Tag Archives: Positive Directions

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.

 

Roundup: School Concerns, Supper & Soul, Parks & Rec & WTF Programs, More


As the reopening of school nears, stress levels are high. And they’re not just confined to adults.

Positive Directions — Westport’s not-for-profit center for counseling and mental health issues — offers tips for supporting a child with concerns about going back to school. Click here to read.


The Dead are coming to Westport.

Well, at least Terrapin: A Grateful Dead Experience, is. They draw raves, with their state-of-the-art equipment and true Garcia/Weir channeling.

They’re the next band for “Support & Soul,” the Westport- Weston Chamber of Concert/Westport Library drive-in collaboration.

Previous Supper & Soul shows — with Mystic Bowie, the Tom Petty Project and Mullett — have sold out.

Tickets are $100 per car (5 people max). The go on sale this Friday (August 28, 10 a.m.; click here). The Chamber urges concert-goers to support local restaurants, by ordering takeout for the show.


Registration began this morning for Westport’s Parks & Recreation fall programs. They include tennis clinics, Sports Squirts, IST Baseball and virtual at-home programs. Among the new programs: Skyhawks Hoopster Tots, Overtime Athletics Big Swing Whiffleball and High Fives Running Club.

Click here to see all programs, and to register.

Registration for Wakeman Town Farm’s fall programs will also be done through the Parks & Recreation department; just click here. Offerings include the Mommy (and Daddy) + Me “Little Farmers,” new Music Together classes, and programs for teens. All are safe, socially distanced and outdoors .

Questions about any program, or how to register online? Email recreation@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-5152.

 


An alert reader writes:

“In June of 2018, my wife was checking some flowers in our garden. She heard some rustling behind a large bush, and out popped a white deer.

“This prompted a bit of research. Only 1% of deer in the Northeast are white. In various cultures the white deer has some positive mythological significance. It can be viewed as a message from another world or the hereafter. This was startling to us, but in a good way.

“Two weeks before our first sighting, our family had put to rest a loved one just up the hill in the Christ & Holy Trinity Cemetery. So who knows?

“We continue to see the deer (there may now be 2) sporadically. Neighbors say  she (or they) are often sighted throughout Old Hill.”


Musicians everywhere have missed connecting with live audiences.

But when members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts and touring team attended the American String Quartet concert at MoCA Westport last month, they saw the potential in the museum’s outdoor stage, vast grounds, and the way  attendees maintained social distancing

So MoCA proudly announces a new concert event. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Spotlight features the Alexa Tarantino Quartet on Friday, September 4 (7 p.m, MoCA Westport, 19 Newtown Turnpike).  

Tarantino is an award-winning, vibrant young jazz saxophonist, woodwind doubler and composer. Jazz Times’ Critics Poll named her a Top 5 Alto Saxophonist of 2019.

Concertgoers bring their own lawn chairs and food. There are food and drink trunks on the grounds, too. Click here for tickets, or call 203-222-7070.

Alex Tarantino


Saugatuck Rowing Club past commodore Carol Randel and her team — the Randelles — are leading a fundraiser to help people fighting cancer gain access to healthy food.

The “Row for Recovery” event addresses an unseen problem. Area residents must often decide between food and medical treatment. The pandemic has made the situation more dire.

Row for Recovery — set for Saturday, September 12 at the Rowing Club on Riverside Avenue — will help Norwalk Hospital’s Whittingham Cancer Center provide prepaid grocery store cards to people needing good nutrition during cancer treatment. $100 feeds a family of 4 for a month.

Click here to register, and for a course map.

Carol Randel


Amy Berkin writes: “I was downtown for a meeting, and wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee on a bench by the river. Look at this! It’s awful that people are not throwing away trash, and no garbage cans are out. Very sad for the town, and the wildlife in the river.

(Photo/Amy Berkin)

And finally … today is National Dog Day! Arf!

Roundup: Yarn Bombing; Coffee Roasting; Black Duck; More


Everyone loves the Yarn Bomber. Now you can learn her secrets.

No, not who she is. Even better: how she does it.

The Yarn Bomber is bringing her talents — decorating trees and street signs in beautiful, uplifting colors — to the masses. She’s created a virtual knitting course, and anyone can join.

For just $50 you get needles, starter yarn, 5 days of instruction (1 hour a day), knitting videos, online tutorials, and a live public socially distanced yarn bomb at a scheduled date. All supplies can be picked up will at Westport Yarns.

The Yarn Bomber can also accommodate custom group sessions for groups (minimum of 6 participants).

Email yarnbalmer@gmail.com for more information.

Yarn bombing at Compo Beach (Photo/Judy Auber Jahnel)


There are plenty of places to buy coffee in Saugtuck, from Dunkin’ to Donut Crazy.

There may soon be one more.

A sign next to Tutti’s — in the storefront occupied briefly by a kombucha bar — advertises ILSE Coffee. It’s the work of 2013 Staples High School graduate Lucas Smith, and Rebecca Grossman.

They started a Kickstarter campaign. Their goal is to open a “dream cafe and marketplace.” The roastery/market will include specialty coffee, pastries, sandwiches, small plates and to-go food, along with wine, beer, cocktails and retail items. They hope to host coffee cuppings, seminars and workshops too.

The goal is $10,000. The deadline is August 1.

As of yesterday though, the Kickstarter drive was $9,999 short.

Lucas Smith, in the Saugatuck space.


Speaking of Saugatuck — here’s the news you’ve all been waiting for:

The Black Duck is back open!

Just in time for summer, all’s right with the world.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


Uncertain weather today forced a postponement of the Supper & Soul Drive-in/Tailgate Concert. The event — featuring the Tom Petty Project — is now set for Sunday (July 5, 6 p.m.).

Tickets for tonight’s show can be used on the new date. If you can’t make the new date, contact the sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce (matthew@westportwestonchamber.com). There’s a wait list for the sold-out show.

During the show, anyone with comments or concerns should call 203-851-2771.

The Chamber and Westport Library will also hold a streaming concert next Sunday (July 11). Part of Supper & Soul, it features the ’80s hair band Mullett. Tickets are $10.80. Click here for details.


In these challenging times, support groups are more important than ever.

But physical distancing and other rules make it challenging for organizations to offer that support.

Positive Directions — the Westport-based prevention and counseling agency — can help. They offer free, weekly virtual support groups for people trying to achieve healthy lifestyles, after battling substance abuse addiction.

There are special sessions too for family members, and young adults. Click here for details.


Kami Evans — who as “Kami’s Kloud” provided tons of Westport information on social media platforms — will move back here with her family in August. She’s been in England since 2018.

Her newest project is working on a global social media campaign, incorporating local artists. Her first video stars Westport’s own Rosie Jon. Born without arms, she paints (beautifully) with her toes.

Rosie’s current project — #WeAreOne — is “so poignant right now,” Kami says.

Click below for Rosie’s video. Click here for links to all of Kami’s platforms.


Westporters Chris and Amy Overman were ready to start a family. Yet at 38, Amy struggled with infertility. For 6 years, the couple tried many treatments.

After 13 failed cycles — including IUI, IVF and stem treatments — Amy read a chapter in her infertility book that many people skip: egg donation.

It’s expensive. But the Overmans received an egg donation. They’re now the proud parents of a son, Ryder.

Two years later, Amy paid it forward. She gave $10,000 to the Norwalk-based Nest Egg Foundation — and called it the  Ryder Grant. Now, someone else can benefit from an egg donation.

The Foundation’s application window for the 2020 fertility grant program runs through July 31. Connecticut and New York residents are eligible.

For more information, including grant application eligibility criteria and how to become a donor, click here


And finally … a fitting tribute to the late John Prine.

Substance Misuse, Mental Health Survey Now Live

Substance misuse and mental health are national issues.

Local ones, too.

But how prevalent are they? And if we don’t know the answers, how can anyone help?

Today, the Westport Prevention Coalition launches an online survey. It was created by the Human Services Department, in partnership with the Westport Prevention Coalition and Positive Directions.

The anonymous survey will “provide helpful information as the Coalition embarks on prevention and resource development efforts addressing substance misuse, mental health services and overall wellness across the lifespan,” says Human Services director Elaine Daignault.

The goal is to gain input from a cross-section of age groups. It will
complement the youth and parent surveys administered through Positive Directions bi-annually in partnership with Westport Public Schools.

Click here for the survey. For more information, or to obtain a paper copy, call 203-341-1050.

 

Positive Directions Offers Suicide Help

This week’s stories on suicide have stirred many responses. 

They’ve also shined a light on the good work so many people and organizations do to de-stigmatize, raise awareness of, and prevent this tragic, and increasing, cause of death.

Denique Weidema-Lewis — director of prevention at Positive Directions, the Westport-based substance abuse and mental health service — offers condolences to the Snedeker family, and appreciation for their post. She adds:

Tragically, the suicide rate has risen by about 30% in the past 20 years. This terrible increase reflects a need for public health efforts throughout our communities, focusing on creating a healthy culture, strengthening our families, developing workplace wellness, teaching coping skills, and making services available and affordable.

 

As someone who has been affected by suicide  both professionally and personally, I want to share some local resources on how we as a community are working to prevent suicide.

In recognition of National Suicide Prevention week (September 8-14), Positive Directions will host 2 free gatekeeper trainings.

Just as people trained in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver save thousands of lives each year, people trained in Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis, and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help.

QPR will be offered at our office (90 Post Road West; click here to register) on Wednesday, September 11, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk on Thursday, September 12 (6:30 to 8 p.m.; (click here to register).

Additionally, we are proud supporters of the Connecticut Chapter of American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, and help sponsor the annual Westport Out of the Darkness Walk at Sherwood Island. This year’s event is Saturday, October 26 (10 a.m.; click here for more information).

The walk raises awareness and funds that allow the AFSP to invest in research, create local educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss.

We encourage everyone to be aware of resources. Locally, we are members of The HUB CT which provides behavioral health resource guides (click here for great information).

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Lifeline 24/7 (800-273-TALK), or call 211 to be connected to a mobile crisis service near you in Connecticut.

The Crisis Text Line is another great option: text “hello” to 741741.