Tag Archives: Homes With Hope

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.

Roundup: Beach, Pool, Golf And Tennis News; #ILoveWestport; Lucky Grad; Fireworks; More


Here’s the latest update from Westport Parks & Rec:

Starting Wednesday, July 1, lifeguards will staff Compo and Burying Hill beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All regular beach rules will be enforced, in addition to all COVID-19 rules. Boogie boards and skim boards are permitted.

The Longshore pools will remain closed, due to state restrictions and limited staffing resources.

Parks and Rec director Jennifer Fava says her department “will continue to monitor the guidance from the state, Should restrictions ease, and we can staff appropriately, we will reevaluate the possibility of opening the pool complex.”

Starting tomorrow (Saturday, June 27), 2 players may share a golf cart. Both must wear face coverings in the cart, and the same person must drive the cart the entire time. Exception: members of the same household are not required to wear face covering in a cart, and valid drivers may alternate.

Also starting tomorrow, all tennis courts at Longshore, Staples High School, Town Farm and Doubleday (behind Saugatuck School) are open for both singles and doubles play. All platform tennis and pickleball courts are open for singles and doubles too.


During the lockdown, town officials emphasized: “We’re all in this together.”

That’s the message during reopening too. To drive it home, they asked a variety of people to make personal promises for keeping everyone healthy.

Anthony John Rinaldi taped those promises. He’s making them into a series of videos, all tagged #ILoveWestport.

In the first one, restaurant owner Bill Taibe promises to keep cooking. Farmers’ Market director Lori McDougall promises to support local vendors. Police Chief Foti Koskinas promises to keep Westporters safe.

There are more too, in this quick video — including a special “06880” appearance. Click below to see.


Like many Westporters, Serkan Elden kept his “Proud Family of 2020 Staples High School Graduate” sign up, even after the ceremony 2 weeks ago. He is justifiably proud of his daughter Deniz, a great member of the senior class that went through so much this year.

Someone else is proud too.

The other day Deniz found an envelope in the Eldens’ mailbox. It was addressed simply: “The Graduate.”

Inside she found a note: “Congratulations 2020! Hope this is a Winner! Good Luck. From, Anonymous Lyons Plain Rd. Neighbor.”

Attached was a Double Match lottery scratch card.

She did not win. 😦 But odds are good that this is a gift Deniz will remember long after the coronavirus is history.


If you missed last weekend’s “Stand Up (At Home) for Homes with Hope” comedy show — no problem.

An encore presentation is set for Wednesday (July 1, 8 p.m.). Four very funny comedians joined Staples grad/noted songwriter Justin Paul for a wonderful hour of entertainment.

Click here to register. And if you saw the show the first time around, you’ll receive an automatic link to watch again.


 

There are no 4th of July fireworks at Compo Beach this year.

And, the Westport Fire Department warns, there should be none anywhere in town.

The note that all fireworks are illegal in Connecticut, expect sparklers and fountains.

Also illegal: items like party poppers, snakes, smoke devices, sky lanterns and anything that emits a flame. Possessing or exploding illegal devices could result in a fine or jail.

Note too: Extremely dry conditions make it easy for fireworks, sparklers and fountains to cause brush fires.


And finally … as other states find themselves in the same situation Connecticut was in 2 months ago, we here are thinking of our friends around the nation.

Street Art Enlivens South Compo

Early in the coronavirus crisis, a cement wall on South Compo Road was painted with an encouraging message.

On Memorial Day it became an American flag.

Now, several panels on either side of the once-boring wall have been turned into colorful, creative murals.

And the artists are all kids.

The youngsters — ages 8 to 17 — had been avid participants in Homes with Hope’s After-School Arts Program (ASAP). Thanks to funding from the Drew Friedman Community Art Center — and the volunteer work of Artists Collective of Westport members — participants had worked on multiple projects, including 2 murals to liven their meeting space.

But when COVID-19 struck in March, that program — and everything else — shut down. With summer near, and restrictions loosening a bit, ASAP director Lynn Abramson contacted noted artist and Drew Friedman trustee Miggs Burroughs about the possibility of creating a community mural somewhere outdoors.

