Tag Archives: Homes With Hope

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)

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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.

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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.

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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)

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

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

(“06880” is a fully reader-supported blog. Please consider donating; click here!)

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. 

Roundup: Iain And Linda Bruce, Hotel Marcel, Bayberry Bridge …

Dozens of Iain and Linda Bruce’s many friends, colleagues and fellow civic volunteers gathered at the Westport Library last night to say thanks and farewell.

After 33 years in Westport — and countless contributions in all areas of town life, from the Westport Weston Family Y and Library to music, schools, religion and RTM — the couple are moving at the end of this week.

They head to York, Maine where they’ve had a second home for years. They’ll jump right into community activities there (and Iain will pursue a master’s in history at his alma mater, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario).

Iain and Linda have made Westport a much better place. Our loss is Maine’s gain. Thank you both. And of course, we look forward to seeing you whenever you want to head south.

Iain Bruce — always proud of his Scottish heritage — wore a kilt at last night’s event. His wife Linda shared the stage, as both made very brief remarks. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Every I-95 driver knows the former Armstrong Rubber/Pirelli headquarters in New Haven. That’s Marcel Breuer’s 1960s-era concrete box on the left as you head north, just before the I-91 merge.

It was vacant for quite a while. But 3 years ago, Westport architect/developer Bruce Becker bought the Brutalist building.

After extensive renovations, this spring he’ll open the Hotel Marcel. The 165-room boutique hotel runs generates and manages all its own power, thanks to solar panels, storage batteries and state-of-the-art energy-saving technologies.

It’s called the first zero-net-energy hotel in the U.S.

Connecticut Magazine has published an in-depth, fascinating story on Becker, and the hotel.

It quotes architect Duo Dickinson: “Bruce Becker is changing architecture more than any other practitioner in New England and perhaps America.”

The story notes: “a structure created a half-century ago by an innovative designer (Marcel Breuer) is returned to vibrant life by another innovative designer bent on changing the way we think about energy, built environments and our future.” Click here for the full story. And click here for an “06880” on Becker’s zero-energy Westport home. (Hat tip: Dennis Jackson)

PS: One more Westport connection: Saugatuck’s LANDTECH is the Hotel Marcel’s site/civil engineer.

Bruce Becker, in front of his new Hotel Marcel. (Photo/Ned Gerard for Connecticut Magazine)

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They’re not big news. But a couple of agenda items for the next Parks & Recreation Commission meeting (Wednesday, April 27, 7:30 p.m., Zoom) seem interesting.

Commissioners will be asked to disband the Levitt Pavilion sub-committee. The agenda says: “As part of her review of the Town’s various sub-committees, the First Selectwoman has decided that she would like the Levitt Pavilion committee to report directly to her office. In order to do so, the sub-committee of the Parks and Recreation Commission must be disbanded.”

More impactful may be a proposed moratorium on bench donations.

According to the agenda: “Many of our beach and park facilities are over-saturated with memorial benches. Staff are presently reviewing the current policy while we also work to create standards that will be used going forward for any new installations.

“Until we have more detailed information that we can provide to the Commission, we request a moratorium be placed on all new bench requests until further notice.”

Click here for the full agenda, and meeting information.

Compo Beach memorial benches (Photo/Anne Ziff)

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The Bayberry Lane Bridge over the Aspetuck River will be closed for construction. The project starts Thursday, and is slated to run through November 30 (fingers crossed)

So that means — according to the sign below — Bayberry Lane #2 is closed.

There’s just one problem. There is no road called “Bayberry Lane #2.”

In fact, there’s not any road in Westport ending in “#2.”

Or probably anywhere else in the country. (Hat tip: Bill Dedman)

(Photo/Bill Dedman)

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Yesterday’s post-Easter and pre-Arbor Day festivities at Jesup Green included egg hunting and a tree giveaway.

Bartlett Tree Experts donated red maple saplings. Westport Tree Board members handled the rest.

Westport Tree Board members on the left are Dave Lowrie and Dick Stein. Ed Picard is on the right.

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lotsa lotsa kids egg hunting!  Here’s a pic of some interested neighbors acquiring a red maple sapling, donated by Bartlett Tree Co.  (sorry didn’t know the pic was being taken so didn’t get their names.)   Tree board members left to right are;  yours truly, Dick Stein and Ed Picard far right

Congratulations and thanks to the Westport Police Department, Westport Womans Club, Sunrise Rotary and Homes with Hope, for collaborating on yesterday’s food drive at Stop & Shop.

Thanks too to all who donated, to support the Gillespie Center food pantry, and Westport Human Services.

Volunteers at yesterday’s food drive. From left: Marty Berger, Paul Keblish, Anna Rycenga, Rob Hauck, Andy Berman, Tom Lowrie, Joe Watson.

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Can there be anything more natural than the tides?

Jonathan Prager contributes today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo: timeless tides, and their aftermath at Compo Beach.

(Photo/Jonathan Prager)

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And finally … in honor of the photo above:

 

Roundup: Julia Marino, Beach Digs, Beach Dogs …

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A bigger crowd will honor Olympic medalist Julia Marino tomorrow than was on hand when she actually won it.

Spectators were not allowed on the Chinese mountain where the Westport native snagged her snowboard slopestyle silver. Her parents, sister and friends watched from half a world away, on Vivid-Tek’s big screen.

They — and many more fans — will fill the Trefz Forum tomorrow, for the town’s celebration.

But if you haven’t already registered, don’t try getting in. All the (free) tickets were gone in a few hours.

You can still see it, though. The 7 p.m. event will be livestreamed. Click here for the link.

Hey — if watching Julia win an Olympic medal on a screen was good enough for her family, doing the same for her celebration should be okay for you.

Julia Marino, on the Olympic podium. Tomorrow she’ll stand on the Library stage.

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Fashionably Westport — the Downtown Association’s great benefit for Project Return, the Homes with Hope program for homeless women — kicked off last night with a runway event at the Westport Library.

Fashionably Westport continues today (Friday, April 1) with activities and promotions at downtown and Playhouse Square retailers and salons

Participating merchants include Middlemarch, WEST, Noya Jewelry Design, FRED, Marine Layer, Splash of Pink, Southern Tide, Cotelac, Barbour, Stephen Kempson London, Express Edit, Winged Monkey, Fleet Feet, The Plumed Serpent, Bobbles & Lace, Brochu Walker, 7 For All Mankind, Splendid, Scout and Molly’s, Great Stuff, Pure Salon and Artistex.

Looking fashionable last night at the Library (from left): Homes with Hope CEO Helen McAlinden, RTM member Sal Liccione, frequent food drive volunteer Anna Rycenga, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Westport Downtown Association president Maxx Crowley.

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Some of Westport’s most historic, unique — and breathtaking — homes are for sale.

And they’re all next to each other, on one of Westport’s most historic and unique sites: Compo Mill Cove.

#44 — a 1917 bungalow — is the gray house, most visible (and most painted and photographed) from Old Mill Beach. The oldest one on the Cove, with original framing and fireplace intact, it’s accessible via a footpath and teak boardwalk, just beyond 2 wooden bridges.

Incredibly, it never floods. Even Superstorm Sandy did no damage. The price was recently reduced to $3.295 million.

Fun at 44 Compo Mill Cove.

Also on the market: #42 (the cottage rebuilt in 2006 by Michael Greenberg), and #48 Compo Mill Cove. Like #44, they’re owned by Robin Tauck, and feature natural plantings. Together, they’re on hundreds of feet of private beachfront.

42 Compo Mill Cove, aka “The Pirate Shack.”

There’s an open house for all 3 Sunday (April 3, 1 to 3 p.m.). Park in the Old Mill lot, and walk over the bridges.

PS: Though not owned by Robin, #46 is far sale too. That means all of the Cove point is for sale.

Buy one of these spectacular homes.

Or all 4!

44 Compo Mill Cove is the gray house on the right side of this photo. Other homes nearby are also for sale.

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April 1 is noteworthy for 2 things:

  • April Fool’s Day
  • The start of the 6-month dog ban at Westport beaches.

A couple of alert readers/avid dog owners captured the final day of Fido and Fifi’s freedom yesterday, at Compo.

Frank, Oggy, Utah and Winston (Photo/Nicola Sharian)

(Photo/Collette Winn)

See you October 1!

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Pause + Purpose — the new mindfulness studio, across from the Library on Jesup Road — calls its sessions “Pause for a Cause.”

From tomorrow through Monday (April 2-4), that cause is Ukraine. All proceeds from meditations hosted by the studio staff will go to World Central Kitchen, to help feed the Ukrainian people.

Click here to book a session. Click here to learn more about Pause + Purpose.

Inside Pause + Purpose.

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An “06880” reader sends this cautionary tale:

The other day, an older woman was shopping at HomeGoods, near Southport. She returned to her car — close to the store — and put her bags in the car.

A “normal-looking person” said, “Hey, be careful backing out. Your rear tire is flat.”

She got out to look. When she turned back around, he had already grabbed her purse and vanished.

Be careful out there.

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Some “Westport … Naturally” photos can sit for a while before I use them.

Not this one.

Soon, the branches will fill out. In a couple of weeks — fingers crossed — this image of Owenoke Park, looking toward Compo Beach, will seem very dated.

Fingers crossed, anyway.

(Photo/Jonathan Prager)

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And finally … in honor of today:

Roundup: $10,000, Logging Truck, VersoFest …

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Earthplace updated maps of their 74-acre sanctuary. Project Return repainted their North Compo Road home. The Westport Astronomical Society got a new solar telescope. Wakeman Town Farm bought a mobile chicken coop.

All of that money came from “Ruegg Grants” — courtesy of the Westport Woman’s Club. Established in 1995 by former member Lea Ruegg, they’re given each spring to a local non-profit with a project that makes a meaningful difference in social services, health, safety, the arts or education.

Previous recipients include, CLASP Homes, the Westport Police Department, Interfaith Housing, Mercy Learning Center, Toquet Hall, the Westport Rotary Club, Staples Players and the Westport Library.

Your organization could be next. The Woman’s Club is accepting submissions now through April 25, for up to $10,000 for a 2022 project. Click here for the application form.

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Bert Porzio is one of Westport’s real good guys. The tree service owner would do anything for anyone (and often has: Check out his Unsung Hero honors from 2018).

But his rental of the small lot on the corner of Post Road and Roseville to store logs has worried some residents.

They’re concerned about one of his trucks parked at the lot, blocking visibility of drivers coming down the Roseville hill.

Now, for the past few days, a logging truck has been parked across from McDonald’s. It’s on the sidewalk, just a few yards from Route 1.

Is it legal? Is it safe? “06880” readers have asked both questions.

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Al’s Angels is sponsoring a Fairfield rally, in support of Ukraine.

The event is tonight — Wednesday, March 30 — from 5:30 to 10 p.m. at Penfield Pavilion. 100% of all proceeds will go to 2 charities, working for the war-torn nation.

The $50 ticket price includes Ukrainian and “local” food, live music, a silent auction and raffle prizes. Scan the QR code below for tickets. (Hat tip: JC Martin)

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Verso Fest continues to get bigger.

The Westport Library has just added an intriguing panel to its 1st-ever media and music festival.

On Saturday, April 9 (1 p.m.), Dick Wingate — a Westporter at the forefront of music marketing, A&R and interactive technology for over 40 years — will moderate a panel on audio production.

Dick launched or developed the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Peter Tosh, Eddy Grant, Pink Floyd, Sarah McLachlan and Garland Jeffreys while at Columbia, Epic, PolyGram and Arista Records. He then pioneered the digital music business with Liquid Audio, as chief content officer. He now operates DEV Advisors, a media and entertainment consultancy.

Panelists include:

Datwon Thomas: editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine, and vice president of cultural media for MRC. He was founder and editorial director of men’s lifestyle guide King magazine, the urban car enthusiast’s favorite Rides Magazine, and editor-in-chief of hip-hop’s street authority, XXL Magazine.

Stephen Webber: Emmy-winning composer, musician, author, producer, engineer, and a leading innovator in music and the performing arts. He founded the Music Production, Technology, and Innovation master’s program at Berklee College of Music’s Spain campus. He’s Berklee’s dean of strategic initiatives, working on domestic and international projects in Los Angeles and China. A former A&R consultant for Universal Music Group, Webber has produced and engineered albums for a wide range of artists.

Travis Bell: audio studios Manager and in-house producer and engineer for Verso Studios. As owner/operator of Hamden’s Adorea Studios for 10 years, he earned acclaim from NPR and Rolling Stone for an array of different projects.

For more information on VersoFest, click here.

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This is a tough time of year for Homes with Hope’s food pantry.

The Gillespie Center program always sees a dip in donations between the holidays, and its spring food drive.

Rising food prices have proved a double whammy. More families are in need, while donors are also feeling the pinch.

Donations can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Gillespie Center. It’s behind Barnes & Noble, next to Don Memo and Walrus Alley off Jesup Road. Click here for a list of most-needed non-perishable items.

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Michael Bolton moves on!

Not from Westport — he’s staying here. But the New Haven native advances to the next round of NBC’s “American Song Contest.”

Bolton sang “Beautiful World,” in the Eurovision knockoff that includes artists from all 50 states, 5 US territories and Washington DC.

The jury ranked him 5th, but votes by fans propelled him into the semifinals. He joins representatives from Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico. His video from the show is below. (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)

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Julian Lamb Orgel — the lively and musically talented cellist son of 1971 Staples High School graduate Paul Orgel — died in 2018. He was 26.

A fundraising concert in Colchester, Vermont on May 21 will endow a scholarship in Julian’s honor for the Vermont Youth Orchestra — a place, his family says, that “nurtured him and provided him with years of support, friendship and music-making pleasure.”

The program features the world premiere of “Songs With and Without Words,” composed in Julian’s honor by Curt Cacioppo, with his father on piano. There are also classical and jazz performances.

Click here for tickets and more information. Click here for more on Julian Orgel. (Hat tip: Diane Sherman)

Julian Orgel

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Jonathan Alloy submits today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo. He also sends this question: “Is your bird feeder deer-proof?”

(Photo/Jonathan Alloy)

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And finally … it was great seeing Peter Tosh’s name among the artists Dick Wingate has worked with (in the story above, on VersoFest).

He’s one of my favorite artists. And, like so many, gone way too soon.

Roundup: Closures, Mrs. London’s Bakery, Jazz & Java …

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You don’t need to be a weatherman to know that nearly everything in Westport — the Library, Y, you name it — is closed today.

Local to Market has also postponed tomorrow’s Cloudy Lane Bakery event, scheduled for Sunday. A new date will be announced soon.

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The long-awaited Mrs. London’s Bakery — successor to Aux Delices, Java, Wild Pear, Chef’s Table, and a few other places I’ve probably forgotten on Church Lane, at the foot of Elm Street — will open next month.

“Hopefully for Valentine’s Day,” says Max London. His parents started the now-famous original Mrs. London’s Bakery in Saratoga Springs, New York, in the 1970s.

Nearly a year ago — on February 25, 2021 — “06880” broke the news about the 2nd location. I wrote:

He (she?) feature pastries, baguettes, croissants, grilled sandwiches, paninis, salads, quiches, soups, “decadent desserts,” espressos and teas. Ingredients are organic, locally grown and sourced.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for Il Pastaficio — “artisanal pasta” and more, around the corner on the Post Road and announced in the same story — to open.

(Click here for a full CT Examiner story on Mrs. London’s Bakery’s Westport location.)

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Homelessness is a national issue — even in Fairfield County.

And even in Westport.

We’re fortunate that many dedicated organizations and individuals are addressing the problem.

Helen McAlinden — CEO of Homes With Hope — also co-chairs the Opening Doors Fairfield County Advocacy Taskforce. On Monday (January 31, 8:30 a.m.), they host a roundtable information session including breakout discussion groups.

Interested residents can learn more about legislative priorities, and how to help our most vulnerable neighbors.

Click here to register, and for more information.

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Jazz aficionados know the best clubs — places many others have never heard of.

They were out in force Thursday night, at the Staples High School cafeteria. Phil Giampietro’s Jazz Ensemble hosted a “Jazz & Java” night.

Well, okay — most of the attendees were parents and friends of the very talented young musicians. COVID kept the crowd small.

But — thanks to this very talented group — the joint was jumpin’!

Just a small section of Staples’ Jazz Ensemble. (PHoto/Allison Ginzburg)

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Speaking of arts: Two new exhibits opened last night at MoCA.

“The Westport Idea” features selections from WestPAC holdings of more than 2,000 artworks. Most of these works are housed in public schools and municipal buildings, not always accessible to the public.

The Museum’s annual high school exhibition features nearly 200 compelling works focused on the theme of “Identity,” created by student artists from across Connecticut and Westchester.

The exhibitions are on view through March 12 (weather permitting, duh). Free docent-led tours are available, and free supporting Cocktails and Conversation events will be held on Thursday evenings. Click here to learn more.

Staples High School junior Sophie Spheeris, a 17-year-old junior from Staples, with her artwork “Us and Them.” It’s the collage of the woman, on the left.

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The recent death of Meat Loaf — followed a few days later by Jim Ryan‘s passing — sent Kathleen Dehler looking for a photo.

She found it. In 1988, the 2 men joined her husband Will Dehler as coaches of their daughters’ Westport softball team, the Rebels.

“What wonderful memories!” Kathleen says. “And so sad that Meat and Jim are no longer with us.”

Meat Loaf (left), Jim Ryan (right) and Will Dehler (center), with the Rebels.

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Congratulations to Westport’s 9 Presidential Scholar candidates.

Nomination for the prestigious program is a high honor for high school seniors. Selections are made on superior academic and artistic achievement, leadership, strong character, and involvement in school and community activities. The program is run by the US Department of Education.

The Westporters include Staples High School’s Aidan Mermagen, Tessa Moore, Chloe Nevas, Konur Norbert, Nicholas Prior and Julian Weng, and Hopkins School’s Will Cooper, Max Gordon and Finnbar Kiely.

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Hours before the snow began, William Webster captured this “Westport … Naturally” image of what he believes is an immature eagle, 100 yards across the Saugatuck River.

“The beak looks right,” he says, “and the front feathers are starting to turn white.”

(Photo/William Webster)

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And finally … on this day in 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union, as our 34th state. Years of controversy led up to the event: Would it be a free state, or a slave state? Abolitionists prevailed.

But less than 3 months later, the Civil War began.

 

 

 

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.

 

Homes with Hope Copes With COVID

COVID has been tough on everyone. It’s especially hard on homeless men and women.

Westport has a long history of helping. An interfaith project that began nearly 40 years ago has evolved into Homes with Hope — a multi-pronged non-profit dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness in Fairfield County.

They offer emergency shelter for men and women, supportive housing for individuals and families, rapid re-housing, diversion services, a community kitchen and food pantry, youth development programs and mentoring.

From the start, Westporters pitched in to help. Among the most important: donating food, and serving meals.

Westporters of all ages have volunteered at the Gillespie Center.

Food donations have continued since the pandemic began. Clubs, religious institutions and others have kept their commitments.

“I’ve never seen a community like Westport,” says Homes with Hope executive director Helen McAlinden. “Everyone wants to help. They do so much for us.”

But the Gillespie Center — the men’s shelter behind Barnes & Noble, and across from the police station — has been closed to volunteers, as a safety measure.

She knows they miss seeing the clients they cook for, and once served meals too. She hopes volunteers can return soon to Gillespie Center. In the meantime, she thanks the town for its continued support.

The Gillespie Center. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

However, the past 18 months have taken a toll on fundraising. Annual events like Gather Round the Table, Fashionably Westport and Summer Nights were canceled last year and this.

The Standup for Comedy event went virtual. Though successful, it did not generate the buzz — and awareness of Homes with Hope — that it does, live and in person at the Quick Center.

McAlinden worries that not enough people in town know about Homes with Hope. New residents especially may be aware that a few yards from Tiffany, one of the nation’s oldest suburban homeless shelters serves people — including Westporters — who have fallen on hard times.

She wants every resident to hear about (and see) her organization’s many programs and projects. She’ll talk about (and show) the Gillespie Center and Hoskins Place men’s and women’s shelters; Project Return/Susie’s House for  young women; Powell Place and Linxweiler House, the Bacharach Community for victims of domestic abuse and their children, and after-school programs.

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

“We’re more than just a homeless shelter,” she adds. “We help all vulnerable people, with food and housing.”

Interested? Call McAlinden at 475-225-5292 for a tour

You can donate too, of course. Click here.

And keep an eye out for information on when volunteers will again be able to serve meals at Gillespie Center. The line of helpers — and recipients — will be long.

 

CMS Giving Assembly: Important Tradition Continues

If it’s November, it must be time for the Giving Assembly.

For several decades, Coleytown Middle School celebrated Thanksgiving with a month-long, school-wide project. Each grade selected one or two organizations or non-profits. Students and parents collected goods or raise money.

Then — on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — the school gathered together for a Giving Assembly. Recipients described how they’ll use the donations. There was music too, and plenty of good vibes.

The closure of CMS for renovation, and then the pandemic’s prohibition of visitors, put the great tradition on hold.

Thankfully, it’s back.

Newly renovated, Coleytown Middle School returns to an old tradition.

As the school rebuilds a sense of community after a few tumultuous years, enthusiasm for the program is high.

Eighth graders overwhelmingly chose Al’s Angels — the Westport-based charity helping children with serious illnesses — as this year’s recipients. The 2 pods have a “coin war,” to see which collects the most.

Patty Haberstroh

Seventh and 6th graders are raising funds for Westport’s Department of Human Services, and the ALS Therapy Development Institute. They selected both groups to honor Patty Haberstroh, Westport Human Services’ longtime youth director who is battling ALS. For 20 years, she was an instrumental part of Coleytown’s Giving Assembly.

Sixth graders are also collecting donations for Homes with Hope. Executive director Helen McAlinden kicked off the campaign by visiting all 8 classrooms. She described her organization’s efforts to combat homelessness and food insecurity, and inspired the young fundraisers.

PTA volunteers have already delivered some items to the Gillespie Center.

“All year long, we talk about the importance of giving back,” says 6th grade language arts teacher Emily Diggs. “We do a lot of lessons about ‘being your best self.’ This is one more way to do that.”

A large “thermometer” in the hall between the 2 6th grade pods — the Orcas and the Dolphins — is updated every day. Students watch the two groups fight for the top spot.

Last week, the Dolphins held a slim lead.

But, as several wise children told Diggs, “It doesn’t matter who wins. It’s all about giving back.”

Students love to hear stories about their impact at the annual Giving Assembly. COVID means that this year’s version will be virtual — streamed live on Coleytown TV.

That’s a small price to pay, for the return of an important tradition.

CMS — and the Giving Assembly — are both back!

Roundup: Staples Girls Soccer, Holiday Shopping, Earth Animal …

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The Staples High School girls soccer team has done it again!

Madison Sansone’s goal in the 5th minute was the difference — along with stout defense from, among others, central defenders Samantha DeWitt and Gaby Gonzalez, plus keeper Camille Kolek — as the #4 Wreckers shut out #6 Wilton 1-0 last night at Fairfield Warde High School.

It’s the 2nd league title in a row for Staples. They won it in 2019. There was no championship game last year due to COVID, but the Wreckers won their 5-team division then too.

Congratulations to coaches Barry Beattie, Mackenzie Pretty, the rest of his staff, and of course this remarkable group of young women.

The state tournament begins next week for girls and boys soccer, and field hockey. Pairings will be announced today.

The Staples High School girls soccer team at the Push Against Cancer …

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Get your holiday shopping done early — like, today!

WestportMoms’ Holiday Boutique Bash runs today (Friday, November 5, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m) in the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot.

The 5th annual event features over 30 vendors. It’s free, open to all — and there will be a food truck with coffee and warm food right there.

In return, WestportMoms asks for contributions of coats for adults and children. They’ll be donated to Homes with Hope, for our neighbors in need.

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Long before the pandemic, Earth Animal was helping Westport’s four-legged creatures.

And those with only 2.

 The 14th annual Mitten Project is the Post Road store’s fall initiative to support the Connecticut Food Bank. Last year’s effort raised over $38,000. This year’s goal is even higher.

It runs now through December 31. For $5, people can buy “mittens” at Earth Animal, to sign and hang in the store windows.

There are also holiday items for sale. All proceeds go to the Mitten Project total.

And donation boxes will be placed at area stores during the holiday season.

Earth Animal does even more: They’ll match every penny donated. 

 For more information on how to donate, email merritt@earthanimal.com.

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Wakeman Town Farm serves Westporters of all ages.

Including the very youngest.

Its “Little Farmer: Mommy & Me” program — for infants through age 3 — offers an hour of quality time each week. Developmentally appropriate experiences foster social skills and independence.

“Creative Nature Sprouts” is for 3-to-5-year-olds. It’s largely outdoors, exploring the wonders of WTF’s farm and barns.

“Fantastic Farmhands” (kindergarten through 5th grade) offers care and education about animals, pollinators, compost and more, through hands-on activities. Youngsters also enjoy farm crafts and games.

The “Farm Apprentice Program” (grades 6-8) concentrates on organic farming and gardening.

Click here for more information.

Learning about life at Wakeman Town Farm.

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Following 1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s announcement yesterday that the indoor mask mandate is lifted for most locations, the Westport Library has followed suit.

Masks are no longer required in the building — except for people who are unvaccinated.

Masks continue to be required in the Children’s Library, and for indoor children’s programs for everyone over 24 months old.

One step closer to normal at the Westport Library. (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

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Nikki Gorman is more than a beloved Village Pediatrics doctor.

She’s on the board of the Unite the World With Africa Foundation. Next Thursday (November 11, 5 to 9 p.m.), she’s opening her home for a cocktails and open house “Heal the World” awareness-raising event.

All are welcome. Click here for details, and to RSVP.

Speaking of pediatrics: Dr. Nikki’s practice is holding COVID vaccine clinics today and tomorrow. They’ll be inoculating as many newly eligible 5-to-11-year-olds as they can.

Slots are all filled. But it’s good news indeed, on the continuing fight against the pandemic.

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Last night’s freezing temperatures did not keep sunset lovers away from Old Mill Beach.

Photos like this never get old.

(Photo/Rick Benson)

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A few hours earlier — not far away, on Sherwood Mill Pond — Peter Swift snapped this blue heron, for our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Peter Swift)

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And finally … happy 80th birthday to Art Garfunkel!