Tag Archives: Saugatuck Congregational Church

“06880” Podcast: Rev. Alison Patton

Whenever a minister moves to a new church, there’s a story.

The story was particularly intriguing when Rev. Alison Patton came to Saugatuck Congregational Church.

It’s one of our oldest congregations. In fact, the meetinghouse was where Westport was founded — from parts of Norwalk, Fairfield and Weston — in 1835.

Even more intriguing: The new pastor did not actually have a church to preach and work in. It was closed for rebuilding, after a Thanksgiving fire that nearly burned it to the ground.

What impelled her to take on that challenge? What has she learned about Westport in the years since? Why is social justice so important to her church, and to her personally? What drives her interfaith work in Westport?

Those are some of the topics Rev. Patton and I discussed in the latest “06880” podcast. Now — thanks to the Westport Library– you can hear our conversation. Just click below.

Friday Flashback #272

Yesterday marked the second straight Thanksgiving without a traditional community feast.

The decades-long event has had bumps before. When Saugatuck Congregational Church was recovering from a fire, Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church stepped up to host.

Some years there were more than enough volunteers to cook, serve and clean up. Other times, folks did double or triple duty.

But the feast was always there: an in-person affirmation that our town is truly a “community.”

COVID changed the event. This year dinners were delivered to recipients.

They were grateful (and well fed). They gave thanks.

But fingers are crossed that next year, the Thanksgiving Community Feast will be in person once again. Our town would be truly thankful.

A small part of the 2014 Thanksgiving Community Feast. Gatherings like this seem like a page out of the past.

Roundup: Kristallnacht Observance, Water Rescue, Riverside Avenue …

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Tonight marks the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht — the night the Nazis’ repressive policies toward Jews turned violent. At least 91 men, women and children were murdered; 1,000 synagogues were attacked and vandalized, with over 300 demolished, and at least 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed.

The number of eyewitnesses to those horrors is rapidly fading. But tonight, a special commemoration (Tuesday, Saugatuck Congregational Church, 7 p.m., in person and livestream) includes Ruth Zimbler. As a child, she watched her synagogue in Vienna burn.

Two days later, she and her 6-year-old brother escaped on the Kindertransport to the Netherlands. Her story — filled with love, hope and optimism — is a chance to hear from a survivor who was old enough to remember, and at 93 still young enough to tell her story.

The event will be moderated by Dr. Gavriel Rosenfeld, professor of Germanic Studies at Fairfield University. Click here for the YouTube livestream link; click here for the Facebook link.

Co-sponsors include The Conservative Synagogue, Temple Israel, Federation for Jewish Philanthropy, and Merkaz Community High School for Judaic Studies.

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At 5:55 a.m. this morning, Westport Police officers responded to Saugatuck Shores on a report of an elderly male who was missing.

Officers immediately searched the area, and saw the man partially submerged in the water. Working quickly in the cold, they deployed a canoe located nearby.

One officer held the man’s head above the water, while others lifted him into the canoe. Once ashore, the Westport Fire Department helped bring him to waiting EMS personnel.

They evaluated the man, and transported him to the hospital for further treatment.

While his condition is unknown, any injuries did not appear life=threatening.

Police, Fire Department and EMS personnel work together during this morning’s water rescue. (Photo courtesy of Westport Police Department)

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If it’s mid-November, it must be time for … the indoor Westport Farmers’ Market.

Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center once again hosts the long-running institution. The winter market opens Thursday, November 18. It runs every Thursday (except Thanksgiving) through March 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

It’s open-air, throughout 3 greenhouses. Favorite summer vendors return, with high-quality locally grown or raised fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, milk, baked and prepared foods, plus handmade items.

WFM kicks off the season with a celebration. Bubble and Brew, and Parlor Pizza, will set up trucks outside the greenhouses. Staples graduate Luke Molina will play music. while Mae Farrell entertains youngsters in the Get Growing program with a nature-inspired craft.

