Tag Archives: Homes With Hope

Roundup: Library Parking Lot, AMG Catering, Miggs Burroughs …

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The Westport Library parking lot is being repaved.

Fingers crossed that the project will eliminate some of those lake-sized puddles that form even after a sprinkle.

Now about the topsy-turvy entrance to the lot itself …

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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Speaking of books: The Westport Book Shop’s featured artist for May is Miggs Burroughs.

The native Westporter — and devoted book lover — exhibits his large lenticular installation “Sign Language” at the Drew Friedman Art Place. That’s at the rear of the popular used book store on Jesup Green.

“Sign Language” includes 25 small signs. Depending on the angle of the viewer, the words change in ironic or humorous ways.

Miggs has created art since he was 20. Six years later he was chosen to design a commemorative US postage stamp. He has also illustrated covers for Time magazine — and the Westport town flag. Miggs is a co-founder of the Artists Collective of Westport

Miggs Burroughs with his lenticular art. When looked at from a different angle, the words change.

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One more sign the pandemic is abating: AMG Catering has ended curbside pickup.

Business has picked up substantially. Owner Alison Milwe Grace is focusing once again on off-site events.

She is grateful to the many clients who kept her business afloat for the past 16 months. Bon appétit!

Alison Milwe Grace,back to catering.

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Dr. Parthena Penny Proskinitopoulos has big shoes to fill. But she’s ready to step right in.

The Fairfield educator is Staples’ newest assistant principal. She takes over from Meghan Ward on July 1.

She is a former technology integration specialist and social studies teacher. Most recently, she served as interim assistant principal at Roger Ludlowe Middle School.

Staples principal Stafford Thomas says, “Penny was the standout candidate out of a very large and talented administrator pool. She is thrilled to be joining our team at Staples, and I am excited that her arrival will coincide with our summer efforts to create an exciting and fulfilling 2021-22 school year.”

Dr. Proskinitopoulos earned a BA in psychology from St. John’s University, an MA in teaching and 6th year diploma from Sacred Heart University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Bridgeport.

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Speaking of Staples: Praise keeps pouring in for the high school’s SLOBs.

Among the many organizations the Service League of Boys helped at last weekend’s community work day: Homes with Hope.

COVID had depleted the food pantry, while more people than ever need help.  A townwide appeal brought in over 300 bags — and SLOBs worked tirelessly to collect and unpack them, then stock the shelves.

It takes a village to help, HwH officials said. They’re thankful SLOBs are part of ours.

PS: If you could not drop off food, monetary donations are needed to buy supplies. Click here: www.hwhct.org.

SLOBs, with officials and friends of Homes with Hope, outside the Gillespie Center.

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During this graduation season, here’s a shout-out to Tom Tarrant. He recently graduated from the Guiding Eyes for the Blind school — along with his new guide dog, a black Lab named Velvet.

Tom is a longtime Westporter, but this is his first guide dog. An avid rower, Tom has participated in his local area’s rowing club on and off for over twenty years. He looks forward to running with Velvet.

He and his wife have 2 sons, ages 20 and 14, and a 9-year-old golden retriever. The newest member of the family fits right in.

Tom Tarrant with Velvet.

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Wendy Crowther found this morel mushroom the other day, in her backyard near Winslow Park. She says, “The morel has a reputation for being one of the greatest mushrooms in the world — edible when cooked and prized by gourmets.  It was such a surprise to find one.”

(Photo/Wendy Crowther)

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And finally … Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The holiday has become commercialized here in the US — primarily by bars and restaurants — and it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico.

It is not “Mexican Independence Day.” Cinco de Mayo celebrates the day in 1862 when the Mexican army defeated France at the Battle of Puebla. It was part of the Franco-Mexican War — a conflict I had never heard of until a few seconds ago.

 

 

Roundup: Food Drive, Westport READS …

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The pantry is (nearly) empty.

So Homes with Hope — the umbrella organization for the Gillespie Center, and a much-utilized Community Kitchen — is running a food drive. It’s this Saturday (May 1, 1 to 4 p.m., Gillespie Center, behind Barnes & Noble and Don Memo on Jesup Road).

It’s contactless: Just pull your car up, and pop the trunk.

The most needed items: canned meats (chicken, tuna, salmon, Spam); cold and hot cereals; canned soups and stews; peanut butter and jelly; mayonnaise; pasta sauce, canned vegetables.

In addition, Homes with Hope’s Community Kitchen program is gratefully accepting prepared lunches and dinners, 7 days aw eek. To become a Community Kitchen volunteer, click here. Click here for volunteer guidelines.

NOTE: During COVID, the Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place buildings are closed to the public. Staff serves all meals to shelter guests.

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The Westport Library’s thought-provoking WestportREADS programming continues with virtual events this spring.

Tuesday, May 4 (7 p.m.): Ty Seidule discusses his new book,  Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause, with Maggie Mudd. He describes how he confronted the racist legacy at the core of his identity, and challenges the persistent myths of the Lost Cause. Click here for information, and to register.

Wednesdays, May 5 and 19, June 2 (7 to 8:30 p.m.): Me and White Supremacy: The Challenge Continues. Small group discussions on Layla Saad’s groundbreaking book. Click here for information, and to register.

Thursday, May 6 (7 p.m.).: The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. The Library  hosts a virtual screening of Keith A. Beauchamp’s documentary, followed by a conversation with Beauchamp and the film’s producer, Steven Laitmon. Click here for information, and to register.

Saturday, May 8 (7 p.m.): Beechwood Arts presents the 2nd AMPLIFY Festival at the Westport Library. Black artists present music, song, and theatrical works. Click here for information, and to register.

Tuesday, June 1 (12:30 p.m.): In her book, We Need New Stories: The Myths that Subvert Freedom, Nesrine Malik examines 6 political myths used to deflect and discredit demands for social justice with Catherine Lewis. Click here for information, and to register.

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‌Taylor Lane is a pleasant little road, off Clapboard Hill between Turkey Hill South and Maple South.

It is not to be confused with “Talyor Lane,” which is — well, nowhere, despite what the sign says.

Alan Phillips spotted it the other day on a bike ride.

At least, he says, it’s consistent. It’s misspelled on both sides.

(Photos/Alan Phillips)

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The Connecticut Institute for Communities in Danbury is hosting walk-in clinics for the Moderna vaccine every day this week. Anyone 18 and older who lives or works in Connecticut is eligible.

The location is 132 Main Street, Danbury; weekday hours are 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and 2 to 3:30 p.m. No appointment is needed.

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Here was last night’s moonrise. It never gets old.

(Photo/Jeanine Esposito)

Old Mill Beach (Photo/Lawrence Zlatkin)

Compo Beach playground (Photo/Tomoko Meth)

From Beachside Avenue (Photo/Karen Weingarten)

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And finally … On this day in 1981, Xerox PARC introduced the computer mouse.

Roundup: Longshore Inn, Outdoor Dining, Ospreys …

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The new operators of the Longshore Inn have big plans.

This afternoon (Wednesday, March 31, 5:30 p.m.), Charles Mallory — CEO of Greenwich Hospitality Group, which runs the very successful Delamar Hotels — joins Dave Briggs on Instagram Live to reveal what’s ahead.

Listen — and respond in real time — via @WestportMagazine. You can send questions on Instagram ahead of time too: @DaveBriggsTV.

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The Westport Transit District recently replaced its previous fixed route system with Wheels2U Westport service, an on-demand, door-to-train station group shuttle service.

As part of the changeover, posters advertising the 50-year-old fixed route service at the Saugatuck train station were replaced with new ones highlighting the advantages of Wheels2U.

The Westport Transit District donated one of those now-historic fixed route posters to the Westport Museum for History & Culture yesterday. for its collection.

With Metro-North ridership beginning to pick up again, Wheels2U provides a convenient, reliable, and inexpensive way to get to and from the Westport and Greens Farms train stations. It serves a larger portion of Westport and meets more trains than the prior fixed route service.

Riders can order a ride using the Wheels2U phone app, be picked up at their door and then dropped off at the station platform at any time between 5:45 and 9:45  a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m. Reverse commuters can take the shuttle from the train station to their jobs almost anywhere in Westport for less than other alternatives.

Future plans for the WTD include getting more employees to their jobs, shoppers to stores, and seniors to the Senior Center.

For Wheels2U Westport’s service area, fares and other information, click here.  For information about Westport Transit’s door-to-door services for the elderly and people with a disability, click here.

Westport Transit District director Peter Gold presents Westport Museum of History & Culture collections director Nicole Carpenter with a now-historic Westport Transit District poster.

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Yesterday, the State Senate unanimously approved legislation to extend outdoor dining in Connecticut through March 31, 2022.

