Tag Archives: Mercy Learning Center

Remembering Gerry Kuroghlian

You could call him Dr. Gerald Kuroghlian. But — to thousands of admiring Staples High School students and their parents during his 43-year teaching career, then after retirement countless women at Mercy Learning Center and 12th graders at Kolbe Cathedral — he was simply “Dr. K.”

One of the most revered educators, wide-ranging intellects, giving human beings — and a friend to all who met him — Dr. K. died peacefully last night.

He had battled pancreatic cancer for years. He spent 4 years undergoing chemotherapy, outlived every other member of his drug trial, and left this world on his own terms. He recently stopped treatment, and spent his final days hearing tributes from men and women he’d touched during his 40 years at Staples, and then more than a decade after retirement.

Calling hours are tomorrow (Friday, November 19, 4 to 8 p.m., Lesko & Polke Funeral Home, 1209 Post Road, Fairfield). A memorial service is set for Saturday (2 p.m., First Church Congregational, 148 Beach Road, Fairfield.)

Click here for Dr. K’s remarkable obituary, and to sign the online register. Continue reading below for more about his life and impact.

Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian

Dr. K arrived at Staples during the tumultuous 1960s. He helped spearhead many of the curriculum changes in a brilliant, feisty English department. But he never lost his high standards. He challenged students to write well and clearly. He helped them figure out the world through courses on Shakespeare and “Myth and Bible.”

More than that, he attended their concerts, plays and athletic contests. He asked about their robotics teams and skateboarding hobbies. He knew every student — and their families — intimately, and cared for them all as if they were his closest relatives.

He did the same for his teaching colleagues. As a longtime Westport Education Association leader, he fought tirelessly for better salaries, benefits, and teaching conditions. He was a thorn in the side of many principals and superintendents. They may have resented his ferocity, but they never doubted his passion.

Dr. Gerald Kuroghlian was a proud supporter of the arts. Here he is with former Staples choral director Alice Lipson.

That passion continued after his retirement. Dr. K. was one of “06880”‘s earliest Unsung Heroes. See below for a tribute from 2017.

I have hundreds of Dr. K. stories. Here’s one;

A couple of weeks ago — when I heard he’d stopped chemo treatment — I called. Ellen — Jerry’s beloved wife — answered.

“Can he call back?” she asked. “We’re taking an online course about the Holocaust, and this lecture is fascinating.”

Dr. Kuroghlian will live on in the hearts and minds of 5 decades’ worth of students, of all ages.

And — befitting his legacy — his name will live on too. Friends have organized the Dr. K Humanitarian Award through Staples Tuition Grants (click here) and Mercy Learning Center (click here).

Though ill, “Dr. K” enjoyed breakfast a few weeks ago with friends. (Photo/Dave Ruden)

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In September of 2017, “06880” honored Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian as one of our first Unsung Heroes. Here’s that story:

As a new school year begins, it’s appropriate that this week’s Unsung Hero is a former teacher.

Generations of Staples High School students revered Gerry Kuroghlian. For nearly 40 years, “Dr. K” — his doctorate was from the University of Illinois, with an undergrad degree from the University of Virginia — taught Westport teenagers how to write, how to think, and how to act.

Gerry Kuroghlian, in the 1973 Staples High School yearbook.

Kuroghlian was totally invested in the life of Staples. If there was a play, concert or athletic event, he was there. His challenging classes like “Myth and Bible” were as demanding as college-level courses.

But he never forgot that he was working with still-unformed boys and girls. His greatest delight came from helping mold them into active, concerned citizens of the world.

He never missed an Eagle Scout ceremony, celebratory dinner or parent’s funeral either.

When Kuroghlian retired in 2008, some people wondered how he’d fill his days.

They needn’t have worried.

Kuroghlian quickly became one of Mercy Learning Center‘s most active volunteers.

He taught ESL at the heralded Bridgeport women’s literacy and life-skills center. His new students — women from Mexico, Bangladesh and all points in between — loved him.

He returned the admiration.

“These are heroic people,” Kuroghlian says admiringly. “They’re moms, housekeepers, breadwinners — they do it all. They’ve got multi-tasking down to a science.

Kuroghlian calls these women “the best students I’ve ever had. They get up, get their kids ready for school, catch a city bus, and arrive promptly by 9 a.m.

