Tag Archives: Gillespie Center

There’s Nothing Funny About Homelessness. Except On October 15.

As Connecticut’s housing crisis worsens — buffeted by the perfect storm of an economic downturn, rising rents and decreased stocks of affordable units — Homes with Hope becomes more important than ever.

For nearly 40 years the non-profit (originally the Interfaith Housing Association) has provided area residents with emergency shelter, supportive housing, a community kitchen and food pantry, and much more.

It offers beds for men and women downtown, in the shadow of Tiffany. There are also small individual and group homes throughout Westport — unobtrusive yet critical housing at a time when the need for affordable units is critical.

The Gillespie Center is a few feet away from Tiffany. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

Since 1983, Westport — town officials, other non-profits and countless individuals — has supported Homes with Hope. That support continues.

A $1 million renovation of Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place — nestled next to Barnes & Noble, Walrus Alley and Don Memo — will add security measures, insulation, and air conditioning for volunteers in the food pantry (plus refrigeration, for perishable goods).

Plans are moving now through the permitting process. The target date for construction is early next year.

Not far away, on Compo Road North next the Little League fields and tennis courts, Project Return will transition from an emergency shelter to supportive housing for young women ages 18 to 24. With longer stays they’ll be able to access more services, including education, jobs and social work.

If approved by town bodies, 6 units will be added to Westport’s overall affordable housing stock.

Project Return’s “Susie’s House,” on North Compo Road.

All of Homes with Hope’s work — which goes on 24/7/365 — costs money. Exactly 2/3 of their budget comes from donations.

Which is why “Stand Up for Comedy” — the annual fundraiser — is so crucial.

This year’s event is October 15 (8:30 p.m., Fairfield University Quick Center). Pat McGann headlines the comedy special. The Chicago-based comic has performed at Madison Square Garden, Gilda’s LaughFest, the Great American Comedy Festival, the Nashville Comedy Fest and Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival.

He’s been on the Late Show with David Letterman — twice — and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. His riffs on his wife, kids and marriage were spot on.

After a COVID-canceled 2020 event and a Westport Library hybrid version last year, Homes with Hope executive director Helen McAlinden, and event co-chairs Allyson Gottlieb and Becky Martin, are thrilled to be back at the Quick Center.

“This is a great opportunity to be together, laugh and support a very important cause,” McAlinden says.

The laughter pays off. Last year, Homes with Hope served 951 different people: men and women at the shelters; individuals and families in 8 other housing programs; children in after-school programs, and the community kitchen and food pantry.

The non-profit also covers, on an as-needed basis, costs like security deposits, or first and last month’s rent, for clients moving into their own rental places.

McAlinden notes that in this part of Fairfield County, people need to earn $38.50 an hour to afford a studio or 1-bedroom apartment. Connecticut’s minimum wage is $14, so even 2 full-time jobs would not cover that.

“There’s nothing more meaningful than helping someone get on their feet, and plant roots,” says Gottlieb.

She and Martin hope many Westporters will get on their own feet too, on October 15 too — to stand up for both comedy, and Homes with Hope.

(For tickets and more information on “An Evening of Comedy with Pat McGann,” click here.) 

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Roundup: Homes With Hope, Compo Movies, Finding Westport …

Homes with Hope announces that volunteers are again welcome inside the Gillespie Center community kitchen and food pantry.

Volunteer guidelines have been modified, in accordance with the CDC’s COVID guidelines for shelter settings.

Click here for more more information, and to volunteer.

Volunteers are back at the Gillespie Center. (File photo)


Free family “Summer Movie Nights” return to Compo Beach.

“Luca” will be screened on Thursday, August 4 (8:15 p.m.). It’s followed by “Soul” on Thursday, August 25 (7:45 p.m.).

The films will be shown on the field near the basketball courts.


How do you say Westport without saying Westport? Jillian Elder of Finding Westport — the online seller of iconic “Westport” t-shirts, mugs and other goodies — wondered.

The result: Some clever new designs, Click here to see (and order).

One of several new tees.


Matt Murray is lucky enough to live on Sherwood Mill Pond.

He enjoys photographing the ever-changing scenery — particularly at sunrise and sunset. Here’s a recent egret sighting, for “Westport … Naturally”:

(Photo/Matt Murray)


And finally … 2 cities — worlds apart — celebrate birthdays today

Baghdad was founded in 762. Nearly 1,000 years later, in 1729, so was Baltimore.

