Tag Archives: Positive Directions

Roundup: Arline Gertzoff, Teen Pressures, Shanah Tova …

Longtime jUNe Day hospitality chair, poll worker, RTM member, proud Staples High School graduate and avid “06880” reader and commenter Arline Gertzoff is in the hospital.

Let’s show her some blog love, and flood her with cards. Her address is: Arline Gertzoff, c/o St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Room 915, 2800 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06606.

Arline Gertzoff

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Westport kids are under a ton of pressure. Everyone knows that.

On October 19th (7 p.m., Westport Library; reception at 6:30), parents can learn about causes, recognize signs of struggle, discover anxiety-reducing strategies, and hear about family resources.

The Library is partnering with Positive Directions and the Westport Weston Family YMCA, to present “The Cost of Success: What Pressure is Doing to Our Kids.”

PD’s executive director Vanessa Wilson moderates. Panelists include Staples High School Teen Awareness Group students, plus Val Babich, coordinator of psychological services for Westport Public Schools; Frank Castorina, clinical supervisor at PD, and pediatric hospitalist Alicia Briggs.

Psressures — academic, social and other — are high on teenagers today. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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The High Holy Days are here.

Jolantha — Weston’s favorite sculpture — wishes her many Jewish friends a Happy New Year.

Sure, she’s a pig. She’s no doubt pleased she’s not on the Rosh Hashana menu.

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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Speaking of animals:

Bob Weingarten offers thanks to Greens Farms drivers. He writes:

“Last week, while adjusting my puppy’s collar at our front door, Misty ‘escaped’ and ran into the street. I ran after her and yelled for her to stop, but she continued running for 20 minutes. She thought that this was a game!

As I ran after her, drivers stopped their cars and waited so she would not get hit.  They were all very considerate. Two other dog walkers tried to capture her but she ran from them when she saw me approaching.  She finally had enough. When she lay down I put her collar on, and took her home.

“This was not the only time drivers were considerate to me and others while walking our dogs. When they see us, they drive on the other side of the road to provide space and safety. Even construction truck drivers do the same. So Misty and I say ‘thanks to all you  driver!'”

Misty, secured at the door (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

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The Levitt Pavilion summer season continues into fall.

The outdoor venue added another ticketed event. DAS Trio, featuring Rob Derhak, Vinnie Amico and Al Schnier of moe, appear on Saturday, October 8 (7 p.m.).

Tickets are $15 for members (on sale now), $18 for non-members (beginning tomorrow, Monday, at noon). They’re available at the box office the day of the show too, beginning at 5 p.m.

The terrace bar will be open that night, sponsored by Rizzuto’s. There will be food trucks too. For tickets and more information, click here.

DAS Trio

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Tickets are on sale for the Staples Lacrosse Association’s great raffle. It’s part of their golf outing, set for October 3 at Longshore.

Prizes include tickets on Avelo Airlines; golf club component fitting from Golftec; one night’s stay at the Inn at Longshore; a personal training session with Drew Accomando, plus much more. There are tons of gift cards too.

Click here for the full list of items, and to purchase tickets. Then scroll down for information on the golf outing.

Staples High School: boys lacrosse state champs — and #1 in the nation!

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Westport artist and frequent “06880” online gallery contributor Brian Whelan has been commissioned by the Episcopal Church of Wyoming to produce 13 paintings about the life of Rev. Dr. John Roberts. The Welsh Anglican missionary-priest ministered among Native Americans on the Wind River Reservation.

The series will premiere at the John Roberts Festival in Ft. Washakie, Wyoming next summer. They then embark on an international exhibition tour, at museums throughout Wyoming, then at Episcopal cathedrals in the US, and finally to Wales in partnership with the Anglican Church. The paintings will then be on permanent display in Wyoming.

Beyond commemorating the life and ministry of Rev. Roberts, the exhibition will draw attention to the importance of learning from the spirituality, culture and worldview of Native Americans.

Brian Whelan begins work, on the first of 13 paintings.

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Fred Cantor provides today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

He writes: “I have no clue what the red plants at Old Mill Beach are. But they are beautiful!”

(Photo/fred Cantor)

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And finally … in honor of Misty, the dog that almost got away (story above):

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Roundup: Suicide Support Group, Sustainable Westport, Savvy + Grace …

A new (and free) support group — “Alternatives to Suicide: Navigating the Darkness Together” — launches October 4. The group meets Tuesdays (7 p.m., 90 Post Road West).