“No one is ever late. No one ever has not done the homework,” he says admiringly. “They’re motivated to learn, and they’re completely unafraid to ask questions if they don’t understand something. They’re amazing.”

After class, the women work on computers. They also go on field trips. When Kuroghlian took them to a library, they learned how to get library cards for their kids.

Kuroghlian is equally involved at Kolbe Cathedral High School. He spends most afternoons at the Bridgeport private school, as a tutor, SAT and ACT advisor, and college application essay guide. Thanks in part to his help, virtually every graduate for nearly a decade has gone on to college.

Gerry Kuroghlian works with a Kolbe Cathedral senior on his college essay.

At Kolbe, Kuroghlian organizes cultural field trips to Fairfield University and New York City. Just as he did at Staples, he attends sports events, chaperones the prom, and continually shares his philosophy that it is the responsibility of each individual to make a difference.

He also arranged for over 1,000 books to be donated to the library.

In his spare time (!), Kuroghlian works with national education organizations, cancer and diabetes groups, the Westport Library and United Church of Christ.

Nearly 10 years after “retiring,” Dr. K. shows no signs of slowing down.

Why should he? He’s continuing the work he loves: Showing teenagers how to make their mark on the world, by doing it himself.

Dr. K.

 

 

Greens Farms Garden Club Grows For Good

“Garden Club” sounds so genteel. Members sit discussing flowers, creating beautiful arrangements, drinking tea and munching little sandwiches.

Dude! It’s 2021. Today’s garden club is not your great-grandmother’s.

Take the Greens Farms Garden Club. It’s been around since 1930 (read its history here). Now — 9 years before its 100th anniversary — members have taken their community service mission to a new level.

They’ve joined the fight against food insecurity.

Last February — amid the pandemic, and so much other misery — conservation chair Mary Lou McGuire had an idea. The Greens Farms Garden Club could grown and donate the bounty of their efforts to people in need.

Members quickly embraced the “Growing for Good” idea. Chairs Maybette Waldron, Gael Ficken and Jacque O’Brien worked with McGuire to develop a cost-efficient plan.

They found garden space at Wakeman Town Farm, and St. Timothy’s Church in Fairfield. Head farmers were selected. More than 20 members offered to help, all summer long.

Members researched best practices for growing vegetables organically. Schedules were formed, journals kept. It was decided to plant a small number of crops, to bring larger quantities of fresh produce to the 2 recipients selected: Mercy Learning Center and St. John’s Family Center. Both are in Bridgeport.

There were questions along the way: Why didn’t the cabbage grow successfully? Why did the cherry tomatoes turn out better than the larger ones? When to replant for a late summer/fall crop?

Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, and Ganim’s Garden Center in Fairfield, provided help and assistance.

Greens Farms Garden Club members at work in April.

After farming all summer, the harvesters went to work. Recipients are thrilled with their gifts.

“This has been a wonderful initiative, which we’ll continue,” says O’Brien.

“There are many benefits to each member, and to the Greens Farms Garden Club. Working together created great team spirit, and a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

“Learning about growing vegetables expanded our horticultural knowledge, and provided us with greater incentive to grow vegetables at home. There is nothing like the taste of an absolutely fresh vegetable.”

Jane MacDonald and Judy Reynolds package produce in bags donated by Stop & Shop, for delivery to Mercy Learning and St. John’s Family Centers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gillespie Center. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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

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

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

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

Mike Birbiglia

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

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

Roundup: Jim Belushi, Trader Joe’s, Joe Biden, More


Everyone knew that yesterday’s Saugatuck Survive-OARS “River of Roses” breast cancer benefit would be great.

But Jim Belushi made it even greater.

The actor/comedian/musician played a 30-minute set with the Fake ID band, at the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

Jim Belushi, in action yesterday.


Jim Belushi was not the only big name in town this weekend.

On Friday night, MoCA Westport hosted Wynton Marsalis, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet. It was a wonderful evening of music and community — under the stars.

Wynton Marsalis at MoCA. (Photo/John Brody)

Younger artists were highlighted too. The audience was wowed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra High School Academy warmup band, featuring Staples High School senior Dylan Goodman on drums.

(Photo/Leslie LaSala)


An “06880” reader writes:

I was out yesterday doing errands. I wore my mask at Stop & Shop and the post office, but forgot to put it on when I entered Trader Joe’s.

I shopped for 10 minutes, then went through checkout. As I exited the store, I saw another customer walk in and realized, “I forgot to wear my mask!”

No one said a word to me in the store. In fact, I chatted with a nice woman for a few minutes while we waited for the register.

I wish someone had said something to me. I would have dashed outside immediately to get my mask. I felt terrible about it.


Two Old Hill neighborhood residents report Biden/Harris signs being stolen from their property.

Vicki Volper is ” very frustrated and disappointed.” She says a friend elsewhere in Westport had her yard sign taken too.

Nancy Diamond says she will simply purchase a new one — giving even more money to the campaign the thief presumably opposes.


For nearly 50 years, CLASP Homes has created and supported family environments for people with autism and intellectual disabilities.

COVID forced the cancelation of the great Taste of Westport fundraiser. A second big event is usually held indoors, at FTC. That’s no longer possible either.

But the show goes on — outdoors. “Flashback to the ’80s & ’90s” is safe, fun, family-friendly entertainment — and it’s live.

Band Central musicians is partnering with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce for the October 15 show at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Tailgating begins at 4:30 p.m. The show kicks off at 6. Click here for tickets ($150 per car; 70 car limit in the lot).


Today should have been Mercy Learning Center’s big fundraising gala. Instead, it’s postponed a year. The new date is October 3, 2021 at Shorehaven Golf Club.

But the Bridgeport agency — which educates underserved women — has huge needs, now and in the coming months.

  • $50+ purchases school supplies, such as notebooks, pencils, and a calculator for 1 woman.
  • $100+ provides emergency social-service needs for 1 woman.
  • $250+ provides instructional materials for 1 tutored student.
  • $500+ provides instructional materials for 1 Intensive Study Program student.
  • $1,500+ provides for 1 student in the National External Diploma Program.
  • $2,500+ provides a full year of holistic literacy and life skills education for a child in the MLC Early Childhood Education Program.
  • $5,000+ provides a full year of holistic literacy and life skills education for 1 full-time Intensive Study Program student.
  • $7,500+ provides a full year of holistic literacy and life skills education for 1 full-time Intensive Study Program student and her child in the Early Childhood Education Program.
  • $10,000+ provides a full year of holistic literacy and life skills education for 10 tutored students.

Checks can be sent to Mercy Learning Center, 637 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604. Click here to donate online.


And finally … in case you missed Jim Belushi yesterday at the Saugatuck Rowing Club:

After The Protests: Here’s How To Help

Sunday’s “United Against Racism” protest on Jesup Green was powerful and important.

But many of the several hundred attendees left feeling helpless. What can we actually do, besides march and speak? they wondered.

Darcy Hicks heard them. the co-organizer of the event — and a longtime social justice advocate — says, “I’m a big believer in protests and rallies. But not if they just stop there.”

On Monday, she went to work. She compiled a list of ways to help.

Downtown Bridgeport — there’s a lot going on.(Photo/Gary Pivot)

She focused on Bridgeport because she and her husband — attorney Josh Koskoff — both work there.

“We love the people,” Darcy says. “It’s a vibrant city with amazing history – yet 40% of children live below poverty level.

“Having a foot in both Westport and Bridgeport makes me realize that if all of us had that experience, we would think about their needs more. It’s hard to remember people in need of you don’t know them, or even see them.”

So, Darcy says, in addition to rallies and protests — or instead of, if you are concerned about COVID-19 — here is what you can do:


1. Drive to Bridgeport. It’s not far. It’s part of our extended neighborhood — and it’s important to interact in any way we can.

If you’ve been braving Starbucks, go to Bean N Batter instead one day. Treat yourself to waffles — available for curbside pickup. BONUS: It’s owned by Staples grad Will Hamer.

Instead of going to Dunkin’, surprise your family with a box of the real thing from Daybreak Doughnuts. Tired of the usual takeout? Wait until you feast on Brazilian churrascaria from Pantanal

2. Online shoppers: Here’s a better way to support your habit! https://www.fastcompany.com/…/7-black-owned-businesses-to-s…

3. Give. I know, some people say it’s inappropriate to ask for money these days. But for those of us fortunate enough to fill our carts with 700 rolls of toilet paper, we can spare something. The ACLU is always a good place to donate. So are https://bailproject.org and www.campaignzero.org.