Betsy and Hal Kravitz happily offered their long wall at the corner of Hidden Hill as a canvas.

Supplies on South Compo.

In these turbulent times, the young artists decided they wanted their mural to be filled with inspiring messages and images.

Miggs and fellow trustee Nick Visconti embodied their “stronger together” message by matching the ASAP students with Westport artist Elizabeth DeVoll. She helped them achieve their visions.

They recruited Connie Manna, another Collective member, to help execute the designs.

Work began Monday. The young artists spent several hours a day — fueled by goodies from Joey’s By the Shore, around the corner. (It helps that Betsy is the owner.)

No starving artists!

The mural is done. The message is clear. In the words of one of the panels: “We Got This.”

 

Roundup: Library Book Sale Begins; Comedy Show Saturday; More


The Westport Book Sale’s silent auction opened for bidding this morning.

Items include a virtual visit with Lauren Tarshis, Westport Country Playhouse tickets, a golf outing, photo sessions, artworks, counseling services, fine wine, items for home and garden, and of course rare and interesting books (and more).

Silent auction bidding ends this Friday (June 19, 6 p.m.). There’s also “book bundles” — surprises in a variety of genre (available through Friday, June 26).

Click here for more information, and to bid.


Another important fundraiser that’s moved online is Homes with Hope’s “Stand Up At Home” special event. Set for this Saturday (June 20, 8 p.m.), it showcases 4 great stand-up comedians. There’s also a special performance by Staples High School graduate Justin Paul, and guest appearances by Westport’s own Dr. Scott Gottlieb and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

It’s a great way to laugh together — in the comfort of home — despite being apart.

It’s also much-needed benefit for Homes with Hope, which since 1984 has helped homeless families and individuals through emergency shelter, supportive housing, case management, mentoring, education, and daily meals and groceries.

A suggested $25 donation for “Stand Up at Home” covers your entire family. Click here to register for Saturday’s show. For more information on Homes with Hope, click here.


Ariana Napier continues to make weekly runs to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. And Westporters continue to help.

Her next donation is this Friday (June 19). Items most in need: peanut butter and jelly (no glass), cereal and canned vegetables.

Drop-offs can be made at a bin in her driveway (14 Jennings Court, off Bayberry Lane). She’s also happy to pick up at your house. Email ariana.napier@gmail.com for details.


1st Selectman Jim Marpe spoke with Staples High School graduate/Persona Interviews intern Becca Rawiszer about the town’s reopening plans, and his thoughts on how Westport has handled the COVID crisis. 

Click here to download the Persona app, to watch it all.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe.


And finally … Tori Amos caught a lite sneeze. But she’s fine!

For Stand-Up Comedy Show, Sit Down at Home

Sure, stand-comedy works well in clubs. It’s fun laughing along with dozens of others.

But stand-up stands alone too. It’s fn to watch YouTube comedians and listen to Sirius comedy channels in your home and car.

Next Saturday (June 20, 8 p.m.), the annual “Stand Up for Homes with Hope” fundraiser becomes “Stand Up at Home.”

Of course, you don’t have to stand up to enjoy the stand-up of 4 top comedians. You can sit on your favorite sofa, surrounded by family and friends.

Together, you’ll laugh as hard as ever.

Cristela Alonzo

Cristela Alonzo — star of the ABC comedy that bears her name — headlines the show. She’s an inspired choice for an event benefiting Westport’s supportive housing agency: Until she was 8, she and her family were homeless. (Click here for her inspiring back story.)

Alonzo is joined by Roy Wood Jr., the host of Comedy Central’s storytelling series “This is Not Happening”; Hari Kondabolu, whose comedy album “Mainstream American Comic” debuted at #1 on iTunes, and Mark Normand, whom Jerry Seinfeld called “the best young up-and-coming comic” in 2019.

There are special appearances too by Staples High School graduate/”Dear Evan Hansen,” “The Greatest Showman” and “La La Land” composer/lyricist Justin Paul; Westport resident/former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

Viewers will also see a compelling video. Westport filmmaker Livio Sanchez interviewed Homes with Hope residents. They tell remarkable stories.

Viewers have already registered from as far away as Hawaii, Japan and Switzerland. And — unlike a regular comedy night — there is no limit on the size of the crowd.

Though the evening is virtual, it has all the flavor of a live show. Homes with Hope director Helen McAlinden will be on stage with an auctioneer.

In other words, “Stand Up at Home” will be just like the organization’s other fundraisers — with one exception. The suggested donation is just $25. For that price, you can fill your living room.

And that’s no joke.

(For tickets and more information about the June 20 event, click here.)

COVID Roundup: State Reopens; Wrestlers Run; Food Collected; More

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce passes along this information for businesses, about the reopening of the state.

The first phase — including restaurants, offices, hair salons, barber shops, retail stores, outdoor museums and zoos — should take effect May 20.

Governor Lamont stresses that the decision to reopen during this phase rests with each individual business owner. They are not required to open. However,  those that do must follow all rules.

Those rules are available at ct.gov/coronavirus, and can be downloaded directly through the links below:

All businesses subject to these rules will be required to self-certify before opening on May 20. The certification system will be online beginning next week.

For more information, click here.


When Sal and Melissa Augeri found a few boxes of school supplies in their attic, they knew just who to call: Alex Kappel.

An assistant coach for the Staples High School wrestling team on which the Augeris’ son Nick is a star sophomore, Kappel is also an elementary school teacher in Bridgeport. Many families there have limited access to food and other resources.

The Augeris called several team members. Soon they had more supplies and food for “Coach Kap.”

But the wrestlers wanted to do more. On May 23, they’ll be “Running Across Westport.” One athlete starts; he’ll run to the next wrestler’s house and “tag” him (from 6 feet away, of course). The second wrestler will continue on. The high-powered Staples team has dozens of athletes, so it should be quite a run.

In return, the team asks for cash donations. They’ll use the funds to buy even more supplies and food. Any amount is welcome; just Venmo @Staples-Matmen.

Questions? Email salaugeri@me.com.

Team spirit is a hallmark of the Staples wrestling program. They support each other very enthusiastically. (Photo/Jose Villaluz)


Ariana Napier’s food drive bears fruit. On Friday she delivered 396 pounds of items — much of it donated by Westporters to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.

She’ll continue to collect food, and deliver it every Friday. Her address is 14 Jennings Court (off Bayberry Lane). Items most needed this week: cereal; mac and cheese (box), jelly (no glass).


Another food drive — Homes With Hope‘s — was a great success yesterday. Volunteers — including Staples students — helped out. But the need continues, and another collection is set for tomorrow (Monday, May 11, 2 to 4 p.m.). Non-perishable goods can be brought to the Gillespie Center, behind Restoration Hardware. Stay in your car; pop your trunk; someone will take your donation.


Meanwhile, Kathie Motes Bennewitz spotted these great messages on a bench at Grace Salmon Park:


And finally … many Westporters love The Sweet Remains. The longtime folk/rock band was co-founded by Greg Naughton. He grew up in Weston, and now lives here with his wife, Kelli O’Hara.

A few days ago they released this “love song in the age of ‘shelter in place.'” It truly is lovely — and sweet.

COVID Roundup: NY Times Real Estate; Food Pantry; More

At last: a New York Times mention of Westport that does not involve a super-spreading party or surveillance drones.

Tomorrow’s Real Estate section includes a long feature on New Yorkers who — often to their own surprise — are leaving the crowded, now locked-down city for the suburbs (with, they hope, more space and less exposure to the coronavirus).

The story noted that in March and April Westport had 63 new rentals, up from 36 in the same period last year. A photo of the Saugatuck River and National Hall illustrated the piece.

The article mentioned other Fairfield County towns, including “leafy” Wilton and Weston, where the “sluggish” market “may get a boost.” With 2-acre zoning, there is “plenty of rooms between properties, which germ-conscious buyers may appreciate.”

To read the full story, click here.

The Times story included this view of Weston’s Lyons Plains Road (Photo/Jane Beilis for the New York Times)


Staples High School graduate Marc Bailin sends along this photo from Vermont, where he now has a home. It was taken this morning — yes, May 9:

Which brings up this question: If it had snowed like that here, just a couple of hours south — and it was yesterday, instead of today — would Westport schools have had a snow day?


One more Virtual Bingo report: Thursday’s game raised a record $390. As always, winners choose an organization to receive the pot. Maury and Aliza Wind picked Homes With Hope. To get in the game yourself (all are welcome!), email stan@witkow.com.

In other Homes With Hope news, another food pantry collection is set for this Monday (May 11, 2 to 4 p.m.). Non-perishable goods can be brought to the Gillespie Center, behind Restoration Hardware. Stay in your car; pop your trunk; someone will take your donation.


And finally … in 1985, The Alarm requested “hope” and “strength.” They were way ahead of their time.

COVID-19 Roundup: Face Masks; Food Closet; Moms’ Morning Photos; More


Since 1975, the Westport Woman’s Club has partnered with the Department of Human Services on a year-round, emergency food distribution program, the Food Closet.

When the club gets a call members fill bags of groceries, add Stop & Shop gift cards that the WWC purchases, and deliver the food to Town Hall, or directly to the recipient (whose name remains anonymous).

During the pandemic, requests for food have risen dramatically. In addition to increased demand, a traditional May food drive with the US Postal Service has been canceled.

Non-perishables are desperately needed. Canned goods can be dropped off at the Woman’s Club (44 Imperial Avenue) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, between 9 a.m. and noon. (If the door is locked, call 203-227-4240.)

Checks are also welcome. Click here to donate online. They can also be made out to “Westport Woman’s Club,” and sent to 44 Imperial Avenue, Westport CT 06880.

Last year, Westport Woman’s Club members Wendy McKeon, Catherine Smith and Kim Reichert helped out with the Food Closet drive.


Two women-owned local businesses — Bungalow and Private Portraits — have teamed up to capture casual, candid glimpses of women at home, while raising money for female entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19.

“Sophisticated boudoir photographer” Jen Goldberg takes sunrise, socially distanced front porch sessions — as early as 5:30 a.m. — capturing moms in the moments just before their house awakens.

A portion of the proceeds benefits Sara Blakely’s The Red Backpack Fund. The nationwide effort will make at least 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to women whose businesses have been impacted during the pandemic.

For $100 (additional donations welcome), you’ll receive a 5 x 7 print and a $25 gift card to Bungalow, the Sconset Square boutique. For more information, email jen@privateportraits.com.

HINT: Mother’s Day is Sunday!

(Photo/Jen Goldberg)


Rye Ridge Deli originally stayed open, with curbside and delivery service. Business was slow though, so they closed. Now they’re back open, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here to order online.

Also now open, after an initial closure: Five Guys (11 a.m. to 10 p.m.). Click here for curbside pickup and delivery.


“Essential businesses” in Westport with 50 employees or fewer are are eligible for free masks, under a state plan. Click this link, but hurry: The application deadline is early afternoon tomorrow (Thursday, May 7).

In addition, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe advises residents about the proper use of cloth face masks. According to the CDC, they should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Do not put your hands on the front of mask when putting it on or taking it off. Use the loops or attached ties to secure or remove. Click here for more instructions on cloth mask use.


Homes With Hope hosts a non-perishable food drive this Saturday (May 9), from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Gillespie Center behind Restoration Hardware. Items needed include canned chicken, salmon, Spam, tuna, fruit, applesauce, soups, stews and vegetables; pasta sauce; peanut butter and jelly; mac and cheese; Chef Boyardee, and cereal.


 

The Sunny Daes cow has the right idea. (Photo/Lily Bloomingdale)


And finally … this underrated gem, from Sir Elton John: