Tag Archives: Department of Human Services

Roundup: 9/11 And Westport, New Restaurant, Young Chefs …

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Peggy Lehn is a 1979 Staples grad. Her family has been in Westport for 11 generations (her grandmother was born on the property that is now Longshore).

She is also an American Airlines pilot.

She flew both of the airplanes that the carrier lost on September 11, 2001. For 2 decades, Peggy has kept the answering machine messages from family and friends, wondering if she was alive.

She was not on duty that morning, 20 years ago today. But her brother Tom — Staples Class of 1985, and also an American Airlines pilot — was.

Peggy sent along this message he received, from a dispatcher in Texas. It’s a chilling reminder of the terror that day — and how close to home it struck.

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One more 9/11 story, with a local connection:

On that day, Westporter and Vietnam veteran Tony Anthony was a marketer on an assignment for AmeriCares. He was at their office when the news came that the World Trade Center had been hit.

AmeriCares has a helicopter. Their pilot flew around the towers, but was unable to help. He had to leave the airspace.

Tony was on board, taking photos. Jack Farrell shared this one, with “06880”:

(Photo/Tony Anthony)

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There’s action at Railroad Place — specifically, the former Cocoa Michele, and the spot Romanacci recently moved from.

It looks like another eatery is moving in.

(Photo/Gary Nusbaum)

This “Allium Eatery” is not to be confused with Allium Pizza Co. & Mo’ in — of all places — Westport Island, Maine.

“06880” will pass along info when we get it.

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Farm to Local — the new food-crafts-and-more Main Street store opposite Colf Fusion — has a soft opening this weekend (12 to 5 p.m.).

New products and merchandise are added daily. Another new feature: the Westport Artists’ Collective has a mini-gallery inside the store.

Local to Market – the first stocked shelves.

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The Westport Library is b-a-a-a-c-k!

On Monday, full operating hours resume. That’s Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

There’s another chapter: The Café opens weekdays (9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), Saturdays (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and Sundays (1 to 4:30 p.m.).

The Café has partnered with Gruel Brittania, in addition to existing vendors Sono Baking Company and Cloudy Lane Bakery. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, pastries, cookies and quiche.

Though the Westport Library reopens full-time on Monday, we still won’t see scenes like this for a while.

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Mark your calendars: Westoberfest returns on October 16 (1 to 5 p.m.).

The Craft Beer Festival on Elm Street also includes live music, classic car rally and exhibition, kids’ activities and — because Halloween will be right around the corner — a pumpkin giveaway.

Click the QR code below, or click here for more information.

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Forget Easy-Bake ovens. (Do they still make them anymore?)

Among the fall class offerings at Wakeman Town Farm: a new cooking class for youngsters in kindergarten through grade 3.

“Pint-Sized Cooking: Everything Mini” teaches cooking, baking and “food experimentation, while creating meals in miniature. Young chefs will be put on a path to understanding the appeal of delicious food.”

Popular favorites for older kids — including Cooking Around the Globe and Young Chef’s Club — continue too.

Click here for more information, and registration.

Eager students in Wakeman Town Farm’s “Cooking Around the Globe” class.

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Worried about heating bills?

Low-income residents can apply for Connecticut’s Energy Assistance Program through Westport’s Department of Human Services. Applications are available starting October 1, and run through April 30.

Individuals and families qualify for CEAP based on annual income and household size. Click on the state website for full details.

Households with previous CEAP applications on file will receive mailed application instructions in the coming weeks.  New residents can contact Human Services for application information (203-341-1050) or email humansrv@westportct.gov.

DHS also operates a separate Warm-Up Fund.

For more information, click on Westport Energy Assistance.

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Duncan Hurley — father of 3 children, and a longtime Westport Soccer Association volunteer coach — died this week.

A grateful parent remembers seeing him on many Saturday mornings, with a toddler on his hip coaching older players.

“They were the most jovial and effervescent family, even in the midst of health struggles they dealt with privately,” she says. “I reflect on this passage from The Little Prince in his honor: ‘In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And when your sorrow is comforted 9time soothes all sorrows), you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. I shall not leave you.'”

She adds: “He was a king, raising princes and a princess in the best form. He was a gem, to any and all who had the pleasure of crossing his path.”

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When I was young, the only turkeys I saw were at Thanksgiving.

Now they’re all over town. This crew was “stuffing” itself at Earthplace — and posing for today’s “Westport … Naturally” shot.

(Photo/Abby Gordon-Tolan)

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And finally … there are 2 great songs that stood on their own for years. For the past 2 decades though — and for the rest of my life — I’ll always associate them with 9/11.

They were played often then, on the radio, funerals and memorial events. They became the deeply comforting soundtrack of those truly awful days.

Roundup: Masks, Vaccines, Backpacks …

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The Delta variant is causing concern across Connecticut. Late last night, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued this statement:

“As you know, Westport has already re-instituted the requirement for everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear masks indoors in public buildings as recommended by the CDC and the State Department of Health.

“Westport residents have been very diligent in getting vaccinated, with full vaccination rates approaching 90% for the eligible population.

“Nevertheless, the COVID virus knows no municipal or county boundaries, and a significant portion of our workforce commutes into Westport every day from areas of the state that may have had less success in vaccinating their population.

“As a result, I will be working with our COVID Emergency Response team, which includes the Westport Weston Health District leadership, to consider what additional steps our community should take within the Governor’s Executive order to further limit our residents’ exposure to the virus through masking requirements.

“I will be meeting Friday morning with my counterparts from the Western Connecticut Council of Governments to better understand our options, and to attempt some consistency of masking guidelines across the region.  In the meantime, I encourage everyone to wear a mask indoors, particularly in any crowded setting and, for those who are eligible to be vaccinated and have not done so, to please get vaccinated.”

 

1st Selectman Jim Marpe encourages everyone to wear a mask indoors.

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Speaking of COVID: Test lines are getting longer.

This was the scene yesterday, in Westport train station parking lot #8, off Riverside Avenue next to I-95 northbound Exit 17:

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

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Back-to-school time means many things. Including: It’s time to help youngsters in need go back to school.

Each year, Westport’s Department of Human Services helps local families who lack the financial means to purchase back-to-school supplies and/or provide reliable after-school childcare for their children.

The pandemic has exacerbated that need.

Family program coordinator Annette D’Augelli says, “Ordinarily, the Back-to-School program provides basic school supplies to lessen the financial burden on families struggling to make ends meet.

“The post-pandemic Back-to-School program requires more than backpacks, pens and pencils. Community donations help reinforce a child’s sense of hope and stability by ensuring they have the tools they need to excel in school, and opportunities to participate in after-school activities so their parents can focus on getting back to work.”

Tax-deductible donations, in the form of cash or gift cards (Staples, Target, Walmart, etc.) through “We Care Westport,” Human Services’ donation portal. Click here to donate; then choose “Family to Family Programs – Seasonal Program – Back to School.” Checks payable to the “Town of Westport/DHS Family Programs” can be sent to Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave Westport, CT  06880.

If you or someone you know requires assistance, call 203-341-1050 or email humansrv@westportct.gov to speak confidentially with a social worker.

The Department of Human Services’ Back to School program helps youngsters get backpacks — and fill them with supplies.

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In 2011, JoyRide became Westport’s 1st cycling studio.

This month, they become the first local gym to require all customers and employees to submit one-time proof of COVID vaccination to attend any of their Connecticut studios (Westport, Darien, New Haven).

Effective August 16, proof can be provided via an actual immunization card, or a photo of it. It can be presented at check-in, or sent via email to info@joyridestudio.com.

JoyRide also notes that the CDC encourages wearing masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.


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Speaking of exercise: A customized program for people with Parkinson’s starts soon at he Westport Weston Family YMCA. The goal of the program — which includes boxing, yoga and tai chi classes — is to reduce symptoms.

A support group for Parkinson’s patients and their care partners is also offered.

For details click here, and watch the video below.

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Alert — and concerned — “06880” reader Bob Mitchell writes:

“A reminder: Please walk on the proper side of the street, facing traffic on the left side of a 2-way street. It drives me crazy to maneuver around walkers, particularly families with kids, strollers or dogs, walking with their backs to oncoming traffic, oblivious to potential danger.

“Walking the proper way is not only safer and more comfortable (no looking over the shoulder), but it is state law.

I suspect many people don’t know this. We are lucky there have not been any incidents (that I know of).”

The folks in front are walking properly on Canal Road. Those in the rear are not. (Photo/Gene Borio)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is fascinating — and educational.

Photographer Lou Weinberg — who in his spare time serves as director of Westport Community Gardens — says: “Dragonflies are models of flight. They can even fly backwards. Plus they love to be photographed. I love these insects. Nature wins!”

(Photo/Lou Weinberg)

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And finally … the New York Times reports:

“Willie Winfield, whose silken lead vocals with the Harptones in the 1950s made him a favorite of doo-wop connoisseurs, even though the group never achieved wide mainstream commercial success, died on July 27 in a hospital in Brooklyn. He was 91.”

I had never heard of him (or the Harptones). But I sure know this beautiful song:

Helping Neighbors: Camp, Grad Celebration Donations Needed

For years, Westport’s Human Services Department has run 2 important spring collections. Community donations provide critical support to families needing financial assistance for summer camp programs, and the end-of-school-year celebrations that so many others take for granted.

For parents of kids, the pandemic has made the need even more urgent. Lost social and educational time — combined with fewer affordable structure activities, and adult stress — has driven financially insecure families into greater distress.

Childcare and summer enrichment programs — registered for without a second thought by a number of Westporters — are crucial for children in those circumstances.

After a rough year, summer activities are important.

 

Camps are in a bind too. After not opening last year, they’ve been unable to offer the same number of discounted tuitions as in the past.

Just as important — for 8th and 12th graders’ social well-being — is having appropriate clothing for graduation ceremonies. Cash and gift card donations help parents with those purchases. They may also hep families share a special meal, to recognize their children’s achievements.

Human Services director Elaine Daignault invites residents to contribute to the department’s Family to Family programs: “DHS Campership Fund” and/or “DHS Ceremonies and Celebrations Fund.”

No one wants to feel left out at graduation.

Every dollar counts. An average week of day camp in the area is $300.

Click here; under “Seasonal Program Name,” click the fund(s) you wish to contribute to. Checks can be sent to Human Services Department, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880 (indicate which fund on the memo line).

Questions? Email adaugelli@westportct.gov, or call Annette D’Augelli at 203-341-1050.

David Winther: An Ode To 191 Wilton Road

David Winther graduated from Staples High School in 2006. He went on to a career as a talent agent (focusing on music and arena touring), and is now head of strategic partnerships and operations at Falkon, a trend-setting creative production house.

David Winther and Amanda Schemer.

His life is full. He works with interesting people in sports, culture and music. He and his fiancée Aleasha travel far and wide. He runs and hikes with his dog Arrow.

David lives now in Los Angeles. But he has never forgotten his Westport home. He writes:

My mom, Lynn Winther MD, moved my 2 sisters and me up from Houston in 1994, after I got bullied (and lost my 2 front teeth) in the Texas school system.

My grandparents had lived in the Coleytown area for many years. My mother knew we needed quality schooling and a better town.

Lynn Winther MD

She was a single mom, and did what was best for her kids. I was enrolled at Kings Highway Elementary School. Moving to Westport was the best move my mother could have made for me and my sisters. The support in the town and the school systems made us the successful adults we are today.

My mom made a lot of sacrifices. She went to Westport with little money, but wanted to get into a house in the school district that was best for all of us.

After living in a hotel for our first 2 months, my mom found 191 Wilton Road. We all liked that it was interesting, and different from other houses.

The front of 191 Wilton Road …

She agreed. With a lot of luck from the mortgage lender and real estate agent, she purchased the home. My mom raised my sisters and me in that house.

… and the rear.

The town also raised us.

I did not have a father around. But the school system and Department of Human Services had a great mentor program. I found a mentor named Jack Klinge. To this day, he is still my mentor.

He instilled real character and value in me. I would had a much harder time learning that in a different environment. I still keep in touch and talk with Jack Klinge.

Jack Klinge with David Winther and his sisters.

All the parents of my friends knew that my mom had to work 2 full-time jobs. The community supported me as a kid and a young man. The mothers and fathers in Westport helped raise me.

My best friend from elementary school’s dad taught me how to throw a football. Friends invited me to their tutoring sessions, and other events. It provided a great foundation.

I spent many afternoons with friends at Westport Pizzeria and the library in downtown Westport. They were an easy walk from 191 Wilton Road.

It’s my turn now to thank my mom for everything she has done for me and my sisters. She deserves to retire and live in Santa Barbara, where she can be closer to me and my sisters.

Front row (from left): Matthew Schwartz (Staples graduate), his girlfriend Amanda Winther),  Amanda Winther, Lynn Winther MD. Back row: Shannon Winther, David Winther, Aleasha Schemer.

191 Wilton Road has still so much potential and room to grow with a family. There is a lot of love in that house. We want to share it with a young family who wants to grow in Westport.

It’s not easy in this climate to purchase any house, especially in Westport, which is why we decided to list the price at such a fair rate. The house is perfect for a young family looking to get into a genuine community.

With so much potential to continue to build on the house itself, we can’t wait to see what the next owner will do. The sky is the limit at 191 Wilton Road.

Unique upstairs at 191 Wilton Road.

(To learn more about the Westport Department of Human Services’ mentor program, email edaignault@westportps.gov.)

Roundup: Downtown Parking, PAL, Back To School, More


The month-long closure of the south end of Main Street is over. Planters have been removed; cars can once again park on both sides of the road.


Cancellation of the July 4th fireworks disappointed thousands of Westporters. But the decision was especially tough on Westport PAL. They sponsor the annual show. The money they make pays for a host of activities: sports programs for thousands of kids, the Longshore Ice Rink, an annual Halloween parade, a party for children with Santa, health and wellness efforts, and much more.

Which is why their upcoming golf tournament (September 14, Longshore golf course) is more important than ever.

The 58th annual event — named for former Police Chief Samuel Luciano, a staunch PAL supporter — begins at 7 a.m. with a continental breakfast and putting contest.

There’s a shotgun start, scramble format; lunch; more golf, then dinner, raffles and prizes (hole-in-one, hula hoop, longest drive, closest to pin).

The cost is $175 per golfer, $700 per foursome. Sponsorships are available too, from $150 to $5,000 (largest sign at first tee, banner on dinner tent, complimentary foursome). Click here to register, sponsor — or just donate to PAL.


Westport’s “Back to School” and “After-School” programs — both of which serve families in need — are always well utilized, and generously supported. In our new coronavirus world, they are more important than ever.

Elaine Daignault — director of the Department of Human Services, which oversees both projects — notes, “This is not a typical fall. COVID-19 has disrupted the usual back-to-school enthusiasm with a sense of anxiety, and fear of the unknown.

“Still, you can help to reinforce a child’s sense of hope and stability by ensuring they have tools they need to excel in school, and an opportunity to participate in after-school activities.”

Human Services relies on the generosity of neighbors to provide financial assistance for income-eligible families. Last year, 192 children benefited from Westport’s Back to School Program, and many families accessed affordable after-school childcare.

Tax-deductible donations (cash or gift cards to Staples, Target, Walmart, etc.) can be made online; click here, then select “Family to Family Programs – Seasonal Program – Back to School”), or send a check payable to “Town of Westport/DHS Back to School Program” to Human Services, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT  06880.

Families who may qualify for this program should contact DHS youth and family social worker Michelle Bottone by phone (203-341-1068) or email (mbottone@westportct.gov).

The Department of Human Services’ Back to School program helps youngsters get backpacks — and fill them with needed supplies.


Residents of Glenwood Lane have had it with Optimum.

After Tropical Storm Isaias, it took 12 days for cable and onternet to be restored to the street, off Maple Avenue South. Pieces of old cables still hang there.

Two days ago — August 31 — a crew finally arrived to clean up. But they turned the service off again, leaving residents who depend on the internet during the pandemic unable to work.

Optimum responded that the earliest they could come back to fix their mistake would be September 5. They then said they would come yesterday (September 1). However, they did not show up. Optimum now promises to come today.

Instead of sitting waiting for another no-show, some residents publicized their plight. This is one of 2 signs at the head of their road.

(Photo/Aurea de Souza)


Westport knows him as Willie Salmond. He was born in Scotland, lives here,  and has spent much of his professional career (and retirement) in Africa, working first in international development and then in AIDS relief. He is also an author and screenwriter.

As William Salmond, he’s just published “Deep Secrets.” Here’s a brief description, on Amazon:

As the Coronavirus ravaged the world economy with the yawning chasm of inequality between rich and poor getting deeper and wider, no one seemed to notice the movement south into Africa of swaths of Al Qaeda-hardened committed fighters. It was a unique opportunity to regroup and prepare for the final knock-out blow to the Great Satan and her allies whose economies were already on the ropes.

Is life a game of chance? Or is there a guiding hand? Racked by guilt and shame can we truly be forgiven and find healing and even love?

Money man Winslow Kirk looks for answers to these questions as he steps out of his comfort zone into the heart of Africa in search of his granddaughter Eleanor whom he allowed to be given up for adoption following a tragic boating accident. A threat note from the world’s number one terrorist who is coordinating the threat to Western countries sharpens his resolve. Can he find Eleanor and will she forgive him? After his wife’s death and his own cardiac illness he begins to muse about what really matters.

For more information and to order, click here.


And finally … today would be the 81st birthday of Robert Lee Dickey. When he began singing with his cousin James Lee Purify, the duo became “James and Bobby Purify.” Dickey died in 2011. You may not remember their names, but this beautiful song may ring a bell:

COVID-19 Roundup: Bells, Food, Funds, Laptops, More

Every day seems to blend into every other. Today could be any day.

But it’s Wednesday! Which means it’s time for our community bell ring.

From 5 p.m. to 5:02, Westporters are encouraged o step outside — or open windows — and make noise.

Sound a bell. Play an instrument. Bang a pot. It doesn’t matter! Just ring out your gratitude to our medical personnel, essential workers, and anyone else who keeps our town safe.

They appreciate it. It’s a ton of fun. Everyone loves it.

Plus, what else have you got going at 5 p.m. today?


When it was announced just a week ago, the Westport Food Fund had an audacious goal: $50,000, to help ease food insecurity for the 4% of Westporters — 1,200 residents — who fear they’ll go hungry in the pandemic.

Within 12 hours, that lofty taragete was reached.

Yet folks kept giving. The campaign closes today. In just 1 week, we raised $110,000.

Organizers Dan Levinson, Elaine Daignault and Sue Pfister are overwhelmed with gratitude.

Of course, there is great need for the foreseeable future. Daignault — the town’s director of human services — says her department will continue to accept donations through the We Care Westport portal. Additional funds will be directed to residents in need, for help in areas like rent and utility bills. To donate, click here.


Town officials have been working on a tax relief program. Yesterday, they recommended that the RTM approve a deferment program. It offers eligible taxpayers a 3-month grace period.

First Selectman Jim Marpe will explain the program at the RTM’s special meeting on April 22. He hopes they can vote on it at that meeting.


Earlier this month, the Board of Finance was scheduled to begin the approval process for a new concessionaire at Compo Beach and Longshore.

Then the coronavirus hit. The first year of the contract with Upsilon Entertainment Group had to be rewritten. Discussion and a vote was put off until April 15.

But the final lease language is not expected until today. That’s not enough time for the board to review.

Once that’s done, chair Brian Stern may schedule a special meeting. He does not want to jeopardize burgers and fries for the summer.

Then again, COVID-19 may do just that.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


Seth Schachter alerts readers to a desperate need for laptops and desktops in Bridgeport. Without them, students can’t log on to online classes.

The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport has organized a collection. To donate a computer, email CassShaw@ccgb.org.


Staples High School Class of 1999 graduate Sarah Buck owns Pies ‘n’ Thighs, a very popular fried chicken-plus restaurant in Brooklyn. She’s doing pick-up and delivery now — and supplying medical personnel at nearby Woodhull Hospital.

Meals are funded by donations. Woodhull also desperately needs N95 masks and other personal protective equipment. To support either or both efforts, email piesnthighs.com.

Sarah Buck (right), with Pies ‘n’ Thighs co-owner Caroline Bane.

 


These days, everyone exercises caution. Among the most careful: restaurant owners and staff. They prepare, cook and package meals carefully. They bring them curbside — or send them off for delivery — with care. They care about the safety of their customers. Here’s the Gold’s crew, being very cautious:

(Photo/Tom Roth)For a full list of local restaurants and markets open and eager to serve, click here; then scroll down.


We’ve heard of goats galloping through a town in Wales, and coyotes prowling the streets of San Francisco.

What about Westport? Yesterday, Matt Finkle spotted this beaver sunning itself on the shore of Ned Dimes Marina.


And finally, a bit of Andra Day. Not just any video, mind you — this is YouTube’s “Inspiration Version.” Rise Up, indeed!

Substance Misuse, Mental Health Survey Now Live

Substance misuse and mental health are national issues.

Local ones, too.

But how prevalent are they? And if we don’t know the answers, how can anyone help?

Today, the Westport Prevention Coalition launches an online survey. It was created by the Human Services Department, in partnership with the Westport Prevention Coalition and Positive Directions.

The anonymous survey will “provide helpful information as the Coalition embarks on prevention and resource development efforts addressing substance misuse, mental health services and overall wellness across the lifespan,” says Human Services director Elaine Daignault.

The goal is to gain input from a cross-section of age groups. It will
complement the youth and parent surveys administered through Positive Directions bi-annually in partnership with Westport Public Schools.

Click here for the survey. For more information, or to obtain a paper copy, call 203-341-1050.

 

Human Services’ Holiday Help

If you’re like me, you’re excited by the holiday season — and annoyed at the rampant commercialism that accompanies it.

But if you’re like dozens of Westport households here, you wonder how you can afford any gifts at all.

Holiday giftsOverlooked in all the ho-ho-ho-ing are local families for whom the holidays may not seem merry or bright. Job loss, medical expenses, foreclosure, divorce — those circumstances and others may add extra stress to this time of year.

Fortunately, riding shotgun with Santa is Westport’s Department of Human Services.

It’s a great, confidential way for Westporters to provide gifts for kids — and ease the financial burden on entire families. Last year, 432 residents — including those served by Homes With Hope, the Westport Housing Authority, Project Return and the schools’ Open Choice program — received holiday assistance.

One recipient — whose life changed drastically 4 years ago — cried after picking up gift cards.

A mom of limited means thanked DHS for easing the stress she felt on Christmas morning.

A longtime Westporter — who can afford to live here only because her apartment is owned by her family — says that without the program, her son would have only one present under the tree.

Another says simply, “the Holiday Gift Giving Program has made all the difference.”

Contributions come from individuals, as well as garden and book clubs, scout troops, schools, churches and businesses. Donors and receivers are assured of confidentiality.

For years, Audrey Hertzel has organized a huge effort at Sterling Investment Partners. She collects stuffed animals and books for the Holiday  Giving Program.

For years, Audrey Hertzel has organized a huge effort at Sterling Investment Partners. She collects stuffed animals and books for the Holiday Giving Program.

“Some of the most appreciated gifts are grocery and gas cards of any amount,” says Human Services director Barbara Butler. Also well received: gift cards to local stores.

Cash donations are always welcome. They allow Human Services staffers to buy last-minute gift cards for clients.

Cards and checks (made payable to “DHS Family Programs,” with “Holiday” on the memo line) can be mailed to Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880 at any time (the sooner the better, of course). They can also be dropped off in Town Hall Room 200 during business hours.

If you’d like to shop for a family’s actual gift request — in full or part — or for questions, contact Patty Haberstroh (hsyouth@westportct.gov; 203-341-1069).

Families needing extra support during the holidays should call 203-341-1050.