Tag Archives: Green’s Farms Congregational Church

COVID Roundup: New Grocery Store; Church Outreach; Earth Animal Art; Face Masks; More


And the newest grocery store in Westport is … Via Sforza.

The popular Post Road West Italian restaurant now sells a wide variety of produce, meat, dairy products, pasta, rice, sauces, spices, herbs, beverages, snacks, and pantry and household items. They’re open 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Of course, they still offer their great takeout and delivery lunch and dinner menus too. Click here for more information, or call 203-454-4444.


Last year, Green’s Farms Church kicked off an ambitious “Church of the Future” campaign. Now is not the greatest time to be in the middle of a fundraiser. But they’ve been around for 309 years. They plan to be here for centuries more.

They’re renovating the facility, parts of which are 170 years old. That includes work on the meetinghouse, refurbishing the pipe organ, and making meeting areas more open and flexible. Local groups like AA will benefit as well.

But in this time of great need everywhere, Green’s Farms Church is thinking beyond its walls. Some of the funds raised are earmarked for local non-profits. The congregation has helped them in the past; now they’re ratcheting up that support even more.

GFC is donating $25,000 each to 4 groups: Homes With Hope, Mercy Learning Center, Pivot Ministries and the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. 

Church leaders hope these challenge grants stimulate additional donations to each of these groups by others. And they hope as their own fundraising campaign continues, they’ll be able to help these and other groups even more in the future.


In the last 35 days, Westport Masks have made over 1,100 masks — and given them all away. Recent recipients include Westport’s Public Works, Parks & Recreation and highway departments; Westport Post Office; elderly residents through Westport’s Department of Human Services; Open Door Shelter in Norwalk; Food Rescue US; Thomas Merton Family Center in Bridgeport; Stamford Hospice, Norwalk Hospital and more.

While continuing to donate to front line and vulnerable groups, they’ll also create masks for friends, family, children and the general public in return for small financial donations. Westport Masks uses 100% of the funds to buy supplies. They suggest $10 — but they never let anyone go without a mask if they need one.

All masks are 2 layers of 100% cotton. They’re washable, with a filter pocket for added protection. They even have neck ties, so they can be worn all the time.

If you are confident with your sewing machine — or cannot sew but can cut fabric, or have spare fabric or good quality bed linen to donate, or want to one of your own — email WestportMasks@yahoo.com.

“We’ll keep going until no one else needs a mask,” promises co-founder Virginia Jaffe.


Yesterday marked the return of the Westport Farmers’ Market to the Imperial Avenue parking lot. Gratified shopper Emily Mikesell reports:

“Besides being as safe as possible, it was an unexpectedly sweet, positive experience. It ran like the most cheerful Swiss watch you’ve ever seen! It was wonderful to see so many familiar vendors, even behind masks. And though I felt sad not being able to over-buy from wandering and browsing, I’ll put myself in that mood over the weekend when I order for next week.

“Until then I will enjoy delicious raw milk and yogurt, farm fresh eggs and just-baked bread.

“Yes, the experience is different. But it still supports the vendors we love. It’s a real day brightener!”

To order online and for more information, click here.


Pets (and pet owners) love Earth Animal. Now artists do too.

Through May 31, they’re collecting artwork from all ages. Sketches, watercolor, chalk — whatever works is fine. So are group entries. The only rule: nothing bigger than 24″ x 36″.

Put your name on the back; drop it off at the store, or mail it to 925 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Drawings will be hung in the store — and whoever created their favorite will win a $500 gift card.

Questions? Call 203-222-7173.


A couple of months ago, the message on this sweatshirt spotted on Beachside Avenue would have drawn puzzled looks. These days, it makes perfect sense.

(Photo/Ed Simek)


And finally … what better way for the King’s Singers to share Billy Joel’s beautiful tune than by asking 732 people around the globe to join them in a “Stay at Home” choir? Kudos to all (and everyone behind the scenes too). What a lovely way to end the week.

COVID-19 Roundup: Resurrection; RaRa; Frannie Faith; Garden Club; More


The pandemic has forced a lot of religious services into cyberspace. But there’s still plenty of activity at Green’s Farms Church.

The 157-year-old meetinghouse of the 309-year-old church is being renovated. The few people driving past on Hillandale Road will see a naked building (siding has been removed for off-site lead paint remediation).

Inside, workers have dismantled the 1964 Aeolian Skinner pipe organ. It’s been sent to New Jersey for restoration. Church officials hope to have it back by fall, reinstalled in a renovated meetinghouse.

“The first Sunday we all get gather and sing with the resurrected organ will be a big day in our history, for more than one reason!” says operations director Claire England.

Whether you’re a member or not — or even a non-believer — I have faith you’ll enjoy this video:


Westport artist Lisa Stretton recently launched a new business. Real Art Real Artists (aka RaRa) is a very cool online directory that helps local artists connect with consumers, and offers art-lovers an easy way to find artists in their area.

Art is searchable by location, theme, style and price. Buyers contact the artist directly, by email, phone or the artist’s personal website.

RaRa takes no commission. Artists pay a low monthly fee to be listed. However, to help them during the pandemic — when they need it most — Stretton is offering free listings to artists. Just click here, and use the code RaRa2020.

RaRa also includes videos, and information about art shows and events.


The Westport Garden Club’s Plant Sale has been held — rain or shine — every year since 1928. The only reason it’s been canceled was World War II.

And now, COVID-19.

With regret, the 96-year-old club has scrubbed the May 8 event. They’d hoped to reschedule, but a new date cannot be found.

The June 11 open meeting has been canceled to. The next one is September 10.

However, public gardens the club maintains are open for enjoyment. Grace K. Salmon Park on Imperial Avenue, and the Nevada Hitchcock Garden (corner of Cross Highway and Weston Road) feature new daffodil plantings.

The Westport Pollinator Pathway Project, launched last year with Earthplace and Wakeman Town Farm, continues. Educational programs will be added as circumstances improve. Click here to find resources for native plants.

For more information about the Westport Garden Club, click here ,and follow on Facebook.


Every other week, Frannie Southworth leads a free music and meditation class on Zoom.

It started as a class called Shabbat Shalva (Sabbath of Peace) through her synagogue, Temple Shalom in Norwalk.

Now –during COVID — it has some Jewish content, but is not particularly religiously oriented. People of all faiths join in.

Southworth’s husband Jeff plays guitar. Together they perform soothing songs and chants. She then guides a relaxation body scan and meditation, and teaches breathing techniques to keep the nervous system calm.

The next class is this Saturday (May 2, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) Email Franniefaith@me.com. For more information, click here.

Frannie and Jeff Southworth


And finally … at times like these, we need Times Like These.

Confirmation Class Meets Homelessness, Virtually

COVID-19 has moved more than school classes and church services online.

Confirmation classes — a cross between the two — are now conducted virtually too.

Traditionally, Greens Farms Congregational’s confirmation class has taken a couple of faith adventure/field trips to local ministry partners or community service organizations, to see how they make a difference. They’ve got a long history of supporting Homes with Hope, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Pivot House in Bridgeport and Norwalk’s Open Door Shelter.

This year, the class planned a trip to the Gillespie Center. They’d bring canned foods, take a tour of the downtown homeless shelter, and meet the clients.

But with everyone isolating at home now, Rev. Dave Stambaugh had to get creative.

He and Helen McAlinden — the president and CEO of Homes with Hope, Gillespie’s umbrella organization — devised a virtual tour.

Helen McAlinden leads a Zoom tour of the Gillespie Center.

With the confirmands and their parents on a Zoom conference, Helen literally walked everyone through the center.

She showed the men’s and women’s living quarters, dining room and food pantry. Helen explained the causes of homelessness, and what happens to clients after they leave the shelter.

The teenagers asked questions: How long does someone stay there? Are any of the clients actually from Westport? How does COVID-19 affect homeless people?

“It was wonderful,” Helen says. “Everyone was very interested. And we had been worried about how to get a young lad in a wheelchair upstairs. This way, he was included with everything we did.”

She was particularly glad to hear one question: “How can we help?” She gave the confirmation class a list of items the pantry needs.

And — in Greens Farms’ spirit of sharing — she adds it here:

The Food Pantry at the Gillespie Center is open! They distribute non-perishables to those in need in the community weekdays (except Wednesdays) from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Their inventory of non-perishables, cleaning supplies and paper goods is running low. Contact-less drop-off of donations is available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Gillespie Center, behind Restoration Hardware. Click here for a list of needed items.

Anyone needing a prepackaged lunch or dinner can come to the Gillespie center. Meals will be brought outside.

Lunch is from 12 to 1 p.m.; dinner is 5 to 6 p.m., both 7 days a week. All food comes from local restaurants.

We do lunch at 12 noon to 1 pm daily and Dinner 5pm to 6 pm daily. (Both 7 days per week)  All food comes from the local restaurants.

(For a glimpse of the Zoom conference tour, click here. To donate to Homes with Hope, click here.)

The Gillespie Center is empty during COVID-19. Residents have been moved from downtown Westport to a hotel.

COVID-19 Roundup: Neighbors Rally; Face Mask Collections; Informative Videos, And More

Someone’s doing great things in the Gorham Avenue/Evergreen neighborhood.

They’re distributing notes in residents’ mailboxes, along with colored paper. The notes ask residents to put the appropriate color in a street-facing window. Green indicates “all ok.” Red means “need supplies.” Yellow is for “elderly/living alone or isolated/mobility issues.”

The note promises that neighbors will monitor the signs, and act as needed. It also offers a phone number to call or text if supplies are needed. Residents can also call that number if they want to help others.

What a great idea — and easy to replicate, in any neighborhood! (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)


Westporter Stephanie Webster’s CTBites is always a great way to keep up with restaurants and bars all around the state. This week’s edition offers comprehensive coverage of places that are open for pickup and delivery throughout Connecticut. There’s also a story about chefs doing good things, and ways everyone else can help them and others.

Click here for details. There are tons of them!


Greens Farms Congregational Church worship, meetings and religious school are now held online.

But yesterday congregants gathered together — 6 feet apart, of course — at a drive-thru food drive for Inspirica in Stamford (where homeless families struggle without the usual supply of donated food and volunteers to help), and Pivot Ministries (a men’s recovery mission in Bridgeport). It’s social distance — and social support — at its best.


The Yale New Haven Health System needs disposable head covers and caps; disposable gowns, gloves and face masks; N95 respirator face masks; powered air purifying respirators; face shields and goggles; coveralls and scrubs; shoe covers; disinfection wipes and liquids, and general purpose hand cleaners.

All should be in original, unopened packages. Email donationsppe@ynhh.org. Include contact information so staff can respond.


Meanwhile, Elizabeth Newman — a physician assistant at New York Presbyterian / Weill Cornell — is collecting face masks because of the critical shortages at all hospitals in the are, including hers.

She  has already picked up hundreds in the area, and can pick up tens to hundreds more from doorsteps in the evenings. Email elizabeth.h.newman@gmail.com. Anyone with access to larger quantities shoud contact masks@nyp.org to ship them directly.

Elizabeth notes, “I don’t want to take supplies from local hospitals if they need them. If anyone has any to spare they can also try to donate to the local hospital or EMS station. If they don’t need them I’m happy to bring them into the city.

“Also if owners of spas, tattoo parlors, salons, etc. that are shutting down can spare theirs, I know Governor Cuomo is willing to purchase masks at a premium,which could help offset their business losses.”


Garelick & Herbs offers 20% off for any orders of in-kind donating to elderly, low-immune deficiency or in need neighbors. Contact them to help coordinate this; also contact if you are interested in helping in other ways: social distancing delivery, phoning those who are isolated, etc. Email Garelickandherbs@gmail.com or pgarelick@aol.com; call or text 203-913-9737.


As students adjust to distance learning, Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas is a clear, calming presence.

This morning he offered his second video update. He discussed next steps for students and staff, AP tests, social distancing and more. You don’t have to be a high schooler or parent to appreciate today’s news. Click here, then scroll down under “Announcements” to March 23, and click on the video.


Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb appeared yesterday on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.” He spoke “outside his Connecticut home” — which, as “06880” readers know, is in Westport.

Click below for the informative interview.

(Hat tip: Dennis Jackson)


As visitors to Aspetuck Land Trust’s 44 trailed preserves increase dramatically — particularly Trout Brook Valley — the non-profit reminds visitors to leave dogs at home. Unfortunately, they create too many opportunities for close human contact. In addition, Aspetuck will closely monitor all areas, to make sure there is proper social distancing. Click here for information on all the preserves.

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Back to face masks.

Lea Kaner is the mother of former 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner and fellow Westporter Celia Offir. When the virus hit, over 1,300 employees in her family’s business — Morton Williams supermarkets — had no face masks.

Unpacking shipments, stocking shelves and checking out customers, those men and women are on the front lines. So Lea — an expert seamstress — stepped up.

Kaner and his wife Liz found pattern cut sheets and instructions on the internet. They drove to a store in Milford, and filled the car with fabric and ribbons. Then Lea went to work.

She’s still working almost non-stop to make sure every employee is protected. Plus, they’re the best looking face masks around.

 

Unsung Hero #88

Little things mean a lot.

This year, Greens Farms Elementary School is performing its first play: “The Lion King.”

