Tag Archives: Department of Human Services

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.