Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Art From The Hearts Helps Heal

Not long ago Claudia Mengel heard about a doctor, working long hours and many days in the ICU. One night she took off her mask, and announced she was going home to do something that would lift her spirits: She would buy a beautiful piece of art.

The story resonated with Mengel, a Westport artist. Her daughter Rebecca Allinder — a 2005 Staples High School graduate — now works as an ICU nurse at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Mengel asked if her co-workers wanted a gift of art. Rebecca’s enthusiastic response sparked something larger: a campaign called “Art from the Hearts.”

Mengel asked more than a dozen artist friends if they could donate some of their work. That snowballed to 40 artists, who gave multiple pieces. Their gifts raised the spirits of more than 150 frontline healthcare workers.

Artwork from Julia Headland ,,,

Emily Laux was not surprised at the response. One of 8 Westport artists who contributed, she says, “as artists, we cannot take away the stress of these workers. We can’t give them a good night’s sleep or a comforting hug. But we can give them art that will bring some joy into their homes.”

… and Rebecca Swanson.

Besides Laux and Mengel, other Westport artists involved in the project are Jeanine Esposito, Jen Greely, Julie Headland, Cecilia Moy Fradet, Steve Parton and Rebecca Swanson.

Mengel and Allinder brought the dozens of works to New Jersey. The hospital’s ICU break room was set up as a temporary art gallery. Using a lottery, the nurses and their colleagues each selected a piece of art for their homes.

Rebecca Allinder (3rd from left) and her colleagues at St. Peter’s University Hospital.

Each also got a bonus. Every artist wrote a personal note accompanying their work, thanking the healthcare worker receiving it.

Rebecca says that when word of the project spread through the hospital, the break room turned into a show. Personnel from other departments told her that taking a break from their busy day to look at art was peaceful and calming.

Her ICU colleagues, meanwhile, still talk about the piece of art that they took home, where they hung it, and how much they enjoy it. The personalized thank- you notes brought many to tears.

“It is an honor to do what we do as nurses for our community,” Rebecca says. “But reading the notes made us feel special and appreciated.”

Rebecca Allinder and Claudi Mengel, ready to head from Westport to New Jersey with art.

Her mother quotes William Wordsworth: “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” She meant the frontline medical personnel.

But those little acts of kindness apply to the artists as well. And — thanks to their talent and generosity — those acts will be remembered every time a man or woman arrives home from a long, awful hospital shift.

(Hat tip: Diane Johnson)

Y Reopens June 22. Very, Very Slowly.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA will reopen Monday, June 22.

But don’t expect to waltz right in, socialize, work out, and hang out. In an email sent this evening to members, CEO Pat Riemersma described a “gradual reopening with modified access to facility amenities.”

Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. That provides access to the Wellness Center (cardio, strength and free weights); indoor and outdoor pools, plus group fitness classes and personal training (inside and outside). Reservations are required for the entire facility.

During the next phase (date TBA), there will be a limited Kids Club, limited lobby seating, and additional classes.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA has been shut since March 12.

What’s not available? The locker rooms (restroom use only), showers, steam rooms, saunas, water fountains, cafe, as well as yoga mats, stretch bands and other rubberized equipment (though members can bring their own).

All members will be required to sign a waiver before using the facility. They will also have their temperature checked, and be asked screening questions.

Members must bring and wear masks or cloth face coverings, unless precluded by a medical condition. Members do not need to wear a mask while engaged in physical activity — if 12 feet of distance can be maintained. Members much clean all equipment before and after use.

If you’re a glass-half-empty person, you see a lot of restrictions. If you see the glass as half-full — or miss your pool, treadmill, instructor or Y friends, or are worried about an expanding waistline or disappearing muscle tone — you take whatever good news you can get.

(For more information on the Westport Weston Family Y, click here.)

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Unsung Heroes #149

Alert — and impressed — “06880” reader Melissa Waters writes:

Heroes come in varying degrees of nobility, courage and honor.

Though perhaps not “heroes” in the true definition of the word, as we near the end of the school year I’d like to nominate each and every one of the children in Westport.

They learned online since mid-March. Yet not only did these kids navigate a new way of education; they also learned a new way to navigate friendships, club activities, music lessons, and so much more.

Staples’ High School’s “We the People” team prepared for their national competition via Zoom. And they prepared well: They finished 5th in the US!

We asked them to pivot – and pivot quickly – to a “temporary” normal. So much of their daily life – and daily happiness – was canceled: play dates, sports, theater shows, field days, proms, moving up and graduation ceremonies, and more.

While I don’t know every kid in town, and it hasn’t been easy for some I’m sure, I’m guessing they all, in their own way, rose to the challenge and did the very best they could during this crazy time. I know I couldn’t have done what they’ve done.

So to all you students – especially our high school seniors – kudos!

Thank you for all the card games, the dishes you put into the dishwasher, the extra dog walks, the crazy hair lengths, your morning smiles, your evening silliness, and the hard work you’ve done online and as part of your families.

Now it’s time for you to enjoy the summer!

This would be a welcome sight.

Roundup: Re-opening Phase 2; Epidemiology; Lifeguards; Hemp; More

Phase 1 of reopening Connecticut is underway. So far, so good. 

Next Wednesday (June 17), Phase 2 begins.

Restaurants, libraries, sports and fitness facilities, hotels, museums, zoos, aquariums, indoor recreation centers personal services and “outdoor events” will now be allowed to open.

Of course, that does not mean all will. “06880” will report on local re-openings as we hear of them (send info to dwoog@optonline.net).

For details on what Phase 2 means around the state, click here.

When the Westport Library reopens, it won’t be with scenes like this.

On Thursday, Tallula Goldberg graduates from Staples High School. This fall she heads to the University of Rochester, to study epidemiology.

It’s not a new interest. This fall — long before anyone heard of the coronavirus — she created an Independent Learning Experience (self-directed course) on the topic.

For her final project, she wrote a children’s book. It breaks down the key aspects of public health and epidemiology in a way kids 10 and older can understand.

Though not specific to COVID-19, it provides an explanation of how diseases are spread, and suggestions to keep safe. Tallula is sharing it now, “in hopes of making sense of the crazy world we live in.”

Click here — then learn!

The weather is warm. Gatherings of 25 are now permitted. If you’ve got a pool, you’re pretty popular.

But as we come out of COVID, safety is still important. What to do? Contact WeLifeguard.com.

Run by 16-year-old Daria Maya — a certified open water lifeguard with Advanced Lifesaving, CPR and AED certifications — it’s a simple way to connect pool owners with guards.

Just click here to request a Red Cross Certified lifeguard, or swimming lessons. You set the rate directly with the guard. WeLifeguard does not profit from the service, and does not charge a fee. The goal is to keep everyone safe.

Everyone into the pool!

Daria Maya

Manna Toast opened the other day in Bedford Square. Now it’s joined by another new business.

Franny’s Farmacy grand opening is set for June 18, 19 and 20. Owner Griff Conti calls his store “a family-friendly destination for all things hemp.”

A Silvermine native with an entrepreneurial itch and a decade of experience as a recruiter in the oil, gas and cannabis industries, he originally planned to open Franny’s 8th franchise in Colorado. But the Church Lane location — across from Spotted Horse restaurant, near Savannah Bee Company — proved too hard to resist.

The “farm” in Franny’s Farmacy refers to its vertical integration: They cultivate, process, manufacture and distribute all their own goods.

They offer a diverse selection of CBD products, from CBD oils and edibles to smokable hemp flower, vape products and topicals. There’s a product line for pets too.

Franny’s is a full-service shop, with a dispensing bar, curbside pickup and delivery. Private appointments are available too. Click here for more information on the Westport store.

And finally … Spanky & Our Gang’s long-forgotten plea, from 1968:

Summer Camp: COVID Causes Closings

As a summer camp director, Jem Sollinger’s biggest concern is always safety: that of his 500 boys and girls from 2nd through 10th grade, and 300 staff members from around the world.

That usually means preventing accidents, patrolling the waterfront, and stifling colds and impetigo.

This year it meant confronting a global pandemic. And addressing scenarios, questions and fears he’d never considered in his lifelong association with Camp Laurel.

Sollinger — a 1988 Staples High School graduate and varsity soccer player at Union College — was a Laurel camper himself.

Now he and his wife Debbie run the Maine camp. It has a strong local presence. A few dozen Westport and Weston youngsters attend Laurel each year. The office in Brooks Corner has a staff of 6.

Jem and Debbie Sollinger

Sollinger is a staunch believer in the power of summer camp. It’s a place where “kids can be kids. They develop independence, try new things, take safe risks, learn to succeed, and build a sense of self.”

With its balance of athletics, arts, activities and travel opportunities, Laurel — and many other camps like it — offer young people a chance to grow, and a respite from the academic and social pressures they face the other 10 months of the year.

As idyllic as it is for campers, it’s a whirlwind for a director. After spending the off-season meeting new families, hiring staff, developing programs and dealing with issues like insurance and regulations, Sollinger and his staff spend 7 weeks entrusted with the care and safety of hundreds of campers (and young counselors).

“Even on the most wonderful, sunny summer day, there’s incredible pressure,” Sollinger says. “We plan as much as we can, all year long, for every kind of emergency and contingency. Our biggest concern is the physical and emotional safety of everyone at camp. Until we get every last kid on the bus, and home to their parents, everything else is secondary to that.”

On Thursday, March 12 — the day after Westport schools closed — Sollinger looked out his Brooks Corner window. The parking lot was empty. Main Street was abandoned. Still, he admits, he did not yet grasp the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis.

But as the rest of America shut down too — including Broadway, the NCAA basketball tournament and more — he realized there might be an impact on camp.

Sollinger’s brother and father-in-law are both pediatricians. They’re “non-alarmists,” the director says. But both told him: “This is serious.”

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said, “density is not our friend.” Summer camp, Sollinger knows, epitomizes communal living.

Safety is always a high priority. But camp, by nature, brings people close together.

As he spoke with his leadership team, directors of other camps, and officials with the American Camping Association, Sollinger understood how much was unknown about COVID-19.

And he wondered what those unknowns meant for this coming summer.

The CDC, ACA and state of Maine all had different interpretations of social distancing. But how could that happen at camp?

One suggestion was keeping campers in separate “pods,” with no intermingling. But Laurel thrives on all-camp traditions like campfires, theater productions and barbecues.

Campers from one bunk mix with others at electives. They take out-of-camp trips, and have sports competitions with other camps. Staff leave camp on days off; parents, grandparents and siblings arrive on Visiting Day.

Electives are an important part of a camp like Laurel.

There were perils all around.

“Kids can be less impacted than adults,” Sollinger says. “But what if there was an outbreak? We’d have to quarantine, with everyone having separate bathrooms. If we had to evacuate, how could we do that?”

He even considered his own social distancing. “I high-five kids when they come off the bus. I give hugs and fist bumps. We wouldn’t even be able to do that.”

Like many camp directors, Jem Sollinger is a hugger.

There were intangible issues too.

“We’ve developed wonderful relationships with families. It’s all built on trust,” the director notes.

“If we opened, they’d trust us. They’d say, ‘It’s okay. Laurel’s got it.’ But we didn’t have it. They would follow us, but I wasn’t sure where we were going.”

Sollinger and his team explored a variety of options, including a delayed opening, shortened season and “bubbles,” all accompanied by efficient, accurate testing. Nothing seemed realistic.

As spring wore on, “quarantine fever” kicked in across the country. “Everyone loves camp, wherever they and their kids go to camp,” Sollinger says. “As more and more programs and things got canceled, camp became the one thing everyone hung on to. Everyone wanted camp to continue.”

But, he adds, “wanting, hoping and needing is not a strategic plan. Camp needs to be safe.”

Camp Laurel is in rural Maine. But it’s not isolated from the real world.

On May 18, Sollinger and his wife sent an email to Laurel families. It began:

The decision whether to operate Camp Laurel this summer has been driven by finding a clear and realistic path to safety for our entire camp community. With the many unknowns related to COVID-19 and the operational restrictions established by the American Camp Association, we are unable to find this safe path.

With great sadness, we have decided to cancel the 2020 season.

We value tremendously the trust you have placed in us and our decision was dictated by a deep sense of responsibility. It’s the most difficult decision we’ve had to make as camp directors, and the idea of upsetting our camp family has been heart-wrenching.

The Sollingers gave families the option of rolling over their payment to 2021, or a full refund.

The reaction was very supportive. Sollinger calls it “a combination of disappointment, understanding, and compassion for Debbie and me.”

It’s been a strange spring for everyone. But the months ahead will feel especially strange to Sollinger. In his long camping career, he has never been in Westport in June.

He won’t be here long. Soon he, Debbie and their 3 daughters head north. They’ll spend the summer at Camp Laurel in Maine, with their leadership team.

Jem and Debbie Sollinger, and their daughters.

There’s a facility to take care of. There are social media photos and posts to send to families.

And a summer camp season — next year’s — to look forward to.

“We’ll weather the storm,” Sollinger promises. “And we’ll come back, stronger than ever.”

A Tribute To Staples’ Class Of 2020

I can’t imagine what it’s like being a Staples High School senior today.

This should have been such a memorable spring.

There should have been a prom, the High Honors and Scholar-Athlete dinners, Awards Night.

After 12 1/2 years of school there should have been the joy of winding down. There should have been days of congratulations from teachers on college acceptances, nights hanging with friends, weekends at the beach, on boats and by pools.

After 4 weeks of internships in real workplaces that help you feel confident for whatever lies ahead, you should have come together one final time as a class. You should have enjoyed a warm, loving baccalaureate ceremony in the auditorium, a hot but happy graduation in the fieldhouse, and an endless round of parties all over town.

Instead — randomly, instantly, through absolutely no fault of your own — you lost all that.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Some athletes lost a chance to play for a state championship; others lost a chance to play at all. Actors and tech crews lost an opportunity to present their final show, just hours before the opening curtain. Musicians lost the chance to shine, first in the auditorium, then in the Levitt Pavilion before a jam-packed townwide audience. The state champion “We the People” team lost the reward — and excitement — of traveling to Washington, DC for the national competition.

All of that is gone. In its place, you’ve spent nearly 3 months in a world no one recognizes. Everywhere you felt at home — Staples, athletic fields, Wakeman Town Farm, the library, restaurants, Earthplace, Starbucks — was shut.

It’s been quite a time for first-year Staples principal Stafford Thomas. On Thursday, he says goodbye to his first class of graduates.

The last place you wanted to be in your final months as a senior — home — was where you spent nearly all your time. Your teachers and classmates were reduced to boxes on a computer screen. Your friends became mere FaceTime faces.

You — the seniors of Staples High School — are collateral damage, in a pandemic you played no part in creating, but cannot escape.

And you never will. For the rest of your lives, the Class of 2020 will be known as “The COVID Class.”

You’ve got your caps and gowns — you picked them up recently alone, wearing masks and at a proper social distance. A few days from now, you’ll graduate  — coronavirus-style. Perhaps you’ll toss your mortarboard in the air, as your parents and siblings watch. It will be one final, poignant reminder of all that you’ve lost.

But my hat is off to you.

I don’t know how I would have reacted, if a crisis like this struck when I was at Staples. But I am sure I would not have shown the maturity, the grace, the compassion and the class that the Class of 2020 has shown.

When school closed on March 11 — and when the initial 2-week shutdown stretched to mid-April, then all the way through June — I feared what was to come.

I wondered how bitter the seniors would be. I braced for complaints large and small, justified and not. I prepared myself for the worst.

My bad. I’ve known you seniors for 4 years. I should have expected more.

You’ve been asked to make big sacrifices. You’re not in a high risk group for this disease, but you understand that staying safe is not just about you — it’s about your parents, grandparents, and those with health concerns you may or may not know about. You get it. Without complaint, you’ve made those sacrifices.

With the usual arts, sports and extra-curriculars gone, you turned to new activities. You made masks, ran errands for those who could not venture out, and donated food to the hungry. You collected supplies for the needy, raised funds for worthy causes, and made meals for frontline workers.

Helping out, at the Gillespie Center.

If you’re on WWPT, you kept your radio station going. If you’re in Staples Players, you put on a virtual show. If you’re in the “We the People” class, you redoubled your efforts (and finished 5th in the nation).

You not only adapted to “distance learning,” you helped your teachers help others. Then you warmed those teachers’ hearts, by thanking them often for all they did.

Forced to spend time with your siblings, you became role models — true big brothers and sisters — even more than you’d been before. You helped your parents too. Who knew you could cook, garden and paint houses so well?

With unexpected time on your hands, you filled it in ways that surprised even yourselves. You learned to play guitar, speak a new language, sew. You read actual books.

I’ve always been a supporter of Westport’s teenagers. I’ve seen far more of your good sides than bad. Over the years, I’ve tried to highlight your accomplishments. I don’t lack for stories.

For the past 3 months though, you — the senior class — have not acted like teenagers. You’ve acted like mature, responsible Westporters — great, wonderful, contributing members of our community. That why it’s especially sad we cannot give you the graduation ceremony you deserve.

In fact, ever since the pandemic began you have given us something.

You’ve given us hope.

The world is a mess right now. Our country is even messier. We need you — the Class of 2020 — desperately.

As you move into an uncertain future, please keep doing what you’ve already done so well. Please look outside yourselves. Please lend a hand to anyone — next door, in your neighborhood, anywhere in Westport or Connecticut or the country or planet — who needs it. Please use your brains and talents and hearts to clean up the mess we’ve given you.

The Class of 2020 — the COVID Class — has already made history. Now you’ve got the rest of your lives to rewrite it.


Roundup: Art For Auction; The Future Of The Arts; Tavern On Main; Trader Joe’s; More

Olivia Macior graduated from Staples High School last June. For weeks, she waited for things to get back to normal. Now — in the wake of George Floyd’s murder — she wants something different: a “new normal.”

It’s “a normal where people of color don’t have to fear the very people who should be protecting them; where education is equitable; where the criminal justice system is fair and lawful, and racial injustice does not plague every aspect of our lives.”

Inspired by the words of Angela Davis — “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” — she is using her considerable art talents to help.

Her powerful work is up for auction on Facebook, through June 21. 100% of the winning bid will go to Black Lives Matter. Click here; then message her with your bid, via Facebook or at ohmacior@gmail.com.

Not everyone agreed with yesterday’s Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Westport. This graffiti was seen this morning at the boarded-up Tiffany store:

(Photo/Marcy Sansolo)

Westporters in the know know: No one beats the Y’s Men for hosting insightful, thought-provoking speakers. Thursday’s — their first via Zoom — was typical: informative, wide-ranging, both global and local.

Andrew Wilk — executive producer and director of “Live From Lincoln Center” — moderated a discussion on the future of the Westport Country Playhouse, and arts in general, in the wake of COVID-19.

Panelists included Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos, general manager Michael Barker and actor Jake Robards.

The 30-minute chat ranged from the many issues impacting the Playhouse reopening — like safety, audience response and finances — to the importance of live performances. Click below to view:

As restaurants around Westport reopen, at least one will not.

An online auction is underway for many items at Tavern on Main: food service equipment, outdoor patio sets, decor and smallware.

It’s the end of the last sit-down, full-service restaurant on the main part of Main Street. It had a long run — and so did its predecessor, Chez Pierre.

No word yet on what — if anything — will replace it.

Nearly a dozen retailers are helping Home with Hope collect liquid dish detergent, all-purpose cleaners, soap, paper towels, sponges and sanitizing wipes. All donations go to families living in the organization’s supportive housing.

Hours are 10 a.m. 2 p.m. for all collections. There’s a box outside Restore Hyper Wellness (877 Post Road East) every day.

Other stores, with collection days:

  • Thursdays: ASF Sporting Goods (1560 Post Road East); UPS (606 Post Road East)
  • Fridays: West (117 Post Road East); Blow Dry (76 Church Lane)
  • Saturdays: Verizon (379 Post Road East); Fleet Feet (10 Sconset Square)
  • Sundays: The Granola Bar (275 Post Road East)
  • Mondays: Greenwich Medical Spa (645 Post Road East.)
  • Tuesdays: New England Hemp Farm (136 Main Street)
  • Wednesdays: Green + Tonic (17 Jesup Road)

Questions? Email westport@restore.com

How’s this for a way to treat the frontline workers we have been hailing as heroes?

Trader Joe’s had a picnic table at the back of their parking lot. It was a nice place for employees — sorry, “crew members” — to eat, or take a break.

The other night, it was stolen. (Hat tip: David Meth)

Eighth graders missed their “moving up” ceremony this year. But — thanks to the Bedford and Coleytown Middle School PTAs  — the 400-plus graduates are having their day in the sun.

Now, as you see these signs throughout Westport, you know who to thank.

Speaking of graduates, Margo Amgott writes:

“We’ve seen all the great signs celebrating Staples seniors. But there are others who are sheltering in Westport. We’ve long been weekenders, and after COVID now here we are!

“Could we do a shout-out to those transplanted seniors? The lovely people at Baker Graphics helped me make these for our daughter.” (The other sign — not shown — congratulates Molly for her acceptance at Trinity College.)

Great idea, Margo! Here’s too all Class of 202 grads! Wherever you went — and wherever you’re going — out town salutes you.

And speaking yet again of graduates …

St. Paul Christian School celebrated the end of the year with a drive-through closing celebration. Children received a diploma, yearbook and blessing from their teachers.

Tomorrow (Sunday, July 7, 5  p.m., Klein Memorial Auditorium, Bridgeport), a number of Westport congregations are participating in an “Interfaith Prayer for Racial Justice & Healing.” Masks are mandatory, and social distancing is enforced.

And finally … it’s hard to believe I haven’t posted this yet. I guess I was waiting for the exact right time.

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 12 Gallery

We’ve reached another milestone: Month 3 of our online art gallery.

For the past quarter of a year — yikes! — our readers have shared their remarkable creativity and spirit. Throughout the pandemic — and now, the latest social upheaval — you’ve sent us your work. Your many moods are reflected in your paintings, collages, sketches, photos, sculptures, cartoons and videos.

Please keep ’em coming. Professional, amateur, old, young — we want it all. Student submissions are particularly welcome!

The only rule: It must be inspired by, reflective of, or otherwise related to the times we’re going through. Email dwoog@optonline.net.

“COVID Studio Cleanup” (Nina Bentley)

“After the Pandemic” (Lawrence Weisman)

“Dead Man Walking: ‘I Can’t Breathe'” (Karen Weingarten)

“Are We Ready Yet?” (Robbie Sumberg)

“The Clown Puppet” (Werner Liepolt)

“Chaos” (Amy Schneider)

“The Trump Swamp” (Aimee Garn)

“To Hold You” (Charlie Taylor and Helen Steene)



COVID Roundup: ASF Helps Merchants; Half-Marathon; Sherwood Diner; Co-op Nursery School; More

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association and ASF are partnering to raise $10,000 for local businesses hit by COVID. They’re offering a unique Westport design, for hoodies, long-sleeve shirts, t-shirts and tank tops.

For each sale, $10 will be given to a WDMA-backed fund, and distributed ASAP.

But hurry — they’re only available through June 14!

Click here to order. (PS: They’ll ship anywhere!)

Ready for some exercise? Want to help frontline healthcare workers?

Thanks to Colby Kranz, you can do both.

The 2015 Staples High School graduate has designed a “Half Marathon from Home.” She posts a schedule that everyone follows, with playlists, daily tips and weekly motivational podcasts — but you choose the training routes (and final run, on July 25) that works best for you and your schedule.

Training has already begun, but anyone can jump in. When you do (click here), you’ve got the option to donate to NYC Health + Hospitals COVID-19 Relief efforts. The goal is $1,310 (because of the 13.1-mile final distance).

Colby — who has 6,000 Instagram followers, for her @livingpurely healthy recipe and lifestyle tips — says that dozens of people have already signed up for the half-marathon. They come from many different backgrounds. Some were training for a race that got canceled. Others have never run before.

All are welcome!

Colby Kranz is in national sales with iHeartMedia. During COVID, she’s working — and training — in Westport.

The latest restaurant to reopen — with new, socially distant outdoor tables — is the Sherwood Diner.

The menu is not as extensive as before. But the most popular items are all there. And 2 more umbrellas are coming soon.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

It’s not their biggest graduation of their lives. But every June, the Westport-Weston Co-op Nursery School celebrates its pre-K classes moving on to kindergarten next year with a a picnic on the Unitarian Church lawn, and an end-of-year video. Parents, grandparents and siblings join in.

For the first time in the school’s 65-year history, graduation was upended by a pandemic.

The videos were made by the Co-op’s Staples High School interns, and emailed to families. And instead of a picnic, there was a “car parade.”

But each youngster got a goody bag. There were “Co-op Class of 2020” t-shirts. And there were enough smiles all around to (almost) forget that there was a somber reason behind the new-style ceremony.

(Photo/Stacey Konowitz)

On April 8, Governor Lamont ordered all flags in Connecticut to fly at half-staff, mourning all the lives lost to COVID-19.

On May 19, he directed them all to return to full-staff.

The Westport Post Office has not yet gotten the message. The American and POW flags continue at half-staff.

Someone should write them a letter …

And finally … sing it, Sly!

COVID Roundup: Main Street Planters; Protest Info; Library Dropoff And Delivery; More

As Westport reopens, the Downtown Merchants Association swings into action.

They’re getting a great response from volunteers eager to help plant and care for 16 barrel planters the WDMA is putting on Main Street. That’s the first of many enhancements, making the area welcoming and inviting.

The WDMA also produced and donated 1,000 bags for the library to use for their curbside book pickups. The bags feature a link to the new Westport Marketplace, where people can find out where to shop and how.

Main Street planters

Yesterday, both the Town of Westport and Westport Police Department Facebook pages featured an announcement about “Truth & Reconciliation: A Conversation About Race and Policing.”

Set for tomorrow (Friday, June 5, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), it’s co-sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut, Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Click here to view.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a group of mostly young Westporters has organized another event.

A “Peaceful Against Police Brutality” is set for tomorrow (Friday, June 5, 1:30 p.m.) at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen (Post Road) bridge in downtown Westport.

Organizers says masks and social distancing are required.

Westport Unitarian Church director of social justice David Vita was at Sunday’s “Unite Against Racism” rally on Jesup Green.

He compiled this powerful 15-minute video about the event, held in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis police officer.

Usually, the award of a big scholarship is a big deal. COVID-19 has forced even those ceremonies onto Zoom. But Karen Jacobs made Tuesday’s event a great one anyway.

Her husband died of cancer 10 years ago, at 45 years old. Since then the Chad A. Jacobs Memorial Foundation has provided over $300,000 in academic and athletic scholarships throughout the area.

This year they created a new award, called Seize the Day. Recipients Charlie and Will Capalbo received $10,000 each.

Charlie — a graduate of Fairfield Ludlowe High School — battled 2 separate cancers. His brother Will — like Charlie, a hockey player — donated bone marrow for a transplant. They are the grandsons of Westport writer Ina Chadwick.

Friends, colleagues, teammates and relatives of Chad Jacobs were on the Zoom call. So was the Capalbo family. Karen asked them to step outside, onto their front lawn.

There, she and her children — Staples graduates Taylor and Mac — presented Charlie and Will with a traditional over-sized check. This fall, Charlie will be a sophomore at Fairfield University; Will is a sophomore at Albertus Magnus.

The coronavirus can’t keep a great ceremony down!

The Capalbo family (rear), and the Jacobs family (in front, with over-sized checks).

Beginning June 15th, the Westport Library will offer curbside pickup service for materials placed on hold, and homebound delivery for eligible Westport residents.

To prepare, books and other borrowed materials can be returned to the Annex in the upper parking lot, beginning Monday (June 8).  The Library is waiving overdue fines and fees.

Westport’s National Charity League chapter is donating $7,300 to 4 organizations that support the food insecure: the Westport Department of Human Services, Homes With Hope food pantry, Mercy Learning Center and Person to Person.

Part of the funds came from members who opted to not take refunds when the chapter’s annual tea was canceled, due to the coronavirus. Click here for more information on the NCL’s Westport chapter.

MoCA Westport says: “We believe in the power of expression, in the voices for change and in caring for ourselves and for others. We believe that art has the power to reveal, inspire, and affect powerful change.

“We care deeply about the ongoing problem of unequal justice in our country, and stand in solidarity with the peaceful protest movements sweeping our nation and the world.

“In a display of solidarity and reflection, MoCA Westport will cease all virtual classes, concerts and posts this week.”

One more sign the local dining scene is returning (somewhat) to normal: The (socially distanced) scene last night at Bartaco:

(Photo/Sabra Gallo)

And finally … from Fairfield’s own John Mayer: