For 171 years — from tough times during the Civil War, through its heydays under Mayor P.T. Barnum and as a major manufacturing city, and into its decline as opportunities and resources moved elsewhere — LifeBridge has been an anchor for Bridgeport’s most vulnerable residents.
Over more than a century and a half, the agency has evolved. It began as a Ladies Relief Society, was renamed the Bridgeport Orphan Asylum, became Woodfield Children’s Village and then Family Services of Woodfield. In 2015, it was renamed LifeBridge Community Services.
During more than 25 years in Westport, Howard Greene has seen the disparity between his neighbors here, and those less than 10 miles away.
One in every 3 Bridgeport children lives in poverty. The largest city in the state is the 5th poorest; its unemployment rate of almost 12% is twice that of the rest of Connecticut. Over 11% of youth ages 18-24 do not graduate from high school.
Greene’s involvement with LifeBridge spans many years. Now board chair, he hopes to spread the word about the many programs and resources the organization offers.
Before the pandemic, he hosted a reception at Wakeman Town Farm with CEO Alan Mathis.
Howard Greene, LifeBridge board chair.
They described LifeBridge’s efforts to help disadvantaged youth ages 11-14. For example, their Urban Scholars Program offers art, music, martial arts, robotics, dance, science and math instruction and projects led by professionals in their fields. There is personal tutoring too.
The free programs run for 3 hours after school. LifeBridge also sponsors a 2-month full-day summer camp.
Funding comes from private donations, as well as local foundations like Newman’s Own, the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Bedford Social Responsibility Fund, and Near & Far Aid.
Robotics is one of Lifebridge Urban Scholars Program’s many opportunities.
LifeBridge also provides behavioral health services, with nurses, counselors, social workers, therapists and addiction specialists working in areas like domestic violence, adolescent wellness, substance abuse and family therapy.
A community closet provides clothing and personal care items, while the WorkSkills programs prepares people 18 years and older for jobs in today’s economy.
Many Westporters have not heard of LifeBridge. Thanks to the work of Howard Greene and others, many Bridgeporters have. For them, it is a true bridge toward a better life.
(To learn more about LifeBridge, including how to volunteer and donate, click here.)
Three of Westport’s biggest business boosters — the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Merchants Association and Our Town Crier — have joined with town officials, to launch a virtual “Westport Marketplace.”
The goal is to provide information about — and links to — all local businesses (retail, restaurants, professional services and more). It’s free, and a great way to promote Westport businesses at a time when they most need it.
Westport Marketplace needs 10 to 15 teenagers for unpaid internships. They’ll communicate with business owners and managers regularly to update information like hours and availability, services provided, contact info, images and links, etc., and upload it into the database.
Interested students — who can start as soon as possible – should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For over 65 years, Near & Far Aid has been helping area residents and organizations in need. Their all-volunteer work is astonishing: The most recent cycle ended this week, with nearly $1.1 million granted to over 100 nonprofits.
But that’s not all. Just 3 weeks ago, Near & Far Aid established a Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund. It provides immediate assistance to agencies on the front lines addressing food insecurity, shelter, and mental and physical health.
Already, they have distributed $118,000 in emergency funding to 30 groups (including Westport Department of Human Services and Homes With Hope).
Board members meet weekly. They recognize the fluidity of the crisis and the changing needs of nonprofits, so Near & Far Aids reacts with speed and generosity
Of course, they need assistance too. Click here for more information on the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund; click here to donate.
Right now, the Westport Farmers’ Market should be gearing up for its annual mid-May opening.
It will be a while though before the cherished Thursday event returns to Imperial Avenue.
But — at a time when farmers are struggling, and home-bound cooks are looking to make healthy meals — the Market thrives across the river.
Since April 2, Gilbertie’s Herbs and Garden Center — where the Farmers’ Market had just closed after another great winter season — is the site for the social distance version.
Vendors stay at least 10 feet from each other, and wear (of course!) masks and gloves.
Shoppers click on the website, select a Thursday time slot between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., then shop online (Sunday 10 a.m. to Tuesday 4 p.m. only).
Pickup stations are 10 to 2 feet apart. Shoppers wait until their name is called. All items are prepackaged by vendors, and delivered to a central table. A delivery option is available for shoppers who don’t want to, or can’t, leave home.
It’s a clear, common-sense — and well-run — system.
“We have a responsibility to our farmers, food producers and communities to make the healthiest and safest local food available, using a model that will survive should a second wave hit when state restrictions are lifted,” says Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran Dougall.
“We’d rather be safe now than sorry later.”
Some updates on yesterday’s story about Staples High School’s “We the People” team’s Northeast Regional championship.
Final results show advisor Suzanne Kammerman’s team placed 5th overall — just 2 spots away from a national prize.
And 2 of the school’s 6 units finished 2nd in the entire country. Our constitutional future is bright indeed.
In addition, there was a Westport national champion — well, sorta. Alice Wanamaker –daughter of 1986 Staples grad Lynne Marie Wanamaker was a junior on the Easthampton, Massachusetts team that placed 1st overall. Congrats to the proud family, including Westport grandmother Barbara Wanamaker.
Westporter Joseph Sequenzia writes that his branding company milk* and a partner agency, Real Pie, have teamed on a social awareness campaign. Called #keepittogetherct, the goal is to help people feel more connected, despite being disconnected physically.
They ask residents, teachers, small business owners, front line healthcare workers, pharmacy and grocery store employees, delivery drivers — anyone in the state — to submit photos and videos of what they’re doing to, well, keep it together.
Using the hashtag #keepittogetherct on an image or video on social media will give you a chance to be featured on News 12, and become a part of the Keep it Together CT campaign. For more information, click here.
Terri Henderson spent 20 years in Westport. She’s now in Houston, but retains a deep affection for our town. Saddened by how deeply Fairfield County has been affected by the coronavirus, she shares a website she created.
It’s filled with resources in 8 wellness areas: physical, financial, mental, social, environmental, intellectual, occupational and spiritual. Click here to see.
Connecticut leads the nation in income inequality. The top 1 percent of our residents earn average incomes more than 48 times those of the bottom 99 percent. In Fairfield County, the figures are undoubtedly even more skewed.
Quietly — but very effectively — Near & Far Aid helps those on the lowest rungs.
Since 2000, the unassumingly named, all-volunteer organization has donated more than $14 million to men, women and children living in poverty right in our midst.
Grants go to services providing emergency food, shelter and clothing; economy security programs like job training, financial literacy and affordable housing, and of course education.
The funds come from neighbors who contribute generously — very generously. But raising money is never easy. With tremendous competition from many worthy groups for donations, Near & Far Aid works hard to solicit funds.
They’re helped greatly by the generosity of the Mitchells. The family — who offer up their store for nearly every charity that asks — holds a special place in their hearts for Near & Far Aid. For 20 years, they’ve hosted an amazing Spring Gala.
This year’s event is Friday, March 6. The highlight: an intimate concert with 5-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles. There are also live, silent and fine wine auctions; a spring fashion show, plus cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and supper.
As usual, Bob Mitchell — co-CEO of Mitchells and Richards — will be a “silent” event chair. He lends support, ideas and resources, but takes no credit.
“We truly cherish our 20-year partnership with Near & Far Aid,” Mitchell says. “Our family shares the same mission to give back to the less fortunate, particularly here in our community. We are so excited for this year’s 20th anniversary. We’re confident it will raise a record amount of funds, bringing relief, assistance and hope to those living in poverty.”
The “wealth gap” in this area is enormous. The consequences are real.
But the opportunity to help is priceless.
(For information on Spring Gala tickets, or to volunteer or make a donation, click here.)
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