Sponsored by Positive Directions, it’s a safe, non-clinical and peer-led space where people 18 and older can talk openly and non-judgmentally. about suicide thoughts, attempts or experiences like self-harm.

Positive Directions says, “We do not assume suicidal thoughts are connected to mental illness, and you do not need to be experiencing a current crisis to attend. No referrals or connection to mental health services is needed.

People are welcome to show up to a meeting, or call 203-227-7644 or email akernan@positivedirections.org for more information.

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Today’s LobsterFest will draw 1,500 people to Compo Beach. There are lobsters, steaks, beer, wine — and plenty of waste.

The sponsoring Westport Rotary Club is on it. Lobster shells will be recycled (after de-banding); bottles are recyclable, and there’s plenty of composting.

An added element: Sustainable Westport will host informational stations throughout the event. Attendees can learn all about our town’s Zero Weaste and Net Zero initiatives, and how they can help.

Lobsterfest is always a good time. Today, it’s educational too.

Sustainable Westport’s waste stations, at last week’s Slice of Saugatuck.

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Last month, “06880” reported on the kerfuffle involving outdoor tables at Nômade (the new Main Street restaurant replacing Tavern on Main) and Savvy + Grace (the gifts-and-more store on the street level, underneath the eatery).

Shoppers have had a narrow path to the store – until yesterday.

In 13 years of publishing “06880,” I’ve posted dozens of photos of entitled drivers. This is the first one of an entitled bicyclist:

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Yesterday’s “Westport … Naturally” photo showed a beautiful caterpillar, about to become an even more beautiful butterfly.

Today’s illustrates nature in action: a monarch butterfly being devoured by a praying mantis.

It’s a gorgeous world out there. But it’s a jungle, too.

(Photo/Melissa Crouch Chang)

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And finally … It took 62 years. But on this day in 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first Black Miss America.

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Roundup: Alcohol In Westport, Album Cover Design, Cell Tower Balloon Test …

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“Can I drink if my parents are with me?” “How old were you when you started drinking?” “If pot is legal, how can it be bad?”

If you’re a Westport parent, your child may ask you those or similar questions. How would you respond?

To help frame your answers, the Westport Prevention Coalition offers “Don’t Wait.” The 52-minute short film helps parents start conversations about substance use.

It’s available free to Westporters throughout March, thanks to a grant. You can watch at home whenever it’s convenient, or join other parents for a virtual group showing. There are follow-up discussions online too.

To watch, click here, then enter promo code PD2022. To register for a group showing and/or follow-up discussion, click here.

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In related news, on Thursday Positive Directions hosted a virtual discussion on “Mindful Drinking: Reimagining Our Alcohol Habits, and How They Impact Our Relationships.”

A panel — including professionals, parents, a recovering alcoholic and a Staples High School student — gave clear, honest accounts of their own experiences with drinking in Westport.

The discussion is online, and available at any time. Click here; then scroll down underneath “How Are You Coping in 2022?” to view.

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Interested in seeing how high the proposed cell tower at 92 Greens Farms Road — 124 feet — really is?

A “balloon display” is scheduled for Monday (February 21) at 7 a.m. It should last around 4 hours.

The tower would be built on a private residence, adjacent to I-95 near Hillspoint Road. (Hat tip: Don Bergmann)

A cell tower been proposed for the property on the left: 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

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Interested in designing an album cover?

The Westport Library invites artists to submit work to be featured on upcoming vinyl. It will also be sued for digital and print promotions.

Fairfield County painters, illustrators, designers, photographers, collage makers — and all other visual artists — can apply.

The competition is part of the Library’s first-of-its-kind “Verso Records Compilation, Volume 1.” The independent record will feature emerging tri-state musicians in genres from jazz and rock to folk and indie. All tracks are recorded live at the Library’s state-of-the-art Verso Studios.

The Artists Collective of Westport will oversee an independent jury committee. Among them: Neal Smith, a founding member of Alice Cooper.

Along with the honor of designing the cover, the artist chosen will receive $1,000.

12” x 12” artwork should be in TIF, JPEG, PNG or PDF format, with a minimum of 300 dpi. The Library’s art department will add text and crop materials at their discretion.

For more information, click here. The submission deadline is March 25.

Part of the Westport Library’s Verso Studios.

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Sarah Bernhard is coming to the Westport Country Playhouse.

The actress/singer author presents “Sandra Bernhard: An Evening of Comedy and Music” on Sunday, March 12 (8 p.m.). Running time is one hour; no intermission. Explicit language.

Her film credits include “The King of Comedy” with Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis, directed by Martin Scorsese. Television credits include “The Sopranos” and “The Larry Sanders Show.”

Broadway World says, “Sandra Bernhard takes no prisoners and pulls no punches. She will set the place afire with her white-hot intelligence. She is authentic, unapologetically pissed, heartbroken, and of course, hilarious.

For more information and tickets click here; email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org, or call the box office: 203-227-4177.

Sandra Bernhard (Photo/Brian Zeigler)

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AWARE is one of my favorite organizations.

The acronym stands for Assisting Women with Actions, Resources and Education. Each year, members partner with a local non-profit. They volunteer with that group, organize an educational event and host a fundraiser.

Their next event is March 1 (WEST, 117 Post Road East, 7 p.m.). WEST owner Kitt Shapiro will talk about her new book, “Eartha & Me: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black and White.” It’s a memoir of growing up with her mother, Eartha Kitt.

AWARE members have been reading the book this week.

This is not a fundraiser — just a fun event with AWARE member Kitt. Plus, she’s offered 20% off merchandise to anyone that night.

PS: I’ll be introducing Kitt. I’m “aware” of what an honor that is!

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Once again, Tyler Hicks has the lead photo on the front page of the New York Times.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate/Pulitzer Prize winner’s shot today shows a

(Photo/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)

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Last year, COVID forced Suzuki Music Schools’ Connecticut Guitar Festival into cyberspace.

It’s back for a 5th year March 11-13 — both live at the Westport Library, and online (free!).

The event opens with a Kickoff Concert, starring classical and jazz greatsPaul Galbraith, Adam Levin, Adam Del Monte and Leandro Pellegrino.

It continues all weekend with a guitar expo, “GuitART,” and performances and events with Similar Kind, Matt Rae, Rami Vamos, Benjamin Verdery, CGF artistic director and Grammy-nominee Mak Grgic, and many more!

For a full list of events, click here. For an overview of the festival and artists, click here.

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To celebrate its 1-year anniversary, Westport-based FLB Law donated 1,200 cans of soup to the Filling in the Blanks SOUPer Bowl Food Drive. The Norwalk nonprofit provides weekend meals to needy children in Fairfield and Westchester Counties.

Other recent FLB initiatives include packing backpacks with holiday treats, toys and a dental kitfor Filling in the Blanks, and making birthday boxes for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center.

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Amy Schneider knows the kinds of photos I like for our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

So, she asks with a smile, “Did this get to Compo Beach naturally?”

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … Beverly Ross died recently in Nashville. She was 87.

You may not know her name. For a while, she was one of the most successful pop and rock songwriters in America — and one of its few females.

Her short career ended when a work relationship with Phil Spector turned sour. She said that he stole a riff they were working on, then turned it into “Spanish Harlem” — which he credited to himself and Jerry Leiber. Click here for a full obituary.

Among her credits:

Positive Directions: 50 Years Of Substance Abuse Service

In 1971, a new organization — the Alcoholism Council of Mid-Fairfield County — was created to address an old yet persistent problem. It served as an important information and referral center.

Over the years, the Council broadened its scope to include other substances, and added services like counseling and recovery.

Its name changed too: first to the Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Council, then Positive Directions: The Center for Prevention and Recovery. Today it’s Positive Directions: The Center for Prevention and Counseling.

Though it has impacted countless lives during its half century in Westport, Positive Directions is still one of the most overlooked health services in town.

“People don’t know about us. Or they have misconceptions,” says executive director Vanessa Wilson.

“We’re not just about treating substance abuse. Preventing substance misuse and promoting mental well-being among youth is a large focus of our work.”

The non-profit partners with groups like Westport’s Department of Human Services, the Westport Prevention Coalition and Norwalk Partnership to gather data, coordinate meetings and provide training.

Positive Directions runs a psychiatric and substance abuse outpatient clinic for adults and adolescents. led by 9 clinicians and 2 medication prescribers, as well as one-to-one peer support groups.

Positive Directions staff.

The pandemic aggravated what was already a community-wide problem.  A treatment fund was created during COVID for clients with financial hardship, In addition, free virtual recovery group meetings run weekly. A free support group for teachers struggling with anxiety due to COVID was added last year.

As Positive Directions has evolved, so has its outreach. A social media campaign spreads awareness of its mission and message in ways unfathomable in 1971 — or even 2001.

For example, TurningPointCT.org is an online mental health and substance abuse resource, created by and for area young people. It’s a forum for connection and support, via social media.

Positive Directions continues to evolve. A recent focus is on problem gambling.

Much has changed since Positive Directions began, half a century ago. But much has not.

Westporters and our neighbors continue to struggle with alcohol and substance abuse. More than ever, we need resources to help with addiction and recovery.

We need a positive direction. And — by whatever name it’s called — Positive Directions continues to lead the way.

(For more information about Positive Directions, click here.) 

Roundup: Ali Stroker, Kyle Martino, Saugatuck Rowers …

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Tony Award winner Ali Stroker (Ado Annie “Oklahoma!”) brings her magic to the Westport Country Playhouse on Saturday July 24. The live, in-person performance is next in the storied theater’s summer cabaret series.

Stroker — who recently starred in the Lifetime film “Christmas Ever After” — made history as the first actor in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway, in 2015’s “Spring Awakening.’

Stroker has soloed at the Kennedy Center, New York’s Town Hall, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Her mission is to improve the lives of others — disabled or not — through the arts.

Stroker’s appearance at the Playhouse has special resonance. It’s the same stage that premiered “Green Grow the Lilacs” in 1940. Richard Rogers checked it out here — and was inspired to collaborate with Oscar Hammerstein on a play that became “Oklahoma!” The rest — including Stroker’s role — is history.

Tickets for “An Evening with Ali Stroker” start at $25 for performance only.  Supporter tickets — raising funds to reopen the Playhouse — start at $150; they include VIP perks and a pre-show cocktail party. Click here for tickets, call (203) 227-4177, or email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org.

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Soccer fans have known 1999 Staples High School graduate Kyle Martino as the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year, MLS pro with the Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy, US national team player and NBC Sports analyst.

Soon, Bridgeport youngsters will know him as the man who brought an innovative soccer court to their city.

This Saturday (July 17, 3 p.m., Cesar Batalla Elementary School, 606 Howard Avenue), Martino introduces the Over Under Initiative. His unique invention is an in-ground goal that pops up quickly and easily, converting basketball courts into multi-sport surfaces, for soccer, handball and floor hockey. It could be a game-changer (pun intended).

The public is invited to Saturday’s ceremony at the Batalla School. For more information click here, and watch the video below.

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Speaking of sports: There are thousands of reasons to support Westport PAL — as in, the thousands of youngsters who are helped each year by their sports programs and college scholarships.

Support is especially important now. For the past 2 years, PAL’s biggest fundraiser — the July 4th fireworks — have been canceled.

So be sure to head to this Sunday’s car show (July 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., railroad station parking lot near Railroad Place and Franklin Street). In addition to cool cars, there’s food and raffle prizes.

Tickets are $15 each. But kids — that is, anyone under 12 — are free. That’s how PAL rolls: Even at their fundraiser, they’re all about the kids.

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Very talented Weston photographer Alison Wachstein is offering special “Porchtraits” — 20-minute photo sessions on her porch, and a retouched digital file posted on Facebook — for a $100 minimum contribution to International Waldenstroms Macroglobulemia Foundation. It funds research, education and support for people diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The “Share the Love” portraits can be of families, couples, siblings, best friends — even with a cherished pet. Larger groups that can’t be accommodated on the porch will be photographed in her garden.

A limited number of sessions are available. Click here for the donation link. Call 203-226-5296 for an appointment.

Alison Wachstein took this Woog family portrait in 1991.

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Three Saugatuck Rowing Club alumnae medaled at the World Rowing U23 Championships last weekend in the Czech Republic. The event included 800 rowers from 55 countries.

Two sets of medalists — the women’s pair and women’s lightweight pair — were coached by Gordon Getsinger, SRC director of rowing and junior girls head coach.

The women’s pair, including SRC’s Caitlin Esse and Lucy Koven, rowed to silver in an exciting finish. SRC rower Bonnie Pushner and Lindsey Rust raced to a bronze medal in their event. Both pairs trained in Westport under Getsinger’s watch for the past several months.

Westport resident, SRC alum and 2018 Staples High School graduate Kelsey McGinley medaled twice. She earned silver in the 4- (4 without coxswain), then 2 hours later rowed to gold in the 8+. McGinley has been training in Iowa City with the USRowing Selection Camp since early June. She rows at Stanford University, and is a first team All-American.

Kelsey McGinley (far left) with her 4- team.

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Positive Directions has a new executive director.

The Westport-based prevention, counseling and recovery support non-profit welcomes Vanessa Wilson. She spent 10 years at YWCA Greenwich Domestic Abuse Services, most recently as manager of operations.

She earned an MA from Fairfield University. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Vanessa Wilson

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Alan Hahn Eugley died June 30. He was surrounded by family at his Westport home, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

A retired banking executive, Alan graduated from Lehigh University with a BS in economics and an MS in business economics. His 45-year career included executive positions at Bankers Trust, Marine Midland Bank and Fiserv.

Alan grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts, and spent summers at his family’s cottage in Lincolnville, Maine. He played guitar in college and high school bands, and later delighted in his daughter Allison’s flute performances and playing guitar with his son Seth.

During retirement, Alan spent every Sunday with his special needs daughter Elizabeth. Alan also helped with his wife Emily’s art exhibition installations.

A 27-year resident of Westport, Alan enjoyed boating and golf, and was an active member of the Longshore Men’s Golf Association. Known for his jovial and upbeat approach to life, Alan appreciated a 5 p.m. martini, no matter where he was.

Alan is survived by his wife Emily Hamilton Laux; mother Mary Louise; daughters Allison (Geoff) and Elizabeth; son Seth; sisters Gwen (Rick) and Melissa (Paul); stepchildren Madeleine and Jack; niece and nephews Nicolina, Paul and Will, and grandchildren Amelia and Brady. He is also survived by his former wife Susan McShane. His wife Karen Treadwell predeceased him.

A memorial will be held in Westport in August. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to STAR, which provides services to special-needs children and adults in Connecticut.

Alan Hahn Eugley

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo comes from Luisa Francoeur. She spotted this guy on an early morning Old Hill walk.

When she returned, he was still there — waiting, it seemed, for her.

(Photo/Luisa Francoeur)

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And finally … sure, today is Bastille Day. But I paid homage to France’s national day last year.

July 14 is also the date when, in 1881, outlaw/gunfighter/murderer Billy the Kid was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in New Mexico.

Everyone of a certain age remembers Billy Joel’s “Billy the Kid.” Most of the lyrics are “artistic license” (a kind way of saying, “BS”). And of course, we’re all left to wonder: Is the “Billy” from “Oyster Bay, Long Island” in the final verse actually Billy Joel himself?

Teen Survey: Drugs Of Choice, Coping With Stress, And More

About 60% of Staples High School seniors drink regularly. A quarter use marijuana. The same number vape — mostly THC.

Those are some of the headline-grabbing statistics announced this week by the Westport Prevention Coalition. Working with the Search Institute, Westport Department of Human Services and Positive Directions, they conducted an anonymous survey of 800 7th through 12 graders in April.

In addition to substance use, questions covered developmental relationships, COVID stress and racial justice.

Results were presented at Monday’s Board of Education meeting. Yesterday afternoon, Westport public schools coordinator of psychological services Dr. Valerie Babich and Positive Directions prevention director Margaret Watt did a deeper dive into the statistics, on a Zoom call with Westport educators, youth workers, social service providers and students.

The bulk of the discussion involved the substance use findings. The survey asked about behaviors in the preceding 30 days. Teenagers were still wearing masks and supposed to be socially distanced; COVID continued to limit some of their interactions.

Key substance findings from the Westport Prevention Coalition survey.

Nonetheless, 60% of Staples seniors had had “more than a few sips” of beer in the previous month. For 7th graders, the number was 9%. It rose steadily, most noticeably starting in sophomore year.

Taken together, the 33% total of high school students who drank in the previous 30 days — during COVID — was higher than the Connecticut average in a survey conducted in 2019, before the pandemic.

Marijuana use and vaping begins around 9th grade. It rises in tandem over the years, peaking at 24% (marijuana) and 25% (vaping) by senior year.

Of the students who knew what they were vaping, 2/3 used THC; 1/3 used nicotine. In addition, 28% used multiple substances. But 13% did not know what they were inhaling.

Interestingly, tobacco and prescription drug misuse was virtually non-existent: 0 to 2% in all grades.

The Westport Prevention Coalition has undertaken an educational campaign. This is the front of a postcard. The other side helps parents talk about substance use with their youngsters.

As students get older, they reported, their parents’ disapproval of certain substances goes down. By senior year, only 63% of students said that their parents disapprove of marijuana.

In terms of perceived harm, 78% of high school students think that 5 or more drinks at a time, once or twice a week, is harmful. That means 22% do not believe it is bad.

81% of high school students think vaping is harmful.

In 7th grade, 74% of students surveyed thought that marijuana is harmful. By 12th grade, the number dropped to 34%.

COVID had a strong impact on Westport youth. More than half of students surveyed took steps to resolve pandemic-related problems. The majority said they accepted the reality of the new situation. However, only 34% reached out to others to talk about how they were feeling.

58% of the students felt connected to school staff. A whopping 94% said they felt connected to friends.

In tough COVID times, friends can be lifesavers.

Questions about developmental relationships with teachers revealed “moderate to high” responses. Students felt that they were challenged to grow, provided support, and expanded their possibilities.

Areas for improvement included inspiring possibilities for the future, exposure to new ideas, and introduction to people who could help them grow.

The final section revealed that 3/4 believe they have a role to play in ending racial injustice. A clear majority are aware of the impact of their own words and actions, in the social justice arena.

Data will be reviewed with school administrators, staff, mental health professionals and students. The Westport Prevention Coalition will then determine how best to turn the findings into solutions.

Positive Parenting Postcards

Parenting is hard.

Everyone knows that. It’s like saying “I-95 sucks.”

But every Westport parent has gotten that reminder 3 times in the past 3 weeks. Colorful postcards arrived in local mailboxes. They bore our “06880” zip code. They began, “Parenting is hard….”

Then they offered tips, to make talking with your kids a bit lest difficult.

The cards come courtesy of the Westport Prevention Coalition. A subcommittee of Westport Together — the collaboration between Positive Directions, Westport Public Schools and PTAs, and the Department of Human Services — its current charge is to raise parental awareness of teenage behaviors around alcohol and drugs.

That’s particularly important now, says Positive Directions prevention director Margaret Watt.

As Westport opens back up after the pandemic — with proms, graduation and other rites of spring looming after 15 months of unprecedented demands on adolescent life — parents may not realize what the “new normal” is like.

“Westport has sometimes turned a blind eye toward teenage drinking,” Watt says. But recent focus groups revealed that during COVID, some youngsters held Zoom drinking parties. Marijuana use may have also increased during quarantine.

The front side of one of the postcards …

Each postcard bears a different message.

One assures parents that teenagers value their opinions, and learn from observing priorities and choices.

It advises parents:

  • Talk about your expectations and rules.
  • Be open about your own stress, and model healthy ways to handle it.
  • Make fun family time a priority.

Another postcard reminds parents about Connecticut’s “Social Host Law.” Anyone over 18 faces arrest and imprisonment, lawsuits and legal fees, loss of homeowners insurance, and fines of $2,000 — one for every underage youth — if alcohol is used on their property. That’s true even if an adult is not present.

A third postcard notes that “new” marijuana — not the kind they might have smoked years ago — has been engineered to be “many times stronger than nature.” The card covers vaping THC, and the effects of the drug on brain development and addiction.

… and the back.

Each card includes a QR code, to scan for more information.

Four more are planned. All 7 end the same way: “Talk early … talk often.”

Feedback has been excellent. The postcards are seen as eye-catching, concise and informative. One parent contacted the Coalition immediately after receiving the first card, grateful for the info and conversation starters.

Future mailings may also include residents without school-age children. After all, it takes a village — not just a parent — to raise a child.

And it’s hard.

(For more information, click here. To volunteer with the Westport Prevention Coalition, email mwatt@positivedirections.org.)

Mental Health Awareness Month: You Are Not Alone

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

For centuries, “mental illness” was a taboo subject — ignored, covered up or lied about.

Only recently has it come out of the shadows. We now talk about “mental health,” more than “mental illness.” It’s as vital to our lives as physical health.

Of course, there’s still a long way to go.

Westport Together — a partnership between the town’s Department of Human Services, Positive Directions, and the Westport Public Schools and PTAs — has put together a comprehensive calendar of events.

Every day this month, a virtual event focuses on some aspect of mental health. Highlights include:

  • “Adolescent Mental Health in 2021: Challenges and Caregiver Strategies” (May 12, 6:30 p.m.) Dr. Aaron Weiner discusses how to tell what’s normal, what’s a ore significant mental health concern, and how parents can support their kids. Click here to register.
  • Mental health for elementary school youngsters (May 13, 7 p.m.) For children and their trusted adults, “Gizmo’s Pawsome Guide” is a story-time read-along that introduces the topic in an accessible way, and offers tips and guidelines for coping. Click here to register.
  • “If They Had Known” (May 10, 7 p.m.), a documentary about the dangers of combining prescription drugs and alcohol. Email info@positivedirections.org for the Zoom link.
  • LifeLines — Melissa Bernstein’s new project — offers free daily workshops. Ranging from “Breaking Up With Your Inner Critic” to “Tracing Your Triggers,” they help people feel seen, heard and appreciated. Click here for more information.

Other events range from suicide prevention and raising children during the pandemic to shattering the myth of mental illness and “laughing yoga.” Click here for the full monthly calendar.

LifeLines offers a different activity every day this month.

Westport Together also compiled a list of resources for Westporters dealing with isolation, stress, depression, substance use or other issues. It includes:

All Ages

Westport Department of Human Services: Information and help with mental health referrals, food and financial assistance; 203-341-1050.

WestportTogether.org: Subscribe to email lisit for youth and family resources.

Youth

Westport Youth Services Bureau: Casework, referrals, mentoring; 203-341-1150.

Teen Talk: Free counseling provided by Kids in Crisis at school or through hotline; 203-341-1285 (school-based counselor) or 203-661-1911 (hotline).

Liberation Programs: Free drug and alcohol counseling at Staples High School; 203-399-3520.

Toquet Hall: Student-run activities center; 203-341-1155.

Resources are available for anyone who feels isolated.

Older adults

Senior Center: Programs and support; 203-341-5099.

Westport Weston Health District: Homebound visits, safety checks; 203-227-9571.

Behavioral Health

Positive Directions: Mental health and substance use counseling, prevention, support groups; 203-227-7644.

TurningPointCT.org: Online options and peer support by and for teens and young adults; based in Westport at Positive Directions.

NAMI: Support groups and training programs by and for families with a loved one with mental illness.

The Hub: Regional options for treatment and support.

(Hat tip: Elaine Daignault)

Roundup: Vaccine, Joe Duffy, Wheels2U …

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Yesterday’s vaccine clinic in the Staples High School fieldhouse was a rousing success.

Over 500 educators from Westport, Weston and the Easton/Redding district received doses. The health professionals were on top of their game; our Community Emergence Response Team kept things running smoothly. Next Wednesday’s clinic should cover the first dose for the rest of the school staff who want it.

A small part of the big fieldhouse.

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Speaking of the vaccine:

I was all set for my first dose at Stamford Hospital next Tuesday. But a pinched nerve in my back last week laid me up — and on prednisone.

I was warned to delay the vaccine until I’d been off it for a week. So yesterday — dreading the task — I went online for a new appointment.

The system was as agonizing as my back. Eventually I gave up and left voicemail on the VAMS system (877-918-2224). I was promised a call back.

My expectations were low. But sure enough, a few hours later a wonderful woman named Sierra called.

She won on top of her game. She was warm, efficient, even (dare I say it?) fun! She signed me up for Stamford’s Lord & Taylor parking lot March 20, and a 2nd does 4 weeks later.

Big props to Sierra, and the system. It’s not easy — but it works.

For great local vaccine info, join Facebook’s Westport Coronavirus Info group. It’s clear, updated often, and filled with facts.

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Within weeks, Westport Book Shop has established itself as the go-to place for the best in pre-owned novels, biographies, etc., etc., plus CDs and vinyl.

And art.

This month, Norm Siegel is featured at the Drew Friedman Art Place in the back of the Jesup Road spot.

Norm specializes in trompe l’oeil and photorealistic paintings. His paintings of famous and rare book editions are so realistic, you may try to turn the painted pages. Click here for a great interview with him.

Westport Book Shop — and the gallery — are open during new expanded hours: Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 6 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5.

Norm Siegel at the Drew Friedman Art Place.

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Today’s New York Times obituary of Joe Duffy notes that “his antiwar campaign for the United States Senate from Connecticut in 1970 galvanized a generation of campus liberals…. (He) later served as a cultural arbiter in the Carter and Clinton administrations and presided over two major universities.” He was 88.

It mentions one of his key supporters in his political campaigns — Westporter Paul Newman — and (though it does not note that she lived here too), his 1974 marriage to Anne Wexler. She ran his 1970 campaign, became an aide to President Carter, and then a prominent Washington political operative and lobbyist.

Click here for a look at Duffey’s fascinating life.

Joe Duffey and Paul Newman at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (Photo courtesy of New York Times)

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New posters and billboards at the Westport train station promote Wheels2U.

That’s our town’s on-demand, door-to-door, group ride service between homes and the station. Click here for information on fares, hours of operation and service areas.

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Positive Directions — Westport’s prevention and counseling center — is looking for a new executive director.

During COVID, the 49-year-old organization provided important mental health support to hundreds of residents. The prevention staff collaborated with town governments and other local partners, to help adolescents and families make healthy choices and decisions.

The search committee is looking for a leader with significant management experience and deep experience in the mental health. Resumes and cover letters are due by March 31 to: PositiveDirectionsEDSearch@gmail.com.

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Don’t forget about Winfield Street Deli’s great “Giving Back” campaign. For every $20 check, the Post Road West coffee-and-more shop donates one meal to agencies that feed the needy.

Last year, they gave 6,000 meals. Their goal for 2021: 20,000. Stop by to help!

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Dave Briggs’ fascinating InstagramLive discussions continue this afternoon (Thursday, March 4, 5:15).

His guest is Westport’s own Lindsay Czarniak. As “NFL on Fox sideline reporter Host of “The Athlete & The Artist,” she’s interviewed everyone from Brad Paisley and Danica Patrick to Alanis Morissette and (this week) Eddie Vedder. She’s also the wife of NBC’s Craig Melvin.

Search for @WestportMagazine on Instagram. Send questions any time by DM to @DaveBriggsTV.

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“Seascapes” is the theme of George Billis Gallery’s new show. There’s a reception tomorrow (Friday, March 5) at the 166 Main Street space, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Check out these artists: Anthony Davis, Margery Gosnell-Qua, Glen Hacker, Georgia Nassikas, Richard Orient, Paul Schulenburg, Sheila Smallwood, Kenneth Templeton and Karen Woods.

“Penfield Swell” (Glenn Hacker, oil on canvas)

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And finally … Bunny Wailer, the last surviving original member of the Wailers — died on Tuesday at a hospital in Jamaica. He was 73.

Bunny played percussion and harmonized. He may not have been as well known as his groupmates Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. But without Bunny, there would have been no Wailers.

Roundup: Cribari Bridge, Senior Center, Wildfires, WTF, More


Stay away from the William F. Cribari Bridge today. The Saugatuck River span is closed through 3 p.m., for inspection. Use alternate routes!

William F. Cribari Bridge — stay away today! (Photo/Sam Levenson)


Registration for Senior Center October-December classes is underway for Westport residents. Non-residents can register beginning Monday (September 21).

The Senior Center also announces upcoming events:

  • Parkinson’s Support (Sept. 23, Zoom, 10:15 a.m.)
  • New to Medicare (Sept. 24, 5:30 p.m.)
  • Summer Concert Series: Harpist Wendy Kerner (Sept. 25, Zoom, 1:30 p.m.)
  • Caregiver Support (Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and 21, 10 a.m.)
  • Bingo (Oct. 1, with delivered lunch (Pct. 1, Zoom, 1:15 p.m.)
  • Just for Women (Oct. 1, 3:30 p.m.)
  • Walk to End Alzheimer’s (Oct. 11).

For more information, click here, call 203-341-5099, email seniorcenter@westportct.gov/seniorcenter.


Smoke from the wildfires out west have reached Westport. This was the scene yesterday evening, at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Stephen Raffel)


COVID has canceled many traditional activities. But not Oktoberfest!

Wakeman Town Farm celebrates outdoors on Thursday, October 8 (5:30 p.m.).  Chef Alison Milwe Grace cooks up a great German meal (with a veggie option for non-meat eaters). Bring a sweater or jacket and your favorite German beer or adult beverage. Click here for details and tickets.


Teaching has always been stressful. During COVID, it’s exponentially tougher.

To help educators de-stress, Positive Directions has launched a Teacher Support Group. Trained counselors lead discussions Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. via (of course) Zoom. The cost is $40 per session. Email amiceli@positivedirections.org, or call 203-227-7644 for reservations.


With kids back at school — meaning more than half the time, they’re learning at home — parents may need a private office.

Serendipity Labs — the on-demand workspace at 55 Post Road West — offers a complimentary private day office for all new inquiries. It’s available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Serendipity memberships include high-speed WiFi, complimentary coffee, spacious common areas, guest reception and concierge services. For details click here, call 203-979-4084 or email mburns@serendipitylabs.com.

Serendipity Labs, 55 Post Road West


Classic movies continue this Saturday (September 19, 8 p.m.) at the Remarkable Theater. Earthplace co-sponsors “Raiders of the Lost Artk.” Click here for tickets and more information.


Speaking of movies: Ethan Hawke will direct a new movie about the lives and careers of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The project has the blessing of Woodward — now 90 — and the actors’ family.

The film is expected to focus on their 50-year marriage, including their decision to raise their children in Westport rather than Los Angeles. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.


And finally … today would have been B.B. King’s 95th birthday. He died 5 years ago, but the thrill of his blues guitar will never be gone.