Tag Archives: Dick Lowenstein

Library Book Sales: A Bold New Venture

The Westport Library book sales are a wonderful Westport tradition.

Every July — and, in a smaller form, spring — thousands of book-lovers find countless treasures. And it’s not only books (in every category imaginable). CDs, DVDs, even sheet music are also on sale.

After more than 2 decades, the sales are taking a new step forward. Today the library announced the launch of Westport Book Sale Ventures.

The new entity has a dual mission: raising funds to support the library, while providing meaningful employment for adults with disabilities.

Starting next month, the Westport Library book sales will be operated by Westport Book Sale Ventures, Inc. — an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit.

A typical summer Westport Library Book Sale scene.

“The book sales are a beloved community tradition that provide essential support for Library programming,” says executive director Bill Harmer. “The sales are powered by a dedicated team of volunteers, and tens of thousands of book donations from our generous community.

“Facilitating meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is squarely aligned with the Library’s mission to strengthen our community, motivate engagement and serve diverse constituencies, and we are incredibly proud to launch this new initiative.”

The new venture is coordinated by Jocelyn Barandiaran, Sharuna Mahesh and Linda Monteiro-Hopper, Westport residents with a passion for the Library and the expanded book sale mission.

Mimi Greenlee and Dick Lowenstein — who have led book sales for 2 decades — will provide guidance.

Dick Lowenstein, Mimi Greenlee and Suzy Hooper — longtime Book Sale stalwarts. (Photo/John Karrel)

Barandiaran notes, “The unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities is twice as high as the rate for people with no disabilities. For many young adults with disabilities there is a significant gap following high school, when individuals no longer have the support of the public education system’s transition services, and their social networks disburse.

“We hope this new venture will provide transferable job skills and opportunities for community engagement, and motivate our community and our businesses to be ever more inclusive of people with disabilities.”

The Annex, which was installed in the upper lot to receive book donations, will continue to function in the same way. Donations may be made at any time during the Library’s operating hours.

The first Book Sale Event managed by the new venture is set for Friday, March 13 through Sunday, March 15, in the Library Forum of the Westport Library. To learn more about Westport Book Sale Ventures, click here.

Now Hear This!

Alert “06880” reader Dick Lowenstein writes:

I did not know I was hard of hearing until my uncle asked me to face away from him at the end of the hall in my grandmother’s apartment. He asked me questions to which I did not respond. I was 6 years old.

Doctor visits and hearing tests, followed by experimental radium and X-ray treatments, until finally what made a difference: lip reading and speech lessons.

Not until I was a 16-year-old high school senior did I get a hearing aid. That helped me comprehend college lectures. I wore that pendant receiver around my neck, with an earpiece to transmit amplified sounds, reluctantly.

As time progressed my hearing worsened. But technology progressed, and the aids became smaller. I went to binaural (both ears) aids built into my eyeglass template pieces, and finally to behind-the-ear models that I wear today. I function pretty well with them, but not in wartime or water!

New technology — better than what I currently use — is now here. Bluetooth and cell phone captioning are 2 examples. This Tuesday (October 2, 11 a.m., Westport Senior Center) the local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America sponsors a presentation on these new technologies.

The event is free, open to the public — and captioned.

(For more information, email mczola@optonline.net)

A Bluetooth hearing aid is indistinguishable from other Bluetooth devices.

Unsung Heroes #57

Last week’s Westport Library Book Sale went off without a hitch.

Thousands of visitors bought tens of thousands of books. And CDs, DVDs, even LPs.

The library earned thousands of dollars. Even yesterday — when everything was free (contributions gladly accepted!) — the library earned something just as important: grateful good will.

One scene from last weekend’s Book Sale.

But as easy as it all seemed — hundreds of volunteers hauling boxes, posting signs, pointing patrons in the right direction, smilingly totaling up purchases, answering idiotic questions (“Do you have …?”), handling setup, security and cleanup; volumes sorted superbly into categories from Art to Zoology; no problems despite the loss of the library space itself during the Transformation process — none of it would be possible without a few great leaders.

Mimi Greenlee and Dick Lowenstein are the Book Sale co-chairs.

Suzy Hooper and Heli Stagg have full-time library roles, in addition to their Book Sale duties.

They lead with inspiration — and by example. They give new (and literal) meaning to the phrase “heavy lifting.”

This is not the only Westport Library Book sale, either. There are others, in winter and spring. None would happen without the many volunteers — and these 4 at the helm.

(From left) Heli Stagg, Suzy Hooper, Mimi Greenlee and Dick Lowenstein yesterday. They don’t even look tired! (Photo/John Karrel)

We hope Mimi, Dick, Suzy and Heli enjoy being this week’s Unsung Heroes.

But they probably won’t see it. They’re finishing up last weekend’s book sale.

And starting work on the next.

(Hat tip: John Karrel. Want to nominate an Unsung Hero? email dwoog@optonline.net)

PO’d At The PO?

How can I put this without sounding NIMBY?

Well, actually NIMFY.  You know:  Not In My Front Yard.

I live in what longtime Westporters call “the condos behind Friendly’s” — past the far end of Playhouse Square.

Others know it as “the condos behind Derma Clinic.”  But that’s been closed for over 2 years too.

Soon, I may be living in “the condos behind the post office.”


The entrance to Playhouse Square.

I’m not one to complain about certain changes.  When I bought my place I knew  there was a possibility that Winslow Park — despite being designated as open space in perpetuity — might become something other than a dog run.  When there was talk the YMCA might move there — even though the park is right in my BY — I was not displeased.

But the post office in Playhouse Square –WTF?

Fortunately, I’m not the only Westporter who is concerned.  RTM member Dick Lowenstein — who lives in Green’s Farms, and has a perfectly good post office very close to his own BY — has been motivated enough to write letters.

Over a year ago — after the US Postal Service announced that, for economic reasons, it would sell the building it’s owned since construction in 1936 — he contacted the USPS vice president in North Windsor, CT.  Dick noted that a post office is “core” to a functional, vibrant and efficient downtown area.  Consistent with the Town Plan of Conservation and Development, he said that of the 3 possible sites for a new post office, only one — the current location (though smaller than its current size) — was acceptable.

Dick noted that patrons would not walk to a Playhouse Square post office from downtown, making the current parking situation — “already tight” — worse.

If the USPS sold the current building to a developer, who then subdivided and gave the Postal Service a 2,000-square foot long-term lease, Dick said, a historic building would be saved; downtown Westport would keep an “anchor service,” the USPS would get cash; the developer would have a long-term tenant, and Westport would get the property back on its tax roll.

Perhaps Dick’s letter got lost in the mail.  Maybe others — including several from First Selectman Gordon Joseloff — did too.

This winter, the USPS announced its intention to move into Playhouse Square.  It expects to occupy the end unit, formerly filled by Friendly’s and Derma Clinic.

Westport's new post office?

According to Joseph J. Mulvey, a USPS “real estate specialist,” the proposed buyer of the downtown post office building — not yet publicly identified — does not want the post office to remain there.

Mulvey added that Playhouse Square “meets our requirements, is available, and was offered in response to our search for space.”

He believes the property will provide Westport with “an efficient, modern facility that offers a safe working environment for our employees and a level of service expected by our customers.”

Except those who try to drive there.  And then leave.

As anyone who shops at Playhouse Square knows, the parking lot is always crowded.  Many cars belong to employees themselves.

With over a dozen retail establishments — including an organic food store, frame shop, jewelry store and spa — open spots are at a premium.

A typical day in Playhouse Square.

Entering and exiting is always a problem.  There is one narrow entry lane; cars leaving funnel into a tight space, often backing up and blocking vehicles coming from the “upper” lot.

The United States Postal Service is in an unenviable position.  It has a difficult mandate — deliver mail to every citizen, everywhere in the country, at a low cost — and is buffeted by competition ranging from Fed Ex and UPS to faxes and email.

The question is:  Will moving this post office to a less convenient location help or hurt the USPS?

Click “Comments” to share your thoughts.  Or write.  I’m at 301 Post Road East.  You know:  the condos behind the already crowded Playhouse Square shopping center.  Right past what may soon become the post office.