Director/producer Laura Pendergast — a GFS parent — and teachers Ellen Hardy and Suzanne Sherman Propp have prepared for months for this week’s show.

Dozens of school hours, plenty of work at home, and countless contributions from parent volunteers have gone into the production.

A crucial full-cast rehearsal was scheduled for last Saturday. Then, disaster struck. In anticipation of snow, all Westport school activities for that day were canceled.

Finding space for 70 children seemed impossible. Realizing that Town Hall auditorium might be an option, GFS parent Danielle Dobin called 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

Rev. Jeffrey Rider

It was not available. But Marpe suggested she contact Greens Farms Congregational Church, and ask about using the Fellowship Hall.

It was Friday evening. Danielle called Rev. Jeff Rider. She did not know him at all — they’d never met or spoken.

He said he’d check the calendar. Soon, he said the space was free — and that GFS was more than welcome to use it.

The location — smack in the middle of the Greens Farms neighborhood — was very convenient. The room was perfect. The cost was free.

And on Monday — when Westport schools were closed because of the overnight storm — Greens Farms Church opened its doors again, for another rehearsal.

Speaking for the entire GFS community, and citing his flexibility and generosity, Danielle nominates Rev. Rider as “06880”‘s Unsung Hero this week.

As she notes: “Thanks to Rev. Jeff, we went from stressed out to Hakuna Matata in no time flat.”

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Send nominations to dwoog@optonline.net)

The show must go on: Rehearsing in the Greens Farms Church Fellowship Hall.

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Greens Farms Church, from Hillandale Road (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Greens Farms Church Signs “Bad News Bears” Minister

It’s been more than 40 years since aging, down-on-his-luck ex-minor leaguer Walter Matthau coached a team of misfits.

But even current Little Leaguers — whose grandparents saw the movie when they were kids — knows that the “Bad News Bears” are not exactly the New York Yankees.

There were 2 sequels to the sports comedy. Only 5 actors appeared in all 3. David Stambaugh is one.

David Stambaugh, then …

His character — Toby Whitewood — is the son of councilman Bob Whitewood, who secretly paid Morris Buttermaker to coach the team.

Stambaugh — whose career began at age 4 (he was in commercials for, among others, Bazooka gum and Tide), and continued with a decade’s worth of appearances on the soap opera “Love of Life” — put all that behind him before he was out of his teens.

“At 15, acting becomes very competitive,” he says. “Especially if you don’t look as cute as you did at 9.”

An avid church youth group member since junior high, Stambaugh attended Messiah College. It’s a Christian school, but he did not want to be a pastor. He majored in communications.

Yet religion was important. So Stambaugh went on to earn 2 master’s degrees, in theology and divinity.

His undergrad major actually came in handy. “I communicated as an actor,” he notes. “As a pastor, I communicate when I preach, and do weddings and funerals.”

… and now.

He became a youth and young adult minister in New Jersey, then a solo pastor for 5 years at a church on the Shore.

Stambaugh returned to Hollywood — but not as an actor. He got the call from the United Methodist Church there.

However, his family was all on the East Coast. When Stambaugh’s wife was hired as children’s pastor by the First Congregational Church in Guilford, they eagerly moved back.

The minister there introduced him to Jeff Ryder, senior minister at Greens Farms Congregational.

Last month, Stambaugh was ordained as the 307-year-old church’s minister of faith formation. He works with the 8th and 9th grade confirmation classes, and with adult education. He teaches Bible studies, and preaches once a month.

Stambaugh knows Westport’s heritage as an arts community. He’s played drums for years, and looks forward to meeting fellow musicians.

He’s also intrigued that Jason Robards once lived here. Stambaugh was in “The Thanksgiving Treasure” — a 1973 film — with him.

Three years later came “The Bad News Bears” — David Stambaugh’s Hollywood home run.

Historical Society Shines A Light On Westport’s Troubled Past

Iron shackles. Burned timbers. “Negro child.”

They’re not the usual things you see at the Westport Historical Society.

But this is not the usual WHS exhibit.

Slave shackles, on exhibit at the Westport Historical Society.

“Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport” opened in May. It’s one of the most creative and compelling shows ever mounted at Wheeler House. (Which, the exhibit notes, sits across Avery Place from a building that may have been built by slaves.)

It’s also one of the most important.

I attended the opening reception. It was packed. I talked with people who recalled some of the important events, like Martin Luther King’s visit to Temple Israel, and the fight over bringing Bridgeport students to Westport through Project Concern.

But it was too crowded to really see the artifacts and photos, or read the texts.

So the other day I returned. The Sheffer Gallery was quiet. I had time to study the exhibit.

And to think.

I learned a lot. I’m a Westport native and lifelong New Englander. But I never knew, for example, that slavery was not fully abolished in Connecticut until 1848. (The decades-long process spared white farmers the loss of free labor while they were still alive.)

Some of Westport’s biggest names — Coley, Nash, Jesup — were slave-owners. The property deeds — as in, these human beings were their property — are right there, for all to see.

A 1780 payment voucher for a black patriot soldier who bought his freedom, and immediately enlisted.

We see too a recreated hearth, from a Clapboard Hill home. It’s cramped and dark — and it’s where a young slave girl might have slept.

The reconstruction of sleeping quarters in a crawl space, from a Clapboard Hill Road home.

I did not know that black Westporters fought for the Union in the  Civil War. Nor did I know that an unknown number of slaves are buried in unmarked graves in Greens Farms Church’s lower cemetery.

I did know — on some level — that African Americans have a long history here. But I had not thought about what it meant for them to work on our docks, in our homes, or at our farms.

Black Westporters were domestics, chauffeurs and seamstresses. But they were also, the exhibit notes, teachers, artists, physicians, activists and freedom fighters.

The exhibit includes a 1920s painting by J. Clinton Shepherd, “The Waffle Shoppe.” It may well be based on an actual restaurant on Main Street.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the Great Migration drew millions of African Americans north. Westport — offering work on farms and estates — was one destination. Black families lived on the Post Road, Bay Street — and 22 1/2 Main Street.

I have known for years that that address — set back in an alley that later became Bobby Q’s restaurant — was the site of a boardinghouse, where dozens of African Americans lived.

I knew that in 1950, it burned to the ground. Arson was suspected.

Photos and text about 22 1/2 Main Street.

But until the WHS exhibit, I did not know that a few months earlier, black Westporters had asked to be considered for spots at Hales Court, where low-cost homes were soon to be built. The Westport Housing Authority grudgingly agreed — but only after veterans, and others “with more pressing needs,” were accommodated.

Was that a cause for the fire? The exhibit strongly suggests so.

(Nearly 70 years later, construction at the old Bobby Q’s has revealed charred timbers — vivid testimony of that long-ago tragedy. It’s worth a look.)

I have long been fascinated by this photo, of one African American standing apart from everyone else in the Shercrow School photo. The WHS exhibit gives her a name — Anna Simms — and notes that she may have been a student or teacher.

The exhibit pays homage to African Americans like Drs. Albert and Jean Beasley, beloved pediatricians; Martin and Judy Hamer, and Leroy and Venora Ellis, longtime civic volunteers, and educator Cliff Barton.

It also cites the contributions of white Westporters like Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein (arrested with Dr. King in St. Augustine, Florida); Board of Education chair Joan Schine, who fought for Project Concern, and artists Tracy Sugarman and Roe Halper, staunch supporters of the civil rights movement.

Roe Halper presents woodcuts to Coretta Scott King. The civil rights leader’s wife autographed this photo. The artwork was displayed in the Kings’ Atlanta home for many years.

But ultimately, “Remembered” remembers the largely forgotten men, women and children who helped shape and grow our town. Some came freely. Others did not. All were, in some way, Westporters.

In the foyer outside the exhibit, a stark wall serves as a final reminder of the African Americans who lived quietly here, long ago.

It lists the 241 slaves, and 19 free blacks, found in the Green’s Farms Congregational Church record books between 1742 and 1822. Most were listed only by first names: Fortune. Quash. Samson.

Some had no names at all. They are called only “Negro Child,” or “Negro Infant.”

The wall does not carry the names of all the white people listed in the church books during those 80 years. Many are well known to us, centuries later.

And most of them, the exhibit notes, owned the men, women and children who are now honored on that wall.

(For more information on “Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport,” click here. The Westport Historical Society, at 25 Avery Place, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors. Members and children 10 and under are free.)

(WHS is also memorializing the names of over 200 Westport slaves, through bricks in the brickwalk. The $20 cost covers the brick and installation. To order, click here.)

In 1964, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke at the 5th anniversary of the dedication of Temple Israel. He autographed this program.

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Greens Farms Congregational Church steeple (Drone photo/Jack Feuer)

Pics Of The Day #252

Greens Farms Congregational Church ,,, (Photo/Candace Dohn Banks)

… and St. Luke. (Photo/Julie Mombello)