It’s not easy for an organization to last 70 years.
It’s even tougher when your membership turns over every few years.
But Westport’s Scout Troop 36 has done just that.
70th anniversary patch, designed by troop member Oliver Saitz.
Organized in 1949 by Saugatuck Congregational Church, the troop has helped thousands of boys learn life skills, become leaders, and form lasting friendships.
It’s weathered the ups and downs of Scouting nationally. Boy Scouts of America is now called “Scouts BSA.” In addition to offering programs for girls, Scouts now accept gay and transgender members.
Numbers have waxed and waned over the years. In 2015, there were only 9 Scouts. Today, 28 boys are members of Troop 36.
They meet every Monday night in Hoskins Hall, and hold one outing a month. Last year they went cold-weather camping in the Berkshires, spent a weekend exploring Philadelphia, backpacked up Mount Greylock, took their annual trip to Block Island and went whitewater rafting, among other adventures.
Service work includes support of the Westport Maker Faire, participating in a coastal cleanup at Sherwood Island State Park, assisting with worship and grounds cleanup at Saugatuck Church, and cleaning drainage areas at Camp Sequassen.
Every 2 years for many years, they attended the Scottish Jamboree in Edinburgh.
This July, 5 Scouts will participate in the 24th World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. They’ll join 45,000 others from over 165 countries.
In 2006, newly installed Eagle Scouts gathered with Scoutmaster Jack Berry.
No Eagle Scout records exist prior to 1961. But from that year through 2017, 123 boys earned the prestigious Eagle Scout rank.
The troop’s history includes longtime scoutmaster Jack Berry. Last June — 4 years after his death — he was honored with a plaque, at the Saugatuck Church.
Jack was one of many adult leaders and young Scouts who helped Troop 36 for 70 years. Congratulations to all — and good luck for the next 70!
As Americans debate a slew of important items, immigration stands at the top of any list.
Here in Westport, we’re far removed from our southern border. The Wall is an abstraction — not a reality — to most of us.
But — for one reason or another — the immigrant experience resonates with nearly every Westporter.
This month, several events shine historical, artistic, literary and nuanced lights on a variety of immigration stories.
On Friday, January 18 (6 to 8 p.m.), Saugatuck Congregational Church opens an intriguing exhibit.
“Art Across Borders” features the work of 18 area artists, from Guatemala, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. All migrated to the US. Each will share his or her own story, through art. The bold, emotional exhibit is curated by Rene Soto, owner of a gallery with the same name in South Norwalk.
One of the pieces on display at the Saugatuck Church — by Jose Munoz, from Guatelama.
“Lots of people come to the US — and to this area — for better lives,” says Saugatuck Church Arts Committee member Priscilla Long. “And many of those people express themselves through art.”
Saugatuck Church has long been concerned with social justice. This show is a natural outgrowth of that commitment. The exhibit will remain up for a month. Click here or call 203-227-1261 for more information.
The following week, a different house of worship offers a different program, on a different immigrant experience.
In June 0f 1939, over 900 Jewish refugees escaping Nazi terror on the SS St. Louis were within sight of Florida. Heartbreakingly, they were denied safe haven by Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Canada also refused entry.
Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis.
The captain returned the ship to Europe, where countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and France accepted some refugees. Many, however, were later caught in Nazi roundups of Jews in occupied countries. Historians estimate that a quarter died in death camps during World War II
Three passengers who survived — Judith Steel, Sonja Geismar and Eva Wiener — will be in Westport on Thursday, January 24. At 7 p.m., Chabad on Newtown Turnpike will screen “Complicit” — a film about the SS St. Louis’ ill-fated journey. The trio will participate in a post-film Q-and-A, led by its creator/producer Robert Krakow.
Click here for more information. Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students.
Meanwhile, all month long — and into February — the Westport Library sponsors WestportREADS. This year’s book is Exit West. Novelist Mohsin Hamid follows 2 refugees who — against all odds — find life and love while fleeing civil war.
WestportREADS activities include book discussions, a conversation with migration experts, art exploration, world dance instruction, storytelling, music, genealogy research, and a presentation by a Syrian refugee family sponsored by members of the Westport community.
Click here for a complete calendar, and full details.
A press release from the Selectman’s Office notes only that the town’s “annual tree lighting” ceremony will take place at Town Hall this Thursday (November 29, 5 p.m.).
Of course, the tree to be lit is a fir tree. You connect the dots.
It’s a fun, festive, kid-friendly event. The Staples High School Orphenians sing “seasonal” songs.
First Selectman Jim Marpe — and a bunch of little kids — lit the tree in front of Town Hall last year. Then came photo opps.
Speaking of Town Hall trees, this year the “Heritage Tree” — a longtime fixture in the building’s lobby — moves across Myrtle Avenue to the Westport Historical Society.
Each year, local artists add ornaments (yes, it’s that kind of tree). Past contributors include Mel Casson, Randy Enos, Stevan Dohanos, Hardie Gramatky, Howard Munce, Jim Sharpe, Leonard Everett Fisher, Jean Woodham and Hilda Kraus.
This year’s ornament comes courtesy of Victoria Kann. The author/illustrator of the popular “Pinkalicious” book series is a longtime Westporter.
Kids can help decorate the Heritage Tree this Saturday (December 1, 1 p.m.). Kann will read from one of her holiday-themed books (and sign them). Snacks will be served too.
The Heritage Tree — shown last year in the Town Hall lobby — moves across the street to the Westport Historical Society.
The next day — Sunday, December 2 — another tree lighting takes place. It’s at the Saugatuck Center plaza, between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk. Everyone is asked to bring unwrapped toys for children 10 and under. Al’s Angels wrap and deliver them to needy kids.
It’s set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Santa arrives at 5:15 — so I’m on safe ground calling this an actual “Christmas” tree lighting.
And the 28th annual Tree of Light ceremony will be held Thursday, December 6, at 6:30 p.m. It honors the memories of family members and friends who have died.
The site is Saugatuck Congregational Church. So, yeah: That’s a Christmas tree lighting too.
For nearly 50 years, Saugatuck Congregational Church has hosted — and done all the work for — the Community Thanksgiving Day Feast.
But just as traditions change — someone new in the family takes over the meal, somebody brings a great new dish — the longstanding Westport event has a different look this year.
Saugatuck Church is passing its turkey baster to the Inn at Longshore’s OnTheMarc catering. They’ll do the cooking — and the meal will be served at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
Many hands help with the Community Thanksgiving Feast.
Dan Levinson and Monique Bosch have stepped up to coordinate the feast.
But many things have not changed.
For one, everyone is invited.
For another, it’s still free. Partners — including Main Street Resources, Saugatuck Congregational, Christ & Holy Trinity, the Unitarian Church in Westport and Temple Israel — are making the day possible.
And — perhaps most importantly — tons of volunteers are needed. All ages are welcome. To help in any way, click here.
In 1866 a time capsule was buried under the cornerstone of their then-new Sunday school building. The church was located across the Post Road, and up the hill from where it is now — approximately where the gas station and adjacent bank are, near South Compo Road.
Saugatuck Congregational Church, at its original site.
In 1950 the church was moved — v-e-r-y slowly — across the street, to its current location by Myrtle Avenue. At the same time the school building was relocated to Imperial Avenue, where it created what is now Bedford Hall at the Westport Woman’s Club.
In the 1950s, Life Magazine ran photos of Bedford Hall being moved from the Post Road to Imperial Avenue.
The cornerstone was not unearthed during the move. No one seems to know what happened to it.
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