

If you’re like me, you spend time sitting in Riverside Avenue traffic wondering what goes on behind those mysterious windows above Arezzo restaurant.

bonnie-marcus-logoTurns out it’s a design studio, home to the Bonnie Marcus Collection. Launched by Diane von Furstenberg’s former right-hand woman, it’s where 10 very talented people — all local moms — create illustrations for bridal shower, wedding and party invitations; greeting cards; calendars and more.

Bonnie has developed licensing deals with some of the biggest companies in the world. Her designs are found in more than 50,000 retail and online stores.

But today her studio concentrates on one school, in nearby  Bridgeport.

Bonnie’s cards often feature hand-painted sparkles. So Westporter Nicole Straight — who volunteers at the Cesar Batalla School, and is a big fan of Bonnie Marcus Collections — came up with an idea: Give every student there a chance to make a sparkling Valentine’s Day card for someone special.

Westport middle school student Sydney Gusick helped package goodies at the Bonnie Marcus design studio.

Westport middle school student Sydney Gusick helped package goodies at the Bonnie Marcus design studio.

It could be a parent, sibling, teacher or friend. The key is for kids to have fun making their own cards.

Today, Nicole is delivered 1,200 sparkle pens to the school.

Plus Valentine’s gifts for each teacher: A calendar, filled with color and creativity, for every classroom.

Bonnie and the rest of her team enjoyed plenty of smiling faces at Cesar Batalla today.

Who knows? They may find a future designer there too.

(Hat tip: Robin Gusick)

Making a valentine, today at Cesar Batalla School.

Making a valentine, today at Cesar Batalla School.

 

A Very Merry Bridgeport Christmas

It started with a small request.

Kathy Mahieu — a Westporter who teaches in a Bridgeport elementary school — asked if I could write about the differences between our school district and theirs. I had a better idea: I’d post her 1st-person account. Her words would be far more meaningful than mine.

A Tale of 2 School Districts” provoked a powerful response. Dozens of commenters offered thoughts. Many wondered what they could do to help.

The answer: Plenty. And here’s where this story really gets good.

Catherine Walsh called Kathy, and provided cartons of paper for the Read School. That simple gesture solved an enormous need.

Simultaneously, Jimeale Hede and Carolyn Russo got involved. Using Facebook, they installed “room moms” in every pre-K through 3rd grade classroom. The women published wish lists on their grassroots Brighter Lives for Kids Foundation website. Classroom supplies poured in.

Kathy Mathieu in her Bridgeport classroom. Very few teachers have whiteboards.

Kathy Mathieu in her Bridgeport classroom. Very few teachers have whiteboards.

In just one week this month, over $71,000 was raised. Much of that came from a Cushman & Wakefield fundraiser. The money will pay for the purchase of 90 Chromebooks with educational programs, as well as field trips and a soccer program.

“06880” readers — and others in an ever-widening circle — volunteered to address other needs. Teachers are identifying students who need shoes or a backpack, for example, as well as requesting items like rugs, headphones and books for their classrooms.

Help is on the way Cesar Batalla Elementary School too.

Read Elementary School

Read Elementary School

Watching the generosity unfold brought Catherine to tears. Westport and surrounding communities rallied around the needy school. Importantly, she says, they’ve “committed themselves long-term” to aiding these children and their families.

One of the Westporters who helped with Pamela Long. She heard about a toy drive for the Cesar Batalla and Read Schools. She bought some, but was chagrined to learn that donations were slow.

She asked “06880” for help. Again, I was happy to help. Again too, I asked for the story in her own words.

Pamela was eloquent. “These kids are in desperate situations — the highest poverty brackets, shelters, you name it. 100% of these children are fed breakfast and lunch at school,” she wrote. “Their families have no money for basic necessities — let alone holiday gifts.

“Westport:  We can do better. Every child deserves the joy of opening a gift this season. We’ve got 4 more days to come together as a community and show our compassion, by helping those who do not have our good fortune. Open your hearts and your wallets — and get shopping!”

Westporters — and readers far and wide — responded instantly. Taking advantage of an Amazon link — and thanks to a generation donation from locally based/internationally known toymakers Melissa & Doug — they blew past the goal.

Plenty of people also helped with the logistics: wrapping, transporting, and making the toy magic happen.

Some of the presents that poured in to the Read and Cesar Batalla Elementary Schools.

Some of the holiday gifts that poured in to the Read and Cesar Batalla Elementary Schools.

So — when it’s almost time for boys and girls all over America to enjoy the wonder of Santa Claus — let’s pause to thank the men and women (and kids) of our “06880” community (real and virtual) who helped bring smiles to kids a few miles away.

And let’s vow to keep helping the boys and girls of Bridgeport every day in the coming year.

Urgent Plea For Bridgeport Holiday Help

Alert — and caring — “06880” reader Pamela Long writes: 

Maybe it’s the holidays. But I feel like I’ve had more and more conversations lately about raising generous, compassionate kids.

This is something I worry about in an affluent community with valet parking on Main Street, designer Christmas trees and shopping lists that include a trip to Tiffany are commonplace. Westport has tremendous charm. But it’s not how the rest of the world lives — though it’s likely the only world our children know.

I grew up in a very different place: a small town supported by a lumber mill. I made weekly trips to the secondhand grocery store to search through dented, unlabeled cans (Mom always found the peaches). We didn’t have much, but we always had enough to help a family (or 2 or 3) less fortunate than our.

“Adopting” families for the holidays became a tradition, one I looked forward to each year. As I raise my own daughter, it’s a tradition I’ve continued. It’s still my favorite part of the season.

You can be a Santa for kids who need you, just a few miles from here.

You can be a Santa for kids who need you, just a few miles from here.

So when I heard about a toy drive for the Cesar Batalla and Read Schools in Bridgeport, I quickly purchased more than I’m likely to admit to my husband. I assumed there would be an outpouring of support from many others.

Sadly, they’re falling very short on donations. The original goal was 1,000 toys for 1,000 kids. Now they just hope for 350.

These kids are in desperate situations — the highest poverty brackets, shelters, you name it. 100% of these children are fed breakfast and lunch at school. Their families have no money for basic necessities — let alone holiday gifts.

Westport:  We can do better. Every child deserves the joy of opening a gift this season. We’ve got 4 more days to come together as a community and show our compassion, by helping those who do not have our good fortune. Open your hearts and your wallets — and get shopping!

Your kids can add others to their shopping list.

Your kids can add others to their shopping list.

All toys (unwrapped, for 4-9-year-olds) must be dropped off by December 18, so time is of the essence.

Dropoff locations:

  • Green Moon Art Studio: 170 Post Road West, Westport
  • Kidville: 1572 Post Road East, Westport
  • Vincent Palumbo Hair Salon: 616 Post Rd East, Westport
  • Fairfield County Orthodontics: 1275 Post Road, Fairfield (located in Brick Walk)
  • Hair Clinic Fairfield: 427 Stilton Road, Fairfield

But you don’t even have to leave your house! Click below for links to Amazon. They’ll ship toys directly to the schools.  They start at just $4 each:
Read School
Cesar Batalla School 

You can use this as an opportunity to get your own kids involved. Have them help decide the gifts they want to give. They know best what kinds of toys will elicit squeals of joy. It’s a great way for them to practice kindness in a way that’s both meaningful and tangible.

You can’t take it with you, folks. Give generously this season. I guarantee you will be the one receiving the gift!