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Antwayn’s Story

Westport Lifestyle magazine does a great job highlighting the beauty and benefits of Westport.

But it does not neglect the more human, less talked-about, often unseen parts of life in our town.

This month, editor Robin Moyer Chung wrote about homelessness. It’s an important piece. Here’s a slightly edited version: 

Antwayn, like every other Gillespie Center client, never thought he’d be homeless. Four years ago he had a full-time job, a home in Bridgeport with his girlfriend, a newborn and a toddler. Then one evening in March he lost everything.

Please take a moment to consider that we live in the town in which Antwayn briefly lived, but in an alternate universe. We enjoy advantages, trust and liberties that he did not.

Antwayn, today. (Photo/Mindy Briar)

Antwayn’s parents divorced when he was young. His mom raised him in Stamford. At 12 years old “I thought I knew everything,” he admits. His friend, Pookie, was in a gang, the Ebony Kings, and persuaded him to join. For initiation, 4 older members jumped him. He fought back. He walked away with a “busted lip” and an indoctrination into the Ebony Kings family.

He willingly assumed the life of a gang member. If a brother said “Jump that guy” he did.

When he turned 13 his mom sent him to live with his dad in Georgia. “I was furious,” he recalls. “But she knew I’d end up getting shot or shooting someone. At 13 you don’t understand the consequences.”

Today, he concedes that his mother saved his life by shipping him South.

He graduated from Jenkins High School in Savannah. At 19 he had 2 kids with 2 different women. “No one was teaching me anything,” Antwayn says. “My dad let me do anything.”

After graduating high school he earned a certificate and worked as a daycare assistant at the YMCA. Then he worked as an assistant camp counselor. “I love kids,” he says.

In 2003 he moved back to Connecticut and lived with his mother. He worked at Party City, then got a gig at Costco in 2007. He worked these 2 jobs for 10 years. “I was earning $21.95 at Costco,” he proudly says.

He later moved in with his girlfriend. Together they had 2 kids, Aalyah (now 7) and Antwayn (now 4). Then that day in March, after he returned from work, his girlfriend kicked him out of their home, and the police arrested him for violating a restraining order.

Antwayn couldn’t pay the $25,000 bond so they locked him in a cell for 28 days. “You don’t want to go jail,” he cautions, shaking his head.

Costco fired him for work abandonment. He had no home, no access to his money. His car was towed shortly after his arrest, his mother had no room for him in her home, and no business would hire a man fresh from the slammer. And he was not allowed to see his kids.

The only thing he had on the 29th day, finally out of prison, was his innocence. Not that it mattered. “I was confused. Lost. I lost it all in the snap of a finger.”

Devastated and shell-shocked, he dialed 211, the hotline for essential community services. They guided him toward a shelter in Bridgeport. For 15 days he lined up at 5 p.m. to get a bed for the night. Then he was granted room in Gillespie.

The Gillespie Center, in downtown Westport.

After 6 months in Gillespie, program manager Ryan Soto located and contacted Antwayn’s father in Oregon. He agreed to share his home with his son. So Antwayn relocated across the country. 33 days later he returned, shaken by his father’s violent mental health issues and veiled threats.

Again, he found himself with nowhere to turn. By miracle, Ryan discovered he was back in the system. He got a room for Antwayn in Gillespie. During the long months of his second residency he was pessimistic and untethered. Then slowly, with Ryan’s help, he took the difficult, unnerving steps to overcome fear and submit to the power of hope. Ryan says, “He says ‘Ryan, you give great advice so I’m going to listen to you.’”

Then Antwayn became one of Gillespie’s favorite success stories.

Gillespie found him affordable housing and hired him part-time in the food pantry. He serves meals, cleans up, assists with food and clothing donations. Every morning he comes an hour early — a free hour, no one pays him — to make coffee, clean the refrigerator, whatever needs to be done.

Antwayn, at work in the food pantry. 

“I want to stay working here,” he says. “Miss Pat’s worked here for 17 years. I want to beat her record.” He’s strong, good, and happy. His eyes light up when speaking of his manager, Ryan, “Man he’s the best boss I ever had in my life. He knows how to talk to people with good respect.” Then adds, “I love this job.”

On April 5, after a slew of court appearances, he won sole custody of his son and daughter. He beams, “I’m so happy! I take it day by day — everything’s fresh. It hasn’t been a week yet!