Here’s a list of state and local organizations I’ve compiled, with the help of BPT Generation Now! (an amazing group of people, who are making great changes in Bridgeport):

Black Lives Matter
CTCore
Citywide Youth Coalition
Hearing Youth Voices
Students 4 Educational Justice
Connecticut Students 4 a Dream
Make the Road CT
Adam J. Lewis Academy
Neighborhood Studios

Some very happy Adam J. Lewis preschoolers.

4. Join these Facebook groups:
https://www.facebook.com/…/Justice-for-Jayson-155481706457…/
https://www.facebook.com/noahcalebfreedom/
https://www.facebook.com/nhvcrb/

5. When the quarantine is lifted and you find yourself filling your day back up with exercise classes, pick a day to volunteer for the Bridgeport Public Schools. They need visiting readers! https://www.bridgeportedu.net/SVAB.

Or volunteer to teach English to women at Mercy Learning Center. Or help kids with their homework at The Caroline House.

There’s so much more that can be done. If you know of more ways to close the socioeconomic gap that exacerbates racism and inequality in this area, please click “Comments” below.

COVID-19 Roundup: Graduation; Helpful Guys; Mercy Learning; 6 Feet; More


Jennifer Kobetitsch lives across the street from Staples High. So — with yesterday’s (long-awaited) announcement by Governor Lamont that all public schools will remain closed through the end of June — the sign she posted at the top of her driveway is apt.

But she’s especially sad there will be no in-person graduation ceremonies this spring: Her 5th grader attends Long Lots Elementary.

On to Bedford this fall!


From the first days of the coronavirus crisis, a dozen or so Westport teenagers have run errands for senior citizens, and anyone else having difficulty getting out because of self-quarantine. Plenty of people used their safe, socially distancing services (and loved them).

Seven weeks in, they’re still helping.

“We’re getting pretty good at grocery shopping,” they say. “We’ll go to the post office, or whatever else you need. We can’t enter homes though, or interact with pets or people. Westport, Weston and Fairfield residents only, please!”

To contact these great guys (and girls), email GuysHelping@gmail.com.

Staples High School student Will Matar delivers groceries.


Since retiring from Staples High School, Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian has been a staunch, beloved tutor at Mercy Learning Center.

He and his fellow volunteers do remarkable work, helping underserved women in Bridgeport improve their lives through education. Food security is always an issue — particularly now.

MLC’s doors are closed during the pandemic. Staff members do their best to ensure that clients have food and basic supplies, plus funds to help with rent and other bills.

But their food and diaper pantries are almost bare — and they’re close to running out of food gift cards. Checks can be sent to Mercy Learning Center, 637 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604. Click here for online donations.


“06880” receives regular reports from readers complaining that residents are not keeping 6 feet away.

Westporters are not stupid. Or inconsiderate. Or selfish.

But — just to help out — Richard Brezovec sends along this reminder of how far 6 feet actually is:


And finally … despite the credits, this was Diana Ross without the Supremes. But 50 years later, the music and message still resonate.

COVID-19 Roundup: Gardens; $$$; More

 


The Westport Garden Club‘s spring plant sale is always a red letter date for green thumbs.

Like so many other events, it’s fallen victim to the coronavirus. But, the club says, it’s only postponed — not canceled. A new date will be announced soon.

COVID-19 has not knocked other plans. Members of the 96-year-old organization continue to beautify and maintain gardens and cemeteries all over town.

They’ve been busy at Grace Salmon Park, Nevada Hitchcock Park, Adams Academy, Earthplace and more. No more than 2 members work at any time, and they keep far apart while weeding, pruning and planting.

Next up: extending the Pollinator Pathway project begun last year, and enhancing the town with floral accents.

Beautiful Grace Salmon Park (Photo/Ginger Donaher)


Westport Rotary Club grants are usually a big deal, unveiled with fanfare at a big May meeting.

This year, the pandemic forced a change. $80,000 in funding was announced by email. And it’s going out now — not next month — because for many recipients, the need is urgent.

Thanks to fundraisers like LobsterFest, and ongoing hard work by members, Westport Rotary can help 35 local organizations. They include Staples Tuition Grants, Homes with Hope, CLASP Homes, and a wide range of Westport-based social services, housing, education and addiction services organizations.

Also receiving grants: Bridgeport and Norwalk organizations that serve the needy, including Mercy Learning Center, Family ReEntry and the Carver Foundation.


Speaking of Mercy Learning: Many Westporters are longtime volunteers. The Bridgeport program provides underserved women with academic, language, computer and life skills; early childhood education; assistance preparing for citizenship, and mental health, job and financial counseling.

Recently, many more Westporters have given generously, as the organization adds food, medicine and diapers for women in need.

Yesterday, the National Catholic Reporter shined a great spotlight on MLC. It’s featured in the paper’s “Saints Next Door.” Click here for the full story on this wonderful institution — and the great people behind it. (Hat tip: Diane Johnson)


More great philanthropic news:

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is giving 90 grants totaling $1,359,500 from its COVID-19 Resiliency Fund. The project was launched just a month ago. Click here for the list.

But they’re not stopping there. An anonymous donor will match every donation — up to a total of $500,000. Click here to make a donation of any size. Every dollar counts!


And finally, a beautiful song that means more than ever, these days:

COVID-19 Roundup: Office Evolution, Finding Westport, Diapers, Masks, Loose Change And More

A year ago, Office Evolution opened across from Fire Department headquarters. It was the newest entrant into the rapidly developing market for co-working spaces.

On its first anniversary, COVID-19 hit. Suddenly, working remotely was imperative. Yet so was avoiding other people.

Because it delivers mail, and some members do “essential” work, Office Evolution is considered an essential business. Doors are locked, but members have 24/7 access via electronic fobs.

Owner Laura Kaufman knows that working from home is new for many people. So she’s looking for pictures and stories of how that’s going. Anyone posting on Facebook, Instagram, NextDoor or LinkedIn (Office Evolution Westport) will receive a $25 gift card, and a chance to win up to $1,000 more. For more information click here, email westport.ct@officeevolution.com, or call 203-635-8770.

Office Evolution


To the list of great resources for finding what’s open in Westport — restaurants, stores and more — check out FindingWestport, on Instagram and online. It includes store hours, phone numbers and hyperlinks.


Mercy Learning Center has been gratified by the response from “06880” readers to their plea for food, supplies, and funds for rent and bills for the hundreds of women they serve so well in Bridgeport.

Another overwhelming response came from Gina Oliveira Beranek. After posting a request on Facebook’s great Westport Front Porch page, she and another driver headed yesterday to MLC. Their cars were stocked with food — and over 4,800 diapers.

Way to go, Gina and all you Porchers!


As “06880” has reported, Virginia Jaffe and her Greens Farms Elementary School sewing moms are busy every day, making masks. And, Virginia reports, their efforts are paying rewards.

Yesterday they donated 90 to Homes with Hope residents. Since March 30, they’ve given away 350 masks, to bus drivers and other frontline personnel.

There are now 10 seamstresses and 6 fabric cutters, all across Westport. They need help: cutting, sewing, and donating funds to buy fabric, threads and elastic. Just email westportmasks@yahoo.com.

Every donor will get the satisfaction of helping. Plus — just as important — every donor gets a mask.

Virginia adds that the group encourages children to wear masks, by making plain white ones that can be decorated with personal designs. Here’s Jake Martin, with his special theme (and disinfectant):


Every day, Larry Weisman puts his loose change in a jar. The last time he went to the bank, there was $800. He gave it to his grandchildren.

Now — in light of the need, and with the support of his grandkids — he’s donating the money to World Central Kitchen. Jose Andreas’ extraordinary non-profit has already furnished a million meals to hospitals and those in need, while also providing much needed work for restaurants employees.

It’s a great cause. Larry urges “06880” readers to donate their spare change too.


And finally, Ringo Starr, Robbie Robertson and a host of other great musicians were social distancing months before it was a thing:

COVID-19 Roundup: Optimism; Playhouse Performers; Mercy Learning, And More

CBS News’ Steve Hartman hosts an online “class” about optimism. It’s aimed at children, but should be mandatory viewing for everyone.

The most recent session was about a 4-year-old girl who befriended an 84-year-old widower. It’s a wonderful piece. But that’s not why I’m showing it.

The “06800” link is that Steve introduces it all with Mike Aitkenhead. He’s the former Staples High School/current Weston High environmental instructor who — when he was named Teacher of the Year — thanked “Mike the Mailman.”

“It’s not what you do in life. It’s how you do it,” Mike the Teacher said. Click below — and have your Kleenex ready. (Hat tip: Mark Lassoff)


The Westport Country Playhouse is dark. But this Friday (April 17, 7 p.m.), it will light up online with some spectacular performances.

The Playhouse YouTube channel and Facebook live will host “Getting to Know You: A Celebration of Young Artists.” Westport’s Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara hosts 10 Fairfield County students — all accomplished musical theater artists.

Dozens of hopefuls submitted videos of songs — many of which they hoped to perform in musicals this spring. Ten were selected randomly. Among them: Camille Foisie of Staples High School, and Momo Burns-Min of Weston High.

Ten understudies were chosen to submit a question for O’Hara to answer. Staples’ Jamie Mann is one of them.

All videos submitted will be compiled into a supercut at the end of the program, and shared on Playhouse social media channels.

(For Friday’s livestream, click on westportplayhouse.org, go to the bottom of the homepage, and click on the Facebook or YouTube icon.)


For 30 years, Westporters have embraced the mission of Mercy Learning Center: to improve the lives of under-served women in Bridgeport through education.

Of course, women who are hungry cannot learn. If they can’t afford the rent or diapers, they have no time or energy to learn. Now, the coronavirus has made those needs even more dire.

In week 4 of the crisis, MLC has exhausted their food and diaper pantries — and run out of food gift cards.

Because Mercy Learning Center is not considered an “essential service,” the building is closed. But director Jane Ferreira and her staff are in touch with their students. They’re doing their best to ensure they have food and basic supplies, plus funds to help with rent and other bills.

Checks can be sent to Mercy Learning Center, 637 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604. Click here for online donations.


On the one hand, this seems like great news.

On the other hand, it’s like a tease.

Who’s driving anywhere these days? (Hat tip: Chip Stephens)


And finally, this classic duet from 2 who died way too young: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell:

 

 

Mercy!

Twenty years ago, when Tammy Barry moved from New Jersey to Westport, her neighbor — a nun — suggested she get involved with Mercy Learning Center.

The Bridgeport organization — providing literacy and life skills training to low-income women — was run by nuns.

Today it’s a secular non-profit. It serves — and changes the lives — of hundreds of women a year.

Tammy Barry

Barry has been intimately involved since she moved here. She now runs Mercy’s mother/child reading program. After each session — which includes singing and parent education — everyone goes home with a new copy of the book they’ve read.

With her 3 children grown and graduated from Staples High School, Berry also tutors English and life skills.

Barry calls her group — 5 native Spanish and Portuguese speakers, in their 30s through 50s — “incredible. I love them. They have such energy, and are so eager to learn. They ask great questions, and help each other out so well.”

A 53-year-old gets up at 5:30 every morning, to get her kids ready for school. She works 5 days a week — then goes to Mercy, working on her GED.

“I’d be exhausted,” Barry says. “But she’s so happy to be there. She’s a role model for all of us.”

All of the women, Barry says, are “driven, grateful, and always smiling.”

Tammy Barry (center), and her hard-working but always-smiling students.

Mercy Learning Center is wonderful. It fills a gaping need, just a few miles from Westport.

But with over 100 women on the waiting list, it needs more volunteers.

“You don’t need to be a teacher,” Barry explains. “The curriculum tells you exactly what to do. You don’t have to speak a 2nd language, either.”

Tutors come from all over Fairfield County. They’re all ages — from retirees to young people who leave work early, or go in late.

They teach English, math, science, civics, technology and computer skills. They help prepare their students for high school equivalency and US citizenship exams, and for college and careers.

Tutor coordinators and a curriculum manager help volunteers who have questions or concerns.

Twenty years after she started volunteering at Mercy Learning Center, Tammy Barry is more committed than ever.

Now she wants you to commit to Mercy too.

(For more information or to volunteer, contact Lynn Gabriel or Erica Hoffman: 203-334-6699; lynn.gabriel@mercylearningcenter.org; erica.hoffman@mercylearningcenter.org)