Local zoning or planning officials still have the final power to permit or expand outdoor dining. The law minimizes paperwork like site surveys or traffic studies, in order to expedite the process.

Earlier this month, Westport’s Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to extend outdoor dining here until further notice.

Outdoor dining on Church Lane last year.

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The ospreys are back — and not just at Fresh Market.

Chris Swan spotted one pair of the magnificent raptors at the nesting platform on Sherwood Mill Pond. He saw another on the saltmarsh at the end of Beachside Common, behind the Nature Center at Sherwood Island State Park. Welcome home to those two happy couples!

A Fresh Market — not Sherwood Island — osprey. (Photo.Carolyn Doan)

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Patagonia is holding a food drive for Homes with Hope. Bring non-perishable goods like canned chicken, tuna, salmon and soup, mayonnaise, peanut butter and jelly, cereal and pasta source to the downtown store.

They also sell “Patagonia Provisions” — items that can be bought, then given away. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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Taylor Whiteside (Whitey) Bailey, a Wesport native and member of a prominent Westport family, died March 18 in Escondido, California of natural causes. He was 88 years old.

He was the 5th child of Franklin and Mary Alice Bailey. His mother was well known here as the assistant to Miss Irene Comer at her dancing school, held in the second floor ballroom of the Westport YMCA. His father was the stepson of Arthur Dare Whiteside, a founder and president of Dun & Bradstreet, and one of the early developers of the Sylvan Road and Nash’s Pond areas of Westport.

Bailey’s brother and sisters included Mary Bailey Beck, Ann Bailey Hall, Franklin Bailey, Jr. and Dare Bailey Wells, all deceased. Joan Whiteside was his step-sister.

Bailey attended Bedford Elementary School and Bedford Junior High School, and was a 1950 graduate of Staples High School. He was a competitive swimmer at Longshore Country Club and a lifeguard at Compo Beach.

He joined the U.S. Marines after high school, and served overseas from 1950-53 during the Korean War. While stationed with the Marines at Camp Pendleton, he was chosen to be the jeep driver in the movie “Retreat, Hell.”

Bailey and his first wife, Allison Norris Bailey, moved to California from Westport in the late 1950s. The former sales manager of Pace Arrow motor home company, he spent the last 25 years of his life in Fallbrook, California.

Allison Norris Bailey and Mr. Bailey’s second wife, Jan Bailey, are deceased.
He is survived by twin sons Kim W. Bailey and Timothy Norris Bailey, both of Westport; Will Mason Bailey of Maui, and 3 grandchildren.

Taylor Whiteside Bailey

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Sure, you can have all the apps and video games you want. But there’s nothing like flying a good old-fashioned kite.

The good news: Tomorrow will be windy. The bad news: It may rain.

Amy Schneider spotted this colorful kite yesterday, at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … happy 336th birthday, to Johann Sebastian Bach!

Roundup: Vaccine, Leah Rondon, Rotary $$ …

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The latest COVID news, via Kerry Foley and Facebook’s “Westport Coronavirus Info” page:

  • “Tens of thousands” of additional doses should be added to the system this week. That means appointment slots will open up soon.
  • If you have a vaccine appointment in  April May or June, you should be able to get an earlier date in the next 3 weeks. If you do get an earlier date, cancel your later appointment.
  • The state is on target to open appointments to the 45 to 54 age group on March 22.

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For several years, a Birthday Bash in honor of Leah Rondon raised money for several scholarships. It honored the 6-year-old daughter of Bedford Middle School teacher Colleen Rondon, who was killed when struck by a car while playing at a friend’s house.

COVID canceled the most recent event. But the show goes on — literally.

This Saturday (March 6, 6 p.m.), a cabaret with young performers from around the globe will be livestreamed on Triple Threat Academy‘s Facebook and YouTube pages. Triple Threat founder/noted “Fame” actress/Staples High School grad Cynthia Gibb co-hosts, with Leah’s mom Colleen.

Performers – most of whom train with Triple Threat in Westport and Hollywood — include Makayla Joy Connolly of Broadway’s “Harry Potter,” and Westport’s own Jamie Mann, of Netflix’s new show “Country  Comfort.”

Leah’s brother Sam joins on sax, Cooper Sadler tears it up at the Levitt Pavilion, and Sophie Walther sings her heart out from the UK.

The family-friendly benefit relies on donations from viewers and supporters. Click here for the link; click for the livestream via Triple Threat’s Facebook Live and YouTube pages.

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It’s been a tough year for non-profits. In-person fundraising has suffered, while demands for their services has spiked.

But thanks to one organization, another can continue its work.

Westport Rotary Club recently donated $1,075 to Homes with Hope. The funds will provide transportation for children living in supportive housing to HwH’s After School Academic Program, where they receive food, tutoring and mentoring. It’s especially important with the rise in online learning, and the widening academic gap for children without a parent to assist them.

Westport Rotary will distribute all of the funds donated by the community to its 2020 LobsterFest Charitable Giving fundraiser. More grant recipients will be announced soon.

Rotary meetings now held virtually 3 Tuesdays a month (12:30 to 1:30 p.m.). For more information, click here.

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March is Women’s History Month. For 25 years, Winged Monkey has been a woman-owned Westport business.

To celebrate both the month and their 25th anniversary, the popular Post Road East shop is offering — yes — 25% sales. There are other promotions all month long too.

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And finally … 3 big birthdays today. They represent a wide range of genres.

Karen Carpenter was born March 2, 1950. She died in 1983.

Jon Bon Jovi was born today in 1962.

And happy 50th birthday to Method Man.

Roundup: Historic Homes, Homes With Hope, DMV, More

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The Historic District Commission meets on March 9 (7 p.m., Zoom). Among the agenda items, they’ll discuss demolition requests for 70 Compo Mill Cove.

From 1922 until his death in 2014, that was Allen Raymond’s home. A beloved civic volunteer who gave time, talent and money to Westport in countless ways, he paid a final visit there exactly a month before he died, age 91.

70 Compo Mill Cove

Also on the agenda are demolition requests for:

  • 10 Scofield Place
  • 32 Owenoke Park
  • 19 Old Orchard Road,

In addition, the Historic District Commission will be asked to approve:

  • An application for exterior repairs, new windows and siding at 18 Post Road West (National Hall), in a National Historic District
  • Eligibility for a Historic Residential Structures Special Permit for 188 Cross Highway
  • Exterior repairs at 39 Cross Highway, a local history property.

Click here for the full agenda, including log-in information and details for public comment.

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Today is Giving Day. Homes with Hope — Westport’s wonderful supportive housing organization — is asking for help.

Just as they offer a variety of solutions — shelters, single-family homes, apartments and affordable housing, plus food and mentoring — there are several ways to support neighbors in need.

You can make a donation (click here).

You can post on social media, and ask your network to help.

You can create your own fundraiser too.

The tagline for Giving Day is “give where you live.” For people with nowhere to live, Homes with Hope can be life-saving.

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Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: Thank you, DMV.

When my driver’s license renewal came up, I was not one of the lucky thousands who can do it online. Dutifully, I made an appointment. And prepared for the worst.

But the pandemic has goosed the notoriously inefficient, user-unfriendly department into new ways of working.

And boy, do they work.

I drove to Norwalk. My temperature was checked; then I was checked in quickly. I got a number. Two minutes later, it was called.

The clerk — a Westporter! — was friendly and funny. The paperwork was quick; the photo was, well, a driver’s license photo. I thanked her, and headed home.

Total elapsed time, door to door: 39 minutes.

I’ve waited longer than that while talking with a DMV clerk at his window in the past.

Like I said: Thank you, DMV!

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What have you been dying to ask superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice?

This afternoon at 3:15, you get your chance.

Just head to Instagram Live (@WestportMagazine), and fire away.

Can’t wait. You can DM your questions ahead of time: @DaveBriggsTV.

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During the pandemic, “CBS This Morning” has been honoring some of the 500,000 Americans who have died of COVID.

Tuesday’s show paid tribute to Sonny Fox. The longtime Weston resident — a legendary kids’ TV show host, among many other accomplishments — died last month, at 95.

Click here to view. (Hat tip: Larry Perlstein)

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And finally … today we celebrate 3 important holidays. February 25 is National Toast Day …

… and National Chili Day …

… and National Rubber Ducky Day.

Roundup: Reusable Takeout, Super Bowl, More

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Like many Westporters, Yulee Aronson’s family orders a lot of takeout food.

Environmentally conscious, he hates throwing away single-use containers. So he researched companies that offer reusable ones.

He found several. The closest — DeliverZero — is in Brooklyn. They provide containers to restaurants, for takeout or delivery. Diners can return them to the delivery person the next time they order from a participating restaurant, or drop them off themselves. A list of DeliverZero restaurants is on their website.

Yulee asked the owner what it would take to bring his service to Westport. He said, “5 participating restaurants.”

So: How about it, Westport? If you’re a restaurant owner, do you want in? If you’re a diner, would you ask your favorite owners to join?

If so, email yulee.aronson@parsons.com. We’ll let you know when we’re ready to start!

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Not sure who to root for in Sunday’s Super Bowl?

Forget the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs. Just cheer for a guard: the Bucs’ Ali Marpet.

He has a great back story: The Hobart College alum is the highest Division III player ever drafted in the NFL. Now he’s got a 5-year, $54 million contract blocking for Tom Brady.

He grew up not far away, in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, where his mother sang in the band Housewives on Prozac, and founded both the Mamapalooza music and arts festival and the Museum of Motherhood.

Oh, yeah: That mom is 1975 Staples High School graduate Joy Rose.

The New York Post provides the full back story. Click here for details. (Hat tips: Bill Halprin and Fred Cantor)

Ali Marpet (left) on draft day and his mother Joy Rose (right), flanking his siblings Zena and Blaze.

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Before cheering for Ali Marpet — and digging into wings and nachos — consider doing a tough workout. You’ll feel good. And you’ll help a great cause.

The workout is a 6-minute pullup bar hang or 6-minute plank, followed by either a half-mile run and 30 pushups, or 2 rounds of 75 jumping jacks, 35 mountain climbers, 15 pushups and 7 burpees. There are other options too.

The cause — after registering ($25 per person, or $40 if you want a t-shirt) is Catch a Lift. The national organization — which has a strong Westport presence, thanks to Adam Vengrow and Andy Berman — helps thousands of post-9/11 combat-wounded veterans regain mental and physical health through gym memberships, home gym equipment, personalized fitness and nutrition programs, and a peer support network.

Click here to register, and for more information.

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Lynsey Addario’s compelling New York Times photos of COVID’s very real effects on very real people in the UK has caught the eye of CNN.

The 1991 Staples High School graduate (and Pulitzer Prize winner, and MacArthur fellow) was interviewed by Rosemary Church. It’s a sobering look at her work — and at the lives and deaths of a few of the millions impacted by the pandemic. Click here (not below — that’s a screenshot) to see.

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Once again, Homes with Hope is part of the Wilton Kiwanis Club’s annual Citrus & Chocolate Fundraiser.

A variety of offerings includes combo packaging with samplings of citrus, plus a great assortment of See’s chocolates.

Every box of fruit or chocolate ordered through the Homes with Hope link benefits our local supportive housing organization. Click here to order. Click here for more information.

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Westporters are used to deer. One, two, sometimes even three eat our bushes, and bound out of the woods.

But it’s rare to 6 at once. Eric Roth took this photo yesterday, on Dogwood Lane.

(Photo/Eric Roth)

They look hungry. It’s not easy feeding such a large family — especially in a snowstorm.

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Hal Holbrook — who died recently at 95 — spent more than 6 decades portraying Mark Twain.

As John Kelley notes, one of those performances was on Halloween night in 1959, at Staples High School.

The school had just opened its modern North Avenue campus. The PTA had an active arts program, bringing musicians, dancers and actors to the new auditorium stage.

Hal Holbrook might have been the most famous name of all.

Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain (Photo/Sara Krulwich for the New York Times)

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COVID-delayed openings today: Westport Library (1 p.m.) and Westport Weston Family YMCA (12:30 p.m.).

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And finally … Happy Groundhog Day!

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)

Gillespie Center Guests Return Soon

When COVID roared through Westport in mid-March, residents hunkered down at home. Life was hard.

For the area’s homeless population, staying home was not an option. Life was infinitely harder.

For over 30 years, Westport has been blessed with — and embraced — a homeless shelter. Located in the heart of downtown — just steps from Tiffany — the Gillespie Center (serving 15 men) and Hoskins Place (4 women) have provided beds, meals, and career and emotional counseling for folks down on their luck.

The Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place.

But living in bunk beds, and sharing common rooms, in the midst of a pandemic was dangerous. Instantly, Homes with Hope — the center’s umbrella organization — found a solution.

Clients were moved to a hotel in a nearby town. Meals (purchased from local restaurants) were delivered to them. In the months since the coronavirus struck, not one of those men or women has fallen ill.

The empty center gave Homes with Hope an idea. This was the perfect opportunity to make needed renovations.

While the clients were away, the men’s residence was repainted. Dividers and wardrobes were installed. A new floor was laid. Thanks to a generous discount from Westport Glass, the showers were redone too.

Beds, wardrobes, dividers and a new floor in the men’s shelter.

Similar updates were made to the women’s shelter.

The common area got new furniture, courtesy of a Westport Woman’ Club grant. It’s not just a meeting place; it’s where the Gillespie and Hoskins residents work with case managers.

Clients will return soon. Though CDC guidelines limit the number of guests now to 10 men, and 2 women, Homes with Hope executive director Helen McAlinden is thrilled to welcome them back.

She is always happy too, to see them leave.

From the moment guests move into the shelter, Homes with Hope’s goal is to have them leave.

Case managers — all with master’s degrees —  help residents create individual housing plans, tailored to each individual situation. Case managers also help residents get jobs and connect with family, plus receive medical benefits, and mental health and addiction services.

Homes With Hope staff members Lauren Wachnicki and Pat Wilson in the community room. A Westport Woman’s Club grant provided new furniture.

“I am proud of the staff. What they’ve accomplished is a testimony to their dedication to our mission,” McAlinden says. She gives a special shoutout to Paris Looney, Homes With Hope’s vice president and chief operating officer.

As residents return to the Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place, Homes With Hope will continue its food services too. In addition to meals served to clients, the organization runs a food pantry open to all Westporters. Two bags of groceries — stocked with pasta, sauce, tuna fish beans, rice, tinned chicken and other non-perishables — are available each week.

All of that food comes from donations. For hours of access, or how and what to donate, click here. To learn more about Homes with Hope, and/or donate funds, click here. To find out what else is needed, click here.

It’s been a rough several months for everyone. But Homes with Hope — its leaders, case managers and clients — have weathered the storms.

McAlinden looks forward to re-engaging with everyone. “Westport is very special,” she says. “I’m glad I can be part of this special community, taking care of Fairfield County’s most vulnerable with grace and dignity.

To learn more about Homes with Hope — or schedule an individual tour, before guests return — call 475-225-5292.

Roundup: Kids’ Mural; Harvey Brooks’ Book; Playhouse Video; More


Ever since youngsters in Homes with Hope’s after-school program turned Hal and Betsy Kravitz’s 77-foot-long South Compo wall into a “hopeful” mural, it’s earned honks and thumbs-ups from passing drivers, bicyclists and walkers.

It also caught the eye of a producer for WABC-TV news.

Which is why — barring breaking news — they’ll run a story on it tomorrow (Sunday, July 5) on the 11 p.m. news.

Channel 7 may include some footage from the video below. Stay tuned!


Harvey Brooks has played with and for Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, Phil Ochs, the Fabulous Rhinestones and Fontella Bass.

The bassist laid down some of the most famous lines in music history, including “Like a Rolling Stone” and the hook on the Doors’ “Touch Me.” He’s featured on Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time.

And for many years Harvey Brooks lived on North Compo Road, right here in Westport.

A few years ago he and his wife Bonnie Behar moved to Israel. But a good story is universal.

Today — which is also his birthday  — his memoir, “View From the Bottom: 50 Years of Bass Playing with Bob Dylan, the Doors, Miles Davis and Everybody Else,” was published. There are tons of musical anecdotes — and lots about his life in Westport too. To order, click here.

Congratulations, Harvey. And Happy Birthday too!


This summer would have marked the Westport Country Playhouse’s 90th season.

The coronavirus brought down the curtain on this year. But the theater — one of the country’s most historic — is not letting the anniversary go unnoticed.

They posed one question to WCP aficionados: “What does the Playhouse mean to you?”

Click below, for some very heartfelt responses.


Happy Birthday, America!

And huge props to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. They made sure our Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge is decorated appropriately — with, red, white and blue lights.

The photo below does not do it justice. Go see for yourself (after dark!).

 


Hugh Downs died Wednesday. He was 99.

The Westport connection? Scott Williams says that decades ago, the longtime TV newsmagazine and entertainment show host rented 121 Sturges Highway house Scott later grew up in.

Hugh Downs, on the “Today” set in 1966. (Photo/Jack Kanthal for Associated Press)


You’ve heard it everywhere. Don’t have a cow. Just wear your mask!

(Photo/Les Dinkin)


And finally … to celebrate America’s birthday, here’s the song that’s been called “our other national anthem.” It’s easier to sing — and the words sure are powerful.