When he has a moment to talk to Gillespie residents he tells them to look on the bright side, to pick themselves up and start over. He tells his story to help others like him find the smallest toehold in the crag of hope, so they can, one day, follow him to the summit.

About that summit: Helen McAlinden, director of Homes with Hope, nominated Antwayn for the Carol E. Walter Think, Be, Lead, Change Award, from the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. Recipients are honored for their
perseverance and drive.

Antwayn won, and received a plaque last June. He calls that one of the proudest moments of his life.

(To learn more about the Gillespie Center and its parent organization, Homes with Hope, click here.)

Antwayn and Aalyah. 

Jessica Bram’s Invocation

Each month, a different Westporter gives an invocation before the RTM meeting.

Most are earnest, but unmemorable. (Trust me, I know: I’ve given one myself.)

Last month, Jessica Bram departed from the usual aren’t-we-all-lucky-to-live-in-Westport platitudes. Instead — peaking directly to her colleagues — the RTM member confronted important issues head-on.

I asked Jessica if I could post her words here, so au audience greater than a few dozen legislators and local policy wonks could see — and reflect — on them. Here’s her invocation:

I moved to Westport over 24 years ago. A single mother when I arrived, I didn’t know a soul here. I raised 3 sons who now have successful lives because they went through our extraordinary Westport Public Schools – that school system that we are here to talk about tonight.

Jessica Bram

(Incidentally, I will mention that one of my sons married his Staples High School girlfriend— he went to Bedford, she to Coleytown—  and they just had their second child.)

When Coleytown Middle School was shut down, I remember saying – because our school system is so critical in this town—that this was the single worst thing that ever happened to Westport in my 24-year memory.

To lose an entire middle school … to be forced to cram one entire school population in with another! Remember what a crisis that was? The worst that could ever happen.

Then came COVID.

And instead of being upset because our kids were in crowded classrooms after Coleytown moved in with Bedford (remember we were upset because so many had to have lunch so early?), now there was COVID. And now all our kids had to stay home from school.

Our whole town changed. Businesses failed, people lost jobs, restaurants shut down. Perhaps worst of all, we couldn’t be together.

Two years later, here we are, at our RTM meeting, still on Zoom.

Yes, we disagree on so many things. We all have opinions here (as you know I have opinions on everything, you’ve all heard them).

But let’s think about what our differences are about, and the values that they reflect.

We argued about using ARPA funds for beach repair. But wasn’t that about protecting the environment? Being responsible stewards of our shoreline, our town’s greatest asset?

Yes, we fight about gas-powered blowers. But isn’t that because each of us wants to hold so tightly on to the Westport that we all came here for, the homes and lives we built for our families, regardless of whether that’s quiet afternoons or beautiful lawns?

Yes, we have argued for and against offering public transportation. But what a gift we received from that conflict! That gift of having received over 100 heartfelt emails — each one different, each expressive, none of them boiler plate.

I learned so much that I didn’t know about … what it’s like to have an infant at home and only one car… what it’s like to be a worn-out commuter.  So because of that conflict we got to know so much about our neighbors’ lives, in personal, truthful ways.

The Wheels2U debate elicited many personal emails and phone calls.

We argue vehemently about P&Z issues such as affordable housing, 8-30g, and the zoning problems that that legislation causes. But although we may vehemently disagree about zoning issues, we do respect our town bodies that allow our disagreements to be spoken aloud and acted on in orderly, non-combative ways.

One thing I do know is that regardless of how we feel about 8-30-g, we all do care about, and have compassion for, families, either struggling or wealthy families, who all want to have safe, affordable homes where we can raise our children.

And don’t we all support our organizations such as Homes with Hope, that are working so hard to end homelessness — whether we offer that support philanthropically, or by cooking and serving lasagna in our newly renovated Gillespie Center?

Let me point out that we are, after all, a town that has a youth center, and homeless shelter, a block away from a Tiffany’s. All of which says something about what we in Westport care about. Not just the homeless shelter. But Tiffany’s too, because it does speak of the lives we unapologetically want for our children.

The Gillespie Center is a few feet away from Tiffany. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

Yes, some of us cling furiously to our causes and our pet issues and our political affiliations.

Yes, we may disagree on so many things.

Yes, our RTM meetings can at times stretch agonizingly long into the night.

But let’s remember who we are.

With all our disagreements, in all those exhausting, contentious, boring RTM meetings, we are all doing it just to make things right.