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A Riverside Avenue improvement project — involving demolition of the concrete roadwaym and reconstruction of the pavement — begins today.

Traffic on Riverside Avenue between Bridge Street and Saugatuck Avenue (the area of Viva Zapata and the Saugatuck Rowing Club) will be restricted to northbound (headed toward the Post Road) vehicles only. All southbound traffic will detour down Saugatuck Avenue to Charles Street.

During paving — planned for this Thursday and Friday — the road section will be closed to all but local traffic. All other traffic will be detoured around Charles Street and Saugatuck Avenue.

Riverside Avenue area slated for reconstruction.

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“Doubt: A Parable” — the thought-provoking play running now at the Westport Country Playhouse — has earned great praise.

But no one has mentioned that Kerstin Anderson — the woman playing the young nun — has a Westport connection. She’s the daughter of 1976 Staples High School graduate Ted Anderson, and the niece of longtime “06880” reader Britt Anderson.

Neither Ted nor Britt live in Westport now. But both were on hand opening night. They were proud of Kerstin — no “doubt”!

Kerstin Anderson and her aunt Britt Anderson, at the Westport Country Playhouse.

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Westport artist Steven Parton’s oil painting, “Anticipation,” is being shown at the 93rd Grand National Exhibit of the American Artists Professional League, in New York’s  Salmagundi Club.

“Anticipation” (Steven Parton)

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Today’s amazing “Westport … Naturally” fall foliage shot shows a Jennie Lane/Mayflower Parkway scene, off South Compo. Enjoy it while it lasts!

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … on this day in 1967, Rolling Stone magazine published its first issue. You know what song that means:

 

Roundup: Rev. Patton, AAPI Westport, Staples Sports …

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Saugatuck Congregational Church has been awarded a $50,000 Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program grant. Funds allow congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Rev. Alison Patton will begin her 3-month sabbatical in June. She will volunteer with a marine conservation program in the Maldives, and spend time with her family on a regenerative farm in Costa Rica.

Patton says, “I used to think I wanted to be a marine biologist. I now know I’m not a scientist; I am an admirer of the natural world in all its rich biodiversity. In the face of a worsening climate crisis and multiplying threats to biodiversity, I believe we are called to help craft a sustainable future for our planet. I am excited to use this time to take a deep dive into 2 biodiverse environments, to witness the impact of climate change, explore what’s being done to combat it and share some of that adventure with my family.”

Kim Mathias — moderator of Saugatuck’s Church Council — says the congregation will also benefit from this time of rest and renewal.

“Spending time outdoors during the pandemic and working on this grant application have fueled SCC’s interest in environmental issues,” she notes. “While Patton is away, the congregation will deepen its connection with our local ecosystem, exploring the beautiful coastal community of Westport and surrounding towns and digging deeper into the issues surrounding climate change. They look forward to renewing relationships with one another while learning how to better protect our coastal environment.”

Rev. Alison Patton

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AAPI Westport was created in March 2021, following a rise in violence and racism against the Asian community. The mission of the group — which stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — is to foster a sense of belonging within the community, while increasing AAPI visibility and awareness throughout Westport and beyond.

The organizers — all mothers — hope to create an environment where their children feel proud of their heritage.

Today they launched a website. Their Instagram is @aapiwestport.

Anyone interested in helping further their mission, through financial support or volunteering time, should email aapiwestport@gmail.com.

At an AAPI rally on Jesup Green last March, a flag flew at half staff in memory of Asian-Americans killed last week in Atlanta.

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It seems like every week, the Staples High School girls swim and dive team sets new records.

The latest came at the FCIAC championships last week. And not 1, but 3 records fell.

In a big way.

Freshman Annam Olasewere set a state and FCIAC record in the 50 yard free, with a time of 22.77. Her 50.18 in the 100 yard free also set a new FCIAC record.

Senior Jessica Qi finished second in that event, with a season best 52.21. Qi also took second in the 200 free with a time of 1:56.05

The relay team of freshman Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere and seniors Ella Alpert and Jessica Qi set a new FCIAC record in the 200 free relay (1:36.27) and also won the 400 free relay (3:31.87)

Staples moves on to compete in the Class LL and state open championships. More record-setting performances may be in the works.

Winning 400 meter free relay: From left to right Ella Alpert, Annam Olasewere, Ayaan Olasewere and Jessica Qi

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Speaking of sports: The Staples High School boys soccer team raised thousands of dollars for their program — and several thousand more for Bridgeport Central High School’s soccer team — at last night’s annual Quiz Night.

The winning trivia team — Jacob Greenberger, Jackson Hochhauser Spencer Levine, Murilo Moreno, Jaden Mueller and Caleb Tobias. plus Oliver Clachko, wrestler/lacrosse player Nick Augeri and lacrosse player/WWPT-FM sports director Max Udell — answered questions like “What was the first word spoken on the moon?” (“Houston”), what is the only mammal that can fly (bats), and what is the first game played in “Squid Game” (Red Light Green Light).

They also took first place last year during COVID, when Quiz Night was virtual. This year’s event — which drew about 150 participants — returned again to the Staples cafeteria.

Quiz Night winners!

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As the weather turns cool, some equally cool classic cars turn up at Compo Beach.

Andrew Colabella spotted several — including this one, with a classic pose — over the weekend.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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“Westport … Naturally” never gets tired of autumn leaf pictures.

Of course, before we know it they’ll be done. And we’ll move on to snowscapes.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally … on this day in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt was elected 32nd president of the United States.

Community Thanksgiving Feast Has New Look

Westport’s Thanksgiving Community Feast is a longstanding town — and interfaith — tradition.

It’s tough to commit to this year, as COVID lingers. But it’s too good to give up, even for one November.

Organizers want to continue the community spirit. And they remain committed to combatting food insecurity.

So they’re inviting households needing food support to request assistance by completing a confidential request form, or calling 203-666-9804.  Requests will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-serve basis, through gift cards.

The Thanksgiving Feast Fund is managed by Saugatuck Congregational Church — longtime host of the in-person event — and made possible by community donations.

The event will include homemade cards from Coleytown Elementary School, pies from Temple Israel, and home-baked bread from Bedford Middle School.

Organizers hope people who have volunteered for past Thanksgiving Feasts — and those who have not, too! — will consider a financial contribution, to cover costs of gift cards and future Thanksgiving community gatherings.

Donations are welcome. Click here; then click on the green button, and choose “Thanksgiving Feast.”

Westport’s Community Thanksgiving Feast will look different this year.

Roundup: Shore Birds, Sundance, Swimsuits …

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An American oystercatcher is nesting at Compo Beach.

Parks & Rec is on the case.

Department staff has strung rope around the site, keeping people away from the fragile bird and her eggs. A sign offers information about her habits.

Another sign describes other threatened shorebirds. It’s fascinating to read.

And heed.

The oystercatcher sign …

… and another, describing piping plovers and least terns. (Photos/Dinkin Fotografik)

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An excited “06880” reader writes:

I’ll admit I got a little breathless when I received a Sundance email headlined, “Visit Our New Store in Westport.”

Westport?! This catalog has served as my retail therapy vision board for years; the source of countless subtle, dog-eared “tips” I’ve left for my spouse re birthday and holiday gifts.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Robert Redford-stamped brand, think Millie Rae’s meets Anthropologie — high-end, carefully curated, bohemian-Southwest-y silver and gold jewelry, as well as clothes, shoes and housewares.

I can’t wait to see how they deck out their brick-and-mortar store on Main Street (the former Ann Taylor — it’s only their 18th retail location). Am I excited enough about it to get the free gift for booking an “early access appointment”?

Why yes, actually, I might be. If they do this right, I think it’s about as perfect a fit for Westport as any catalogue-come-to-life could be.

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Last year, during the darkest days of the pandemic, the Westport Garden Club’s “Friday Flowers” project brightened up our town. Once a week, members placed beautiful bouquets at very visible spots.

The Garden Club has picked up again this year. The first Friday Flowers of 2021 was delivered to Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Keep your eyes open every week. And if you see a Westport Garden Club member: thank her!

Friday Flowers at the church entrance. (Photo/Pat Nave)

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Speaking of Saugatuck Church: Boy Scout Troop 36 — which they sponsor, and provide meeting space for — helped make yesterday’s mattress recycling drive a huge success.

The Scouts picked up 34 mattresses and box springs throughout town. Then they headed to Earthplace, and helped load the items into a truck.

The Scouts’ efforts doubled the number of items received during Sustainable Westport’s project

Troop 36 Scouts also volunteered at Earthplace, filling containers with free compost for residents.

Boy Scout Troop 36 members, with mattresses and the recycling truck.

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Tracy Rosen offers a shout-out for a local business.

The other afternoon, she and a friend went to Shearwater for coffee. But they close at 4 p.m.

They decided instead to have a glass of wine next door, at Ignazio’s Pizza.

“They couldn’t have been nicer!” Tracy says.

“They set up a table for us outside, and lit a wood-burning fire pit. They were so hospitable,  just letting us sit there with our wine, never pushing us to order anything else. But their pizza smells amazing!”

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Westport PAL’s motto is “It’s all about the kids.”

And kids of all ages love car shows.

The PAL is sponsoring one on June 20 (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. Of course.

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The other day, “06880” highlighted the Connecticut Preservation Award for 70 Turkey Hill South.

An award ceremony was held last week, via Zoom. Here’s a video of all 10 awards. The Westport one begins at 16;13. (Hat tip: Bob Weingarten)

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There’s always something new at George Billis Gallery.

An opening reception this Friday (May 14, 4 to 7 p.m.) showcases “A Glimpse Ahead.” The figurative exhibit focuses on summer, with artwork that includes swimmers, surfers, pool scenes and waterscapes. The aim is to create a sense of peace, relaxation and joy.

Among the artists: Westporter Dale Najarian. She contributes abstracted waterscapes on canvas and wood panel.

The exhibit runs through June 13.

“Jewel Landscape,” oil on canvas (Dale Najarian)

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And finally … Happy Mother’s Day, to every “06880” mother out there.

None of us would be here without you. We love you, moms!

Stations Of The Cross Honors Racial Justice

A few dozen Westporters celebrated Good Friday yesterday through a marking of the Stations of the Cross. The walk was a call to dismantle racism, and pursue racial justice.

“Give us eyes to see how the past has shaped the complex present,” said Rev. John Betit of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Participants stopped at several sites related to Black history in Westport. Christ & Holy Trinity, Saugatuck Congregational Church and the Westport Museum of History & Culture collaborated for the event.

After an initial prayer in the Christ & Holy Trinity courtyard, the group headed to the entrance of the church parking lot on Elm Street.

Rev. John Betis, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church: the first Station of the Cross. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

They looked across at Bedford Square. In the 1940s, it was the back of a boarding house — accessible through an alley at 22 1/2 Main Street (later the entrance to Bobby Q’s) — that was the hub of a thriving Black community.

By 1949 though, it was considered a slum. The town would not grant permits for improvements. In December, residents asked the RTM to be considered for the affordable housing being built at Hales Court. They were denied.

In January 1950 — 8 days after a newspaper wondered what would happen if a fire broke out there — that is exactly what happened. Unable to obtain housing anywhere else in town, the Black community scattered — and disappeared forever.

Heading to the next Station of the Cross. (Photo courtesy of Christ & Holy Trinity Church)

The next station was the site of the former Ebenezer Coley general store, at the Main Street entrance to Parker Harding Plaza. The original outline of that saltbox building remains; it’s the former Remarkable Book Shop and (later) Talbots.

The river came up to the back of the store. Enslaved people loaded grain grown at the Coley farm onto ships bound for New York. There it was loaded onto larger ships, which sailed to the West Indies where it fed other enslaved Blacks.

The group then walked a few steps to the Museum of History & Culture. Ebenezer Coley’s son Michael owned the home at the corner of Avery Place and Myrtle Avenue. He managed the Coley store, and oversaw the enslaved people.

Bricks bear the names of over 240 enslaved and 20 free people of color, part of the parish of Greens Farms Congregational Church. They appear in the church log book as births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Owners brought their enslaved people into church for services, though they — and freemen — had to stand in the balcony above the sanctuary.

Bricks at the Westport Museum of History & Culture honor more than 200 Black men, women and children from the 18th and 19th centuries. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

A short walk up Evergreen Avenue brought the group to the Saugatuck Church cemetery. Cyrus Brown — who, like many others affecte by racism and legal bias, went from being a landowner and farmer to a servant of the Gorham family — is buried there.

Brown’s relationship with the Gorhams was evidently strong. He is buried in the family’s plot, with a high quality headstone of his own.

A stop at Evergreen Cemetery. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

After that final station, worshipers walked through the woods to the Saugatuck Church property. The labyrinth on the lawn provided space and time for  final Good Friday reflections.

Walking through the woods, to Saugatuck Church. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

A final stop at Saugatuck Church. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

(Historical background provided by the Westport Museum for History & Culture.)

Remembering Frederica Brenneman

Frederica Brenneman — a pioneering Connecticut judge, longtime Westport resident and the inspiration for the popular TV series “Judging Amy” — died peacefully in Woodland Hills, California last month, after a long illness. She was 94.

In 1943, at the age of 16, the Ann Arbor, Michigan native left for Radcliffe College. She fell in love with the East Coast, and made it her home for the next 73 years.

In 1950 was accepted to the first class of women admitted to Harvard Law School. There she met her husband of 65 years, Russell Brenneman. They married in 1951 — the first married couple to graduate from Harvard Law.

Frederica (Freddie) Brenneman.

In 1967, the mother of 3 young children, Frederica was working as a law clerk to the Connecticut Legislature’s Judiciary Committee when the United States Supreme Court, in the landmark In Re Gault decision, held that children facing delinquency proceedings are entitled to due process of law — including the constitutional right to legal counsel. In the wake of this decision, Connecticut’s Juvenile Court doubled in size.

Frederica was appointed to the court, becoming the second female judge in state history. In 1978 she became a Superior Court judge.

Judge Brenneman was an influential figure in the field of juvenile justice, from its modern beginnings in 1967 and throughout her long career. She specialized in abuse and neglect cases, pushed for stronger legal protections for children, shaped clear statewide protocols and case law, trained countless judges, and educated caseworkers, attorneys, parents, and the public on court procedures. In 1979 she helped found Children in Placement, which monitors and supports children in Connecticut’s foster care system.

Over the years, Judge Brenneman and her work were recognized and honored by a wide range of organizations, including the Connecticut Bar Association, Radcliffe College, St. John’s University and Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, among others. In 2013 Harvard Law School lauded her, saying: “Venerable jurist and trailblazer, your distinguished contributions in the field of law as a passionate advocate for juvenile rights set an unparalleled standard for all graduates of Harvard Law School.”

Frederica (Freddie, to her friends) was a passionate lover of the arts, especially theater. She loved Tanglewood, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Broadway. She served as a deacon of South Congregational Church in Glastonbury, and Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Rev. Alison Patton says:

Freddie and her husband Russ were longtime Westport residents, and devoted members at Saugatuck Church. The bench next to our labyrinth was placed there in memory of Russ, 3 years ago.

Freddie inspired us all. As Judge Brenneman, she had an immeasurable positive impact on the lives of at-risk children in Connecticut. As Freddie, she gifted us at Saugatuck with her quick wit, clear thinking and abiding friendship. We miss her!

She was an avid traveler (Turkey and Tuscany were favorites) and an engaged alumna of both her undergraduate and graduate schools. From 1999 to 2005 Frederica served as advisor on the television drama, “Judging Amy,” which was inspired by her life and work, and which she co-created with her daughter Amy.

With her dignity, grace, humor and fierce intelligence, Frederica enjoyed a large and diverse circle of devoted friends, family and protégés, both within and outside the legal profession.

Frederica is survived by her sons Matthew and Andrew (Dr. Karen Cruz-Brenneman) and daughter Amy (Brad Silberling), and 5 grandchildren: Granger Brenneman, Charlotte and Bodhi Silberling, and Ava and Charles Brenneman.

Donations in her honor may be made to Children in Placement,

Friday Flashback #226

This could be one of my favorite “old Westport” photos ever. And not just because it shows the spot where I live today.

Westport Country Playhouse public relations manager Pat Blaufuss found it in the archives. There is no photographer’s credit, but it’s dated 1969.

There’s the Playhouse, midway up the right side of the photo. (Click on or hover over to enlarge). It’s been modernized, but looks pretty much the same.

Saugatuck Congregational Church on the left has not changed much. Neither have the gas stations: the one that is now Quality just east of the church, and the (now) Mobil across the Post Road. The buildings with (among others) Winslow Park Animal Hospital were there then too (lower right).

But the rest of the area is unrecognizable.

The big Victorian at the top was the Pine Knoll Inn. It was demolished in the early 1980s, making way for Playhouse Square and the Playhouse Condominiums behind it.

The long rectangular building with a white facade directly opposite the gas pumps was a car wash. I’m not sure what the white building set back from the Post Road in the entrance to Pine Knoll was, though I dimly recall the original Viva Zapata’s restaurant being somewhere around there.

And the smaller white structure to the immediate right of the Quality (then Tydol, later Getty) gas station, on the Post Road?

Originally a Dairy Queen, in the 1960’s it became the Crest Drive-In. It was a classic hangout for Staples students, a place for guys to show off their cars and girls to get guys to pay for their burgers.

Eventually the Crest gave way to Sam Goody, Alphagraphics and Qdoba. Today it sits as empty as the lot behind it was, that day in 1969 when an unknown photographer took this time capsule shot.

Roundup: Churches, Safety App, GFA Athletes, More


For many years, Saugatuck Church collected baby gifts during their 5 p.m. Christmas Eve pageant. They were donated to women and children, through the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk.

Tonight, that worship is online. However, the church continues its tradition of gathering gifts to benefit women and children in crisis. And you don’t have to be a parishioner to help!

Just stop at the white church downtown (245 Post Road East) between 4 and 5 p.m. today. Pop your trunk; a volunteer will retrieve your gift.

This has been a very tough year, for women, children and the DVCC itself. Items needed include supplies and pajamas for babies, as well as crafts for older children.


Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup noted that Tony Award-winner Kelli O’Hara is starring in a PBS holiday special.

She also did a much more local performance, at (and for) Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. (Her daughter Charlotte is a junior chorister there.)

You can enjoy Kelli — and many others — starting at 6 p.m. tonight. Just click on the CHT YouTube channel or Facebook page.

Kelli O’Hara at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.


M13 has led a $1.8M seed round in Prepared, a company building technology to keep school campuses safer. It was co-founded at Yale University by Staples graduates Dylan Gleicher and Neil Soni.

Prepared’s 1-touch mobile alert system enables administrators to instantaneously alert both the entire campus and 911 dispatchers to an emergency. Click here for a full story.

Neil Soni and Dylan Gleicher


Three Greens Farms Academy student-athletes from Westport have committed to colleges, to continue their academic and sports careers.

Connor McDonald will play tennis at Boston College; Piper Melnick plans to row at the University of California-Berkeley, and Mark Roszkowski heads off to Tufts University’s baseball team.

Congratulations to all 3 Dragons!

From left: Connor McDonald, Piper Melnick and Mark Roszkowski.


And finally … as always, The Band is there: