Tag Archives: CLASP Homes

Art For All This Month

For over a century, Westport has been known as an arts community.

While our focus is often on noted artists, art comes in many forms. So does “community.”

Two upcoming events honor art of different types — and the concept of community.

A free “HeARTS Open Wide” gala on Thursday, May 17 (5 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club) celebrates the work of budding artists from CLASP Homes, Project Return and Homes With Hope.

Those local organizations support adults with disabilities, teenage girls and young women in crisis, and homeless families — populations that may not seem to have time for art, but for whom it can be a life-changing form of expression.

The Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society will also be represented at the gala.

The event is the first-ever art show for the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.

Senator Richard Blumenthal is scheduled to present 3 DFCAC scholarships at the gala, in partnership with the WAC and Westport Woman’s Club. Staples High School seniors Lilianna Giaume, Katelyn Loucas and Zoe Molina each earned a $5,000 award.

The evening also includes the introduction of the $1 million DFCAC Fund. Over the next 10 years, it will support art programs and scholarships for underserved artists of all ages.

Miggs Burroughs — a noted artist DFCAC board member — has matched local organizations with art instructors from the Westport Arts Collective. That jump-started the foundation’s mission: reaching budding artists who may otherwise not have access to supplies and education.

There will be music too, from the incomparable Suzanne Tanner — and of course food. Friedman and Nick Visconti — chair of the DFCAC, and Friedman’s longtime business partner — owned local restaurants.

Nick Visconti (front row, middle) and Miggs Burroughs (back row, middle) with some of the art students helped by the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.

CLASP Homes and Project Return are also beneficiaries of a portion of sales at 2 pop-up gallery shows. They’re set for 153 Post Road East — the building opposite Design Within Reach (old post office), between Westport Pizzeria and Finalmente/Jeera Thai.

Over 30 artists will be featured from May 10 to June 3. There are 2 receptions, with food and music: Saturday, May 12 (4 to 6 p.m.), and Sunday, May 27 (6 to 8 p.m.).

The pop-up shows are directed by artists Amy Kaplan and Trace Burroughs. Their goal is to “connect the community, and energize downtown Westport through art.”

The 1st (May 10-22) includes Kaplan and Burroughs, plus Kat Evans, Miggs Burroughs, Irene Penny, Nina Bentley and others.

Amy Kaplan’s “Dreamweave.”

The 2nd show (May 24-June 3) includes Noah Steinman, Dan Long, Katherine Ross, Charles Douthalt, Melissa Newman, Diane Pollack and more.

There’s plenty of art for Westport this month. After all these years, we are still very much an arts community.

CLASP Serves Up A Tasteful Event

Many Westporters know Chris.

He arrived at CLASP 30 years ago. At 20 years old, with a developmental disability, he was shy and lacked confidence.

CLASP — the Westport-based organization that provides life skills training, homes and employment, so adults with autism and other developmental challenges become contributing, respected community members — helped Chris gain social skills, overcome shyness, and become one of the first residents of the Kings Highway group home. (There are now a dozen more — and an apartment program.)

Chris got a job at Food Emporium, collecting carts. When Whole Foods replaced that store, he made the transition. He’s been promoted several times. Today, he helps in all departments.

Shoppers know him. They look for him, and stop to chat.

Chris enjoys himself at a CLASP event.

In 1995 Chris moved into his own apartment. He learned to swim. Competing in Special Olympics, he won many medals.

Today he lives a very independent life. He works, swims, eats out, and stays current on political issues.

Being on his own was always his dream. With hard work, determination — and the support of CLASP — he made it come true.

CLASP is a low-key — and highly effective — organization. Though their work costs plenty of money, they seldom ask area residents for funds.

Once a year though, they do. In a very “tasteful” manner.

CLASP Homes’ A Taste of Westport brings 2 dozen restaurants to the Westport Inn. Westport’s own Amis, Garelick & Herbs, Harvest, Matsu Sushi, Pane e Bene, Pearl, Rive Bistro, Romanacci and Tarantino offer tastings. There’s dessert from Le Rouge, beverages from Black Bear Wine & Spirits and Greens Farms Spirit Shop, plus music by the great cover band Green Eyed Lady.

A silent auction includes tickets to the Jimmy Fallon Show, the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Yankees tickets, and a night at the Met opera.

Westport is filled with worthy fundraisers. If you’ve never been to this one, take a taste. You’ll clasp it to your heart forever.

(A Taste of Westport is this Thursday, May 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Westport Inn. Tickets are $75 by clicking here, $85 at the door. For more information, call Robin Hammond: 203-226-7895, ext. 144. Hat tip: Roy Fuchs)

 

What A Difference A Day Makes

Every day, Westporters make a difference.

Once a year, we draw attention to what we do, and how we do it.

The idea behind “Make a Difference Day” is not to pat ourselves on the back. It’s to encourage everyone to do something — anything — to make a difference.

That “day” is actually a week: October 17-25. So far, 42 projects have been submitted to organizers. Many were quickly filled. A few still need volunteers:

  • Fall clean-ups for Homes With Hope, CLASP and Caroline House.
  • 3 food drives at Super Stop & Shop: help man tables at the store.
  • The Gillespie Center needs rooms painted.
  • The Senior Center has drop-in projects (Saturday, October 24, 9:30-11:30 a.m.): assemble toiletry bags for homeless men, comfort bags for abused women, and arts and crafts kits for children in need.

Other projects can be found at www.westport-makeadifday.org. You can submit projects there too. For more information, email makeadif@aol.com.

Make a Difference Day

CLASP Offers A True Taste Of Westport

The 10th annual “Taste of Westport” is Thursday, May 1 (6-9 p.m., Westport Inn).

Taste of WestportMost of us have seen the signs and publicity. We’ve heard of the fantastic samplings and tastings from over 2 dozen restaurants and distributors, including Blue Lemon, Bobby Q’s, DaPietro’s, Green’s Farms Spirit Shop, Little Barn, Matsu Sushi, Pane e Bene, Post 154, Rizzuto’s, Spotted Horse and Tarantino.

We realize it’s one of our town’s most popular fundraisers. But most of us know very little about the organization Taste of Westport supports: CLASP Homes.

A true hidden gem, CLASP provides group homes for local residents with autism and other intellectual disabilities. Since 1982, the non-profit has housed hundreds of people — our neighbors — who need a bit of extra help to get along.

This year’s Taste of Westport honors Tracy Flood. The native Westporter joined CLASP just 2 years after it began. Her many fans will celebrate her 3 decades of service on Thursday.

Martha is a resident of one of the CLASP Homes. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Martha is a resident of one of the CLASP Homes. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

But CLASP — and Taste of Westport — is not really about its incredible staff and volunteers. It’s about people like Neal.

Neal — who has an intellectual disability — was born in Westport, into a large and loving family. Tracy is a few years older than Neal, but  throughout the 1960s and ’70s they walked  the same streets around town.

Neal — the youngest of 6 kids — was always out with his siblings or his dad, who made sure to include Neal in everything everyone else did. He and Tracy both played in the Compo Beach sand, ran through the Staples halls and hung out at the Ice Cream Parlor.

By the mid-1980’s Tracy was a CLASP house manager, and Neal’s family took the big step moving him into a group home. It was not the one Tracy led, but she got to know Neal’s dad. Whenever anyone needed a volunteer, a worker or friend, he was there.

Years passed. Neal’s siblings moved away. His mom died. But Neal and his dad still went out for bagels every Sunday morning. Neal insisted on paying. It made them both very proud.

CLASP logoThen his father was diagnosed with cancer. It spread rapidly. Neal did what he could for his dad. When asked what CLASP could do, the father said, “Pray, and take care of Neal.” He wanted to know that his son would be taken care of. He wanted to die in peace.

That was years ago. But Neal is still with CLASP. The organization has given peace to Neal’s family — the same thing they’ve done for over 3o years, for countless local families.

Yet CLASP can’t do it alone. The Taste of Westport is one way they raise awareness — and funds.

There are plenty of places to have dinner this Thursday. But only one will give you a true — and wonderful — taste of Westport.

(For tickets to the Taste of Westport — and more information about CLASP — click here.)

Matt is also a CLASP Homes resident. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Matt is also a CLASP Homes resident. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

If You Build It,They Will Come To The Maker Faire

Last September, Mark Mathias took his kids to the New York Maker Faire. The event — an exhibition/showcase/festival where techies, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, musicians, engineers, artists, students and anyone else entertains, informs and connects with kindred spirits of all ages and backgrounds — inspired the entire family.

Mark’s son was especially impressed with the marshmallow shooter, made from PVC pipe.

Three months later, for his 7th birthday, he and his friends build a similar contraption. “They learned about plumbing, projectiles and air flow,” Mark says. “And they had fun.”

Alan Winick will exhibit his personal submersible yellow submarine at the Maker Faire. Eight feet long and 2300 pounds, it has gone 120 feet deep in Long Island Sound.

On Saturday, April 28 the Maker Faire comes to Westport. The 1st event of its kind in Connecticut, it will fill the Westport Library and Jesup Green with contraptions, crafts, art, engineering, food, music, robots, rockets, magicians, jugglers, and whatever the cat drags in.

Over 50 exhibitors will provide demonstrations, hands-on-workshops and do-it-yourself resources. Anyone and everyone is invited to make, build, design, hack, eat, drink, listen, create and play.

The Maker Faire has already inspired a number of people. When Mathias asked the library for use of the McManus Room, Bill Derry — assistant director for innovation and user experience (!) — did more. He offered the Great Hall and Children’s Library too.

Westport Sunrise Rotary provided seed money. The Downtown Merchants Association will sponsor a “Battle of the Homemade Bands.” (That’s right: make your own instruments. You’ll be judged on creativity, tonal quality — and fun.)

A Rube Goldberg Competition begins with a pile of stuff (maybe a lawn chair, tubes, marbles — whatever the aforementioned cat drags in). Participants then construct a contraption in true Goldberg fashion.

You could call Westport’s Maker Faire a celebration of invention, creativity and resourcefulness.

Or you could just call it “way cool.”

(The free Westport Mini Maker Faire is set for Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Library and Jesup Green. All are welcome. For more information, email royfuchs@snet.net or call 203-856-4321. The deadline to apply as an exhibiting “Maker” is April 1; click here for a form. In honor of their 30th anniversary, CLASP Homes is a co-presenter.)

Mike Ogrinz is a longtime robot builder. The one on the left was constructed with cardboard and tin foil. His B9 robot (right, from "Lost in Space") will be on display at the Westport Maker Faire.