Let’s think about the values and principles that we share at the heart of it all – our families, our first responders, our overworked teachers. And yes, even our noisy neighbors.

Let’s remind ourselves – and applaud ourselves for — living in a town not of things and real estate, but of principles. That what we’re here for – especially those of us on the RTM — are principles of honesty and fairness —and what’s really important in our troubled world.

Because that’s who we are.

And know that in the end, we care for, respect, and yes, even  a little bit, love each other.

RTM members march in the 2018 Memorial Day parade.

Roundup: TikTok Teen Arrests, Water Main Break, Wall That Heals …

Last Saturday night, the Westport Police Department received several calls from locations around town. All concerned a group of youths in a vehicle, shooting projectiles at pedestrians. One victim was struck in the eye.

Callers provide a detailed description of the vehicle. Officers found and stopped it near Greens Farms Road and Compo Road South.

All 3 occupants were juveniles. Police found toy air guns that fired gel-like projectiles at high speed.

The teens were participating in TikTok’s viral “Orbeez Challenge.”

The 3 juveniles were charged with multiple counts of assault 3rd degree, reckless endangerment 2nd Degree, and breach of peace 2nd degree. They were released to their parents.

Victims from that evening are encouraged to report the incidents to the Westport Police Department.

Gun and pellets used in the Orbeez Challenge.


A photo contest for the cover of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce 2022-23 Visitors/Membership Guide is now open.

In 2015 and ’17, the Chamber received over 1,000 pictures from dozens of photographers, amateur and professional. Westport residents Mark Litvinoff and William Scalzi won, with their shots of the Levitt Pavilion and a serene dock setting respectively.

Scores of runner-up photos were used inside the 68-page booklet and map guide. Every winner received credit in the publication.

Any resident or businessperson from Westport or Weston may submit what they believe is the “quintessential” photo that represents our community. Use Dropbox, Google or an email attachment to send one or more photos to matthew@westportwestonchamber.com; use the subject line “Photo Contest.”

The deadline is June 19.  Be sure to have a full resolution of the photo for printing, but email a lower resolution for greatest efficiency.

Questions? Use the email above, or call 203-227-9234.

The 2017 guide.


An “06880” reader reports that on Sunday, a number of homes in his Long Lots neighborhood lost water.

He called Aquarion, and was told there was a water break somewhere on Long Lots Road. That’s a first for him, in over 30 years here.

The break — apparently near Fairfield County Hunt Club — was fixed a few hours later. However, brown water persisted at least through yesterday.

What’s particularly distressing to him is that Aquarion never called him — either about the break, its cause or its resolution. There was a notice briefly on the water company’s website, he says, but it was soon gone.


As Rev. Alison Patton heads to her sabbatical, visiting minister Rev. Dr. Jim Antal hits the ground — and Saugatuck Congregational Church — running.

The climate activist delivers a public lecture on June 9 (7:30 p.m.): “Let’s Makek our Coastal Community a Climate Leader!” The event is co-sponsored by Wakeman Town Farm and Sustainable Westport.

The lecture is followed by a community conversation about the topic.

In addition to his public talk, Rev. Antal will share a 3-sermon series, “Responding Faithfully to the Climate Crisis,” at Saugatuck Church on the first 3 Sundays in June.

Drawing from his activism and his book “Climate Church, Climate World: How People of Faith Must Work for Change,” Antal will challenge attendees to see their place in the work of climate justice.

The 10 a.m. topics are:

  • June 5: “Welcoming the Fullest Truth”
  • June 12: “Attenting to the Source”
  • June 19″ Living Into a New Story.”

The public is welcome to attend those services too.


Terrence Dunn was sworn in as Westport’s new fire marshal yesterday. He replaces Nate Gibbons, who has retired.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker calls Dunn “a genuine and humble leader who has the skills and experience necessary to ensure that the Fire Department continues to provide exceptional service to the community.”

He was hired as a Westport firefighter in 2003, and promoted to fire inspector in 2009. He graduated from the University of New Haven with a major in arson investigation and a minor in criminal justice.

Along with state certification as a fire marshal, Dunn is licensed as an assistant building official. He is first vice president of the Connecticut Fire Marshal’s Association, a member of the Fairfield/New Haven County Fire Marshal’s Association, the International Association of Arson Investigators, and District 8 Building Official’s Association.

A formal pinning ceremony on June 21 (5 p.m., Christ & Holy Trinity Church) will celebrate the department’s promotions and medals.

Fire marshal Terry Dunn


“The Wall That Heals” is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Since its dedication in 1996, it has been displayed at nearly 700 communities across the country.

From tomorrow (June 2) through June 5, it will occupy a place of honor at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Norwalk.

Yesterday, the Westport Police and Fire Departments helped escort it from its staging area at Sherwood Island State Park to the park. Click here for details of the exhibit.

The staging area at Sherwood Island. (Photo and hat tip/Chris Swan)


Anthony LoFrisco is a Westport motorcycle rider. He’s organized a series of rides.

But they’re not just rev-up-the-engines-and-make-loud-noises jaunts. Starting last Sunday, and continuing each month through August, they deliver donated items to food pantries throughout Fairfield County.

The first was to the Gillespie Center in Westport, from Grace Community Church in New Canaan. Parishioners provided cereal, peanut butter, jelly, pasta sauce, canned goods and other items.

The weather was beautiful. The riders — on 4 BMWs and 1 Harley — met at the Westport train station, headed to the church, then returned here for the drop-off.

The next deliveries will be in Stamford, Bridgeport, and then the Gillespie Center again. Anthony invites everyone to drop off non-perishable food items at 11:15 a.m. on June 26, July 31 and August 28 — and/or join the motorcycle riders.

For more information, email anthony@lofrisco.com.

Motorcycle gang at the Gillespie Center.


This weekend, celebrate Connecticut Trails Day (actually, 2 days). The event draws thousands of people of all backgrounds, ages, abilities and interests, across the state. 

Friends of Sherwood Island State Park will host 4 hikes:

Saturday, June 4: Butterfly Walk (10 a.m.): Explore the gardens and natural areas around the park’s Nature Center, searching for caterpillars, skippers, moths and butterflies. Bring binoculars and a camera or smartphone. You’ll learn how to report your findings on iNaturalist, so scientists everywhere can see how these insects are doing.

Saturday, June 4: Kayak Paddle (1 p.m.): See Sherwood Island from the water. Explore the park’s shoreline. Bring your own kayak, canoe or other paddle craft, and a pump/bailer. A life vest and whistle/horn are required by state boating regulations.

Sunday, June 5: Archaeology Walk (1 p.m.): See interesting terrain, and examine traces of past inhabitants, from 1000 B.C. to the 1940s. Learn about recent excavations, including Native American, early settlers, and onion farmers.

Sunday, June 5: Nature Walk (2 p.m.): Go beach to beach  along Long Island Sound. Discover habitats, inhabitants, birding locations, viewing platforms, a purple martin enclave, and other special features of this waterfront park. Other points of interest include Connecticut’s 9/11 Memorial, model aircraft airport, trail heads, wetlands, and a pine forest.

Click here for more details. For questions, and to register (recommended, but not required), email cece@historicalperspectives.org, or call 203-984-1488.

Sherwood Island State Park is a natural wonderland. (Elena Nasereddin)


1999 Staples High School graduate Kyle Martino has been the National High School Soccer Player of the Year, MLS Rookie of the Year, a US men’s national team athlete, and a highly regarded analyst on NBC Sports.

Now he’s the founder of the Over Under Initiative. The non-profit increases access to sports in urban neighborhoods, by converting basketball courts and other blacktops to multi-sport spaces. Martino designed the innovative and elegantly simple conversion process himself.

On June 13 (5:30 p.m., Autostrada, 499 Post Road East), Martino joins Westporters Dan Donovan, Mark Kirby and friends for a fundraiser. Tickets are $250 each. To attend and for more information, email rsvp@overunderinitiative.com.

Youngsters play at Cesar Batalla School’s new multi-sport court. The soccer goal can be pulled out of the ground, then sunk back into the ground, with ease. (Photo/Dan Woog)


Lou Weinberg sends along this gorgeous “Westport … Naturally” image of a Lansdowne song sparrow — and adds a link to its equally beautiful song:

(Photo/Lou Weinberg)


And finally … Happy Connecticut Trails Day!

Instacart Delivers A Great Holiday Gift. Someone In Westport Is Not Pleased.

It was the day before Christmas (aka “Friday”). The Old Hill resident looked out at the surprise snowfall. He was even more surprised to find many large boxes and crates, all over his front steps.

He looked closely. Instacart had delivered 30 rolls of toilet paper, 24 rolls of paper towels, 2 gallons of apple juice, 72 Eggo waffles, 10 pounds of potatoes, 200 kitchen trash bags, a gallon of dish soap, 21 sponges, 2 liters of olive oil, 3 pounds of salt, 1 liter of balsamic vinegar, 12 apples, 2 pounds of onions, 2 pounds of string beans, and 2 pounds of asparagus.

He was all set for the holidays! (And The End Time, if it came to that.)

There was just one problem: He had not ordered any of it.

Bounty (and more) from Instacart, on Old Hill front steps.

So he did what any normal, moral person would do (especially the day before Christmas): He called Instacart, to tell them they’d delivered to the wrong house.

Oops! said the delivery service.

When can you pick it up, and deliver it to the right address? he asked.

Never! they said.

Turns out, Instacart has no way of tracking a delivery, once it’s been delivered. Whether it’s the right address, or the wrong one.

Instacart is clearly not Amazon, which can tell you within a centimeter exactly where your package of basil or boxers is, at any particular moment in time.

Instacart is not even the Girl Scouts, who deliver a bazillion Thin Mints every spring, and manage not to mess up any orders, even though they are only 10 years old.

“Here are your cookies, sir. Thank you for your order!”

So, the Old Hill resident asked, what am I supposed to do with 30 rolls of toilet paper, 72 Eggo waffles, 2 pounds of asparagus, and much more?

Whatever you want! Instacart said. If someone complains, we’ll send a new delivery. But right now: congratulations! It’s yours!

The Old Hill man did not want 21 sponges, 200 kitchen trash bags and 10 pounds of potatoes — especially not the day before Christmas.

So he picked up his phone. He called Homes with Hope. And in an instant (ho ho) he delivered all that — 3 pounds of salt, 2 pounds of onions, 24 rolls of paper towels (and more!) — to the Gillespie Center.

The Gillespie Center. — Westport’s men’s shelter — was pleased to receive Instacart’s misdirected delivery. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

The men’s shelter was thrilled. The Old Hill resident was pleased, if still a bit gobsmacked.

As for whoever ordered 2 liters of olive oil, 1 liter of balsamic vinegar, 12 apples — and much, much more — and is (presumably) still waiting: Call Instacart.

They’ll send over a new delivery, pronto.

Hopefully, this time, to the right house.


Roundup: Renovations, Playhouse Comedy, Kids’ Fathers Day Cards …


Two town-owned buildings with important tenants are getting upgrades.

Tomorrow (Thursday, June 10, 5 p.m., livestream) the Public Site and Building Commission considers renovations to the Longshore restaurant, and Homes with Hope.

Greenwich Hospitality Group — owner of the Delamar Hotels, and the new operator of the Inn at Longshore — will be making improvements to the restaurant, which is currently closed. The Inn remains open.

The town has received a $500,000 grant for work on the Gillespie Center. The shelter behind Barnes & Noble will undergo ADA improvements, and air quality systems will be upgraded.

The PS&BC meeting is available on Zoom (868 1556 4709; passcode: 266287).

The Gillespie Center. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)


There’s nothing funny about the Westport Country Playhouse’s productions being pushed back from this summer to next.

But there will plenty to laugh about onstage soon. From June 18-25, there’s live, stand-up comedy, on the fabled stage.

In partnership with Fairfield Comedy Club’s 3rd annual festival, comedians Mike Birbiglia, Boomer Funny Ladies, Harrison Greenbaum, Jessica Kirson, Dan Soder and others will bring smiles (and belly laughs) to real, live faces. (“Content is appropriate for age 18 and up,” the WCP says.)

Audience members must be fully vaccinated, or receive a negative COVID test with 72 hours of the performance. Concession stands are open. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Mike Birbiglia


Just in time for Fathers Day, Westport Book Shop is hosting a Children’s Craft Event.

Saturday, June 19 — the day before the big one — kids ages 6 to 11 are invited to the used book store on Jesup Green to make their own cards.

There are 2 sessions: 10:30 to 11:15 a.m., and 11:15 to noon. Call 203-349-5141 to register.


Westport’s National Charity League chapter has donated $3,750 to 3 Bridgeport charities serving people hit hard by the pandemic. Grants include $1,250 each to Homes for the Brave, Mercy Learning Center and Caroline House.

While NCL normally only donates time and talent, they made an exception in these critical times.


“Westport … Naturally” is big on mallards wildlife. This one finds a tasty morsel in the Saugatuck River, near the library.

(Photo/Larry Untermeyer)


And finally … in 1968, President Johnson declared this a national day of mourning. Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy died 3 days earlier, from an assassin’s bullet. Two months earlier, Martin Luther King was similarly slain.

Pics Of The Day #1481

Nature’s confetti, outside Don Memo … (Photo/Jenae Weinbrenner)

… and nature’s canopy, a few yards away outside Gillespie Center. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

Homes With Hope’s Holiday Message

It’s been a hard year for Homes with Hope. The Westport non-profit dedicated to ending homelessness in Fairfield County has seen demand for its services rise during COVID. Meanwhile, supporters are stretched thin.

Many Westporters know of the Gillespie Center men’s shelter, and Project Return for young women. But Homes with Hope runs many programs, and does much more.

They’ve just released a compelling video. Produced by Westporter Livio Sanchez, it shows how they act — even in a pandemic — to keep the most vulnerable community members safe. Click below to see:

During 2019-20, Homes with Hope served 1,234 individuals.

  • The Gillespie Center emergency homeless shelter operated at full capacity to host 126 guests
  • Permanent supportive housing served 75 individuals
  • ASAP (After School Academic Program) provided academic support for housing program children and community neighbors
  • HEAL and Mentoring Initiative programs provided support to young people in our schools and community
  • The community kitchen and food pantry provided over 21,000 meals and 1,400 bags of groceries.

In March, Homes with Hope pivoted. They implemented new policies and procedures to follow DC and Health Department guidelines. Staff members became front-line heroes.

Client numbers increased. But no one was turned away. Everyone was served safely, and with dignity.


Like many civic organizations, Homes with Hope canceled annual fundraising events, which provide more than a quarter of its operational support.

Yet, says president and CEO Helen McAlinden, “despite the many unknowns that lie ahead, there is one thing of which we are absolutely certain: With the generous support of our community, Homes with Hope will keep sheltering the homeless and feeding the hungry as we always have.

“On behalf of Homes with Hope’s staff, clients, board of directors and volunteers, I extend our best wishes to you and your loved ones during this holiday season and the coming year. We thank you for helping us serve Fairfield County’s most vulnerable members of our community.”

(To donate to Homes with Hope, click here.)

The Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place women’s shelter. They’re located in downtown Westport, directly across from the police station.

Photo Challenge #298

It’s clear: The Gillespie Center is an integral part of Westport life.

The men’s shelter — across from police headquarters, behind the old Restoration Hardware (and before that, Fine Arts Theater) and, most intriguingly, around the corner from Tiffany — opened in April 1989. (For the previous 5 years, it was located at the Vigilant Firehouse on Wilton Road, now OKO restaurant.)

The Center — named after one of the founders, Dr. Jim Gillespie — had been the home of the Youth Adult Council and Westport Transit District. Long before that, it was a garage for the town Highway Department.

For over 30 years, the Gillespie Center has served as a shelter for homeless men. Run by Homes with Hope, the building includes a food pantry and Hoskins Place, a shelter for single women. The name honors Rev. Ted Hoskins, longtime Saugatuck Church pastor.

35 readers — possibly a record — quickly recognized Helen McAlinden’s photo as the Gillespie Center in last week’s Challenge. (Click here to see.)

The number of correct answers — 35 — may be an “06880” Photo Challenge record. So may be the fact that there were no incorrect guesses. What a tribute to Westport’s embrace of the Gillespie Center!

Congratulations to Matt Murray, Pat Porio, Lawrence Zlatkin, Gloria Gouveia, Mike Hibbard, Cindy Zuckerbrod, Ed Gerber, Elaine Marino, Suzanne Raboy, Rich Stein, Amy Schneider, Wendy McKeon, Peggy O’Halloran, Jan Carpenter, Karen Kramer, Pat Farmer, Molly Alger, Barry Cass, Jonathan McClure, Michelle Scher Saunders, Michael Calise, Ken Gilbertie, Seth Braunstein, Joyce Barnhart, Nancy Axthelm, Linda Amos, Gillian Anderson, John Moran, Vivian Rabin, Susan Yules, Tony Giunta, Pete Powell, Darcy Sledge, Joelle Malec and Bruce Salvo.

Can so many people also identify this week’s Photo Challenge? Probably not. It’s tougher.

So here’s a hint: It’s a former town athletic facility. If you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Werner Liepolt)