Tag Archives: Positive Directions Westport

A Positive Start For Jen Hrbek

In her first week on the job, Jeff Wieser took Jen Hrbek to lunch.

That simple gesture reinforced Positive Directions‘ new executive director’s impression that Westport is “a very special community.”

The CEO of Homes With Hope “took hours out of his busy day” to meet with and mentor Hrbek, she marvels. “I’d already felt a big hug from Westport. This made me feel even more welcome.”

Jen Hrbek

Hrbek brings a wide-ranging resume to the helm of the well-respected Westport-based non-profit provider of alcohol and substance misuse prevention, and individual counseling services.

She combines 9 years’ experience helping small businesses grow, with a clinical background that includes work at Silver Hill and a private counseling agency.

She’s young, energetic — and ready to tackle some of the area’s most serious problems.

Growing up near Boston, Hrbek was involved in church activities, senior centers and soup kitchens. But she was an entrepreneur too, breeding rabbits with her brother and selling gimp bracelets at school.

Hrbek majored in human development and family services at the University of Connecticut. She volunteered with the homeless, worked as a family and civil defense monitor at the Stamford courthouse, then worked for a criminal attorney.

She considered law school — until her boss was indicted for obstruction of justice. “I had to get out of that field,” she says.

She spent nearly a decade at the Women’s Business Development Council. At the same time she earned a grad school degree from Fordham in social work. That led to her position at Silver Hill — the New Canaan hospital specializing in psychiatric and addiction disorders — along with part-time work as a counselor.

Hrbek calls Positive Directions “my dream job. It’s what I love. It marries my drive to build and grow organizations to their full capacity, with delivering clinical services.”

She says the agency is best known for substance abuse and gambling programs. She’d like to expand its “robust, multi-disciplinary clinical team” to include mood, anxiety, personality and eating disorders. Her goal is to be “the go-to resource for affordable counseling.”

In her first weeks on the job, Hrbek has been inspired by lunches like the one with Wieser. She’s impressed with the hands-on work of Positive Directions’ board.

She’s just 35 years old. But as she settles into her new job, it’s clear that Hrbek connects with people of all ages.

For the past decade, she volunteered weekly with Alzheimer’s patients. She’s also the mom of 2 kids, ages 3 and 1.

“We wake up blowing bubbles, and go to sleep after a dance party,” she says.

It’s clear: Whatever she does and wherever she goes, Jennifer Hrbek heads in a positive direction.

Jen Hrbek, her husband and kids.

Marty Hauhuth Moves In Positive Directions

In the next month, several pillars of Westport life — men and women who for decades have made this place special — will retire: Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis. Staples principal John Dodig. Parks & Rec head Stuart McCarthy.

Add one more name to the list: Marty Hauhuth.

She may not be as well known — though Westporters of a certain age remember her as first selectman from 1985-89.

Marty Hauhuth

Marty Hauhuth

For the past 24 years, she’s served as the low-key — but highly effective — executive director of Positive Directions. That’s the non-profit providing mental health and addiction counseling, alcohol and substance abuse education and prevention, and support programs in Westport, Weston, Wilton and Fairfield.

Positive Directions serves anyone, of any age — regardless of ability to pay — with evaluations and referrals. It treats anxiety, depression, and addictive and destructive behaviors of all kinds.

One of Marty’s last projects was a survey of all Westport students grades 7-12, and their parents. It showed that — in large part due to her efforts —

  • Tobacco, alcohol and marijuana youth use has steadily declined since 2000
  • “Past 30-day use of alcohol” has decreased dramatically in grades 7-10
  • From 2011-14, Westport youth “early use of alcohol” has decreased substantially
  • Westport youth marijuana use has declined, and overall use is lower than in some neighboring towns.

Positive DirectionsMarty was a founding member of Positive Youth Development, a Westport coalition that arms parents and youngsters with information to make good choices — and counseling for those who struggle.

Positive Directions celebrates Marty’s contributions (and retirement) on Wednesday, June 3 (4:30-6:30 p.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church  Fellowship  Room).

Other honors include a tribute book (click “Comments” below and add stories and accolades, or mail to Positive Directions, 420 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880), and contributions in her name to the organization (click here).

Marty downplays her role in Positive Directions. But, she admits, “I look forward to the celebration. I hope to see a lot of friends there.”

The nicest gift she could get, she says, is “to come visit and support Positive Directions.”

Sailing Off To College

Brown University

A couple of years ago, Marilee Jones spoke in Westport.  As dean of admissions at MIT and (according to the New York Times) “guru of the movement to tame the college-admissions frenzy,” she had strong words for parents.

Let the college process be theirs, Jones said.  Don’t steal it from your kid.

She bolstered her message with a vivid analogy.  Your college-searching child is in a boat.  He’s on his own; you’re walking along the shore.   You can see the boat; you know he’s safe.  You can wade in, straighten the bow or do anything needed to help sail the boat — but if you do, you might tip it over.  This is your child’s journey; if you take it from him, you will remove the first really big thing he does as an adult.

Jones’ words resonated with many parents.  She is no longer on the lecture circuit — she resigned after MIT officials learned she fabricated 3 academic degrees when she applied for her 1st job at MIT — but Westport parents continue to grapple with how to manage the college application process.  And how to let it go.

On October 15, 22 and 29, plus November 5, Positive Directions offers a “Taming the College Process” workshop for parents of 9th through 11th graders (senior parents are also welcome).  It’s an important recognition of the fact that we often focus so much on preparing our kids academically for college, that we forget the importance of emotional maturity.

Navigating the headwinds of college is not easy.  But it helps to know who should steer the boat, and who should watch from shore.

(“Taming the College Process” meets at Positive Directions, 420 Post Road West [across from Whole Foods].  The fee is $195, and registration is limited.  For more information click here, or call 203-227-7644, ext. 132.)