Tag Archives: Staples Tuition Grants

Celebrating 75 Years Of Staples Tuition Grants

In 1943, the Staples High School PTA gave $100 to a group of Westporters. They in turn found a worthy recipient, who would otherwise be unable to attend college.

With that donation, Staples Tuition Grants was born.

In 2017 — nearly 75 years later — the organization provided $300,000 in assistance to over 100 recipients. They were graduating seniors, and college students who had received previous grants. They’re attending public and private universities, junior colleges and vocational schools.

They supplement their grants with jobs. They work hard. They’re grateful that college — exponentially more expensive than ever — can be a reality.

Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

STG is rightfully proud that for three-quarters of a century, they’ve provided millions of dollars to tens of thousands of students.

So they’re throwing a party. The theme — naturally — is “75 years of college.”

Set for Saturday, March 10 (7 p.m., Branson Hall at Christ & Holy Trinity Church), the casual, fun event features college-ish food (pizza, burgers), drink (keg beer, wine) and music from (most) attendees’ college years. There could be ping pong and foosball too.

Party-goers are encouraged to wear their school colors or logowear. A 1955 recipient has already RSVP-ed. Organizers hope other former recipients will attend too.

The cost is $75. (It’s a fundraiser, obviously.) Organizers are soliciting 75 business sponsors, at $100 each (in honor of that first-ever grant).

Gault Energy and Melissa & Doug have signed on as lead sponsors.

Igor Pikayzen — a 2005 Staples grad, and STG recipient — will play. Westport filmmaker Doug Tirola — whose father was on the STG board — is making a special video. Former STG recipients Ned Batlin and Trevor Lally will give brief remarks. So will Miggs Burroughs, who designed the logo.

Everyone — Staples grads, and those of every other high school; college alumni and people who never went; anyone who ever got a scholarship, and anyone who did not — is invited to the 75th anniversary celebration.

Let’s make sure that Staples Tuition Grants is still doing great deeds in 2093 — 75 years from now.

(Click here for tickets to the 75th anniversary celebration, and more information. If you’re a former recipient and would like to be taped for a video, or are interested in helping sponsor the event, email poley@optonline.net.)

Staples Tuition Grants: The Story Behind The Tagline

Since 1943, Staples Tuition Grants has helped ensure that no Staples High School graduate is denied a college education because of financial need. The all-volunteer organization has awarded millions of dollars, and impacted thousands of lives.

Its recipients are grateful. So are its donors — many of whom contribute to funds named for teachers, classmates or family members who have died.

Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

But many other people who could help — or be helped by — STG stay uninvolved. The reason: Its name.

Some folks think “Staples Tuition Grants” help pay for tuition to the high school. Others wonder why a public school needs money in the first place.

When Lee Saveliff became donor co-chair 3 years ago, she wanted to spread the word that Staples tuition grants actually help graduating seniors and students already in college (and vocation schools).

She and co-chair Kate Andrews ramped up publicity. But they kept searching for new ways to send the message.

At last, they’ve got one. It’s spectacularly simple: A tagline.

From now on, the logo and all print material will say: “Staples Tuition Grants. Closing the college tuition gap for graduates since 1943.”

It’s simple. It’s clear.

And it’s rolling out already.

The tagline appears on publicity for a fundraising event. This Saturday (May 6, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Indulge by Mersene will donate a portion of all profits to STG.

Mersene’s Railroad Place store is a fantastic place for unique items — including “06880”-themed pillows, apparel and more. They’re perfect for (hint, hint) graduation gifts.

Mersene is doing her part for Staples Tuition Grants.

And on Saturday, if customers ask what STG is, she just has to point to the new logo.

An “06880” pillow at Indulge by Mersene.

(Can’t make it to Indulge by Mersene on Saturday? You can still contribute! Click here, or mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)

Staples Tuition Grants Seeks Stories

Staples Tuition Grants new logoSince 1943, Staples Tuition Grants has helped graduates pay for college. The low-key but vital organization has awarded millions of dollars, and impacted thousands of lives. Every recipient has a story.

Now — as organizers prepare for next year’s 75th anniversary — they want to hear as many of them as they can.

So they’re asking:

  • Where did you go to college?
  • What did you study?
  • How did the seed money help you?
  • Where has your journey taken you — professionally and personally?

STG hopes to raise awareness of its mission — and its great success — since that first $100 award, back when FDR was in the White House.

Email your stories (and photos!) to: info@staplestuitiongrants.org, or send them via snail mail: Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.

Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

 

 

 

$100 Award Pays Millions In Dividends

Staples High School’s Class of 1943 had a less than joyful year.

In the midst of World War II, students with last period free left school early. Some worked for local industries, making items needed for the war effort. Others harvested crops on local farms, replacing older men who had been called up to serve.

Bill Torno’s shop classes built rifle racks, each holding 32 guns, for the Westport Defense Training Unit. He also taught welding. Miss Ossi’s home economics students made nearly 100 cotton hospital bags.

Boys headed to the YMCA every Tuesday for mandatory Commando training. Instruction included diving from the side of a burning ship, and swimming underwater while oil burned on the surface.

When they graduated in June, 10 students — exactly 10 percent of the entire class of 100 — were not there. Stars next to their names meant they had already left school, for the armed forces. The yearbook was dedicated to them.

Amid all the grim news, one announcement stood out. Valedictorian David Hughes received several awards: a DAR citizenship medal, the RPI math prize and a $10 English prize.

He also earned a $100 scholarship from the Staples PTA. That was the very first gift from the organization now known as Staples Tuition Grants.

David Hughes' writeup in the 1943 Staples yearbook.

David Hughes’ writeup in the 1943 Staples yearbook.

Hughes made the most of his award. He went to Harvard; married Janet Brandon of Staples’ Class of 1944, and became Mason Professor of Music at his alma mater. He traveled widely, and retired to coastal Maine.

In the more than 7 decades since Hughes’ scholarship, STG has grown into one of Westport’s most important community groups. Today they award college and trade school tuition grants of up to $6,000 a year, to Staples seniors. Scholarships — which are strictly need-based — can be renewed each year during college.

Last year, STG provided $300,000 to 115 deserving Staples seniors and alumni.

Staples Tuition Grants has provided literally tens of millions of dollars in scholarships. That’s been life-changing for thousands of students.

Some of the awardees at last year's Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

Some of the awardees at last year’s Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.

The men and women who make up the STG committee perform some of the most important volunteer jobs in town. They scrutinize applications. They interview applicants. And they raise all those funds.

It’s not easy to ask Westporters — and Staples alums — to contribute to Staples Tuition Grants. The perception is that everyone here can afford college.

That’s certainly not the case. The thank-you notes — and heartfelt speeches during the awards ceremony every June — testify to the value of what STG does.

The holiday season — with so many competing demands on time and money — is also not the easiest time to ask for money. But STG believes that now is when donors will realize how far their funds will go.

Many awards honor specific individuals (click here for that list). A newly named award — the Westport Families  Scholarship — is a great way to honor favorite teachers.

Staples Tuition Grants new logoSTG is reaching out to former awardees for donations. The board also wants to hear stories of how their scholarships have helped. If you received a grant — any time from the 1940s to today — email alumni@staplestuitiongrants.org, and let them know what it meant.

Meanwhile, David Hughes’ legacy lives on. The first Staples Tuition Grants honoree died last year. But his daughter lives in Queens. She has been invited to the annual ceremony next spring.

There, she will see the magic that began 74 years ago — in some of America’s darkest days — continues brightly.

(Click here to contribute to Staples Tuition Grants. You can also mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159. On Christmas Eve, STG members and recipients will wrap gifts at Barnes & Noble, in exchange for tips. For more information on STG, click here. Hat tip: Fred Cantor.)

Fred Cantor Grants Staples A Special Gift

All year long, Staples Tuition Grants raises money for scholarships.

Tonight, they give it away.

Staples Tuition Grants new logoOver 100 students — soon-to-be graduates as well as alumni from the past 4 years — will receive $300,000 in college aid.

The ceremony is low-key, but warm and inspiring.

And very, very important. Contrary to myth, there is plenty of need right here in Westport.

Fred Cantor did not receive an STG grant when he graduated from Staples in 1971. He no longer has formal ties to the school; he’s just a proud alum.

But the longtime Westporter is eager to give back. Recently, he found a unique way to do so.

For the 1970s on, he’s taken photos of iconic Westport scenes. Now he’s licensed 5 of them to STG: Main Street with Remarkable Book Shop; Fairfield Furniture and the Saugatuck River; Fine Arts Theater; Longshore’s main entrance, and Railroad Place.

They’re displayed on gift items like luggage tags, coffee mugs, magnets, note cards and tote bags. They’re on sale to the public — with all profits going to the scholarship organization.

Actually, they’ll go to one specific fund: the STG award named after Chou Chou Merrill. The 1970 grad reveled in her childhood and youth here — the memories she shared, the friendships she nurtured, the opportunities she was given. She died in 2014.

A luggage tag, with an image of the Longshore entrance.

A luggage tag, with an image of the Longshore entrance.

Fred says that the photos and souvenirs are a perfect way for Westporters, current and spread around the globe, to show their affection for this town. And help a great cause.

How generous of Fred — an avid “06880” reader — to think of Staples Tuition Grants in this way.

How fitting that he’s chosen Chou Chou’s scholarship to be the recipient of his generosity.

Now all you have to do is click here for a great Fred Cantor-themed/Westport-style/STG-assisting souvenir. (NOTE: More items will be added soon!)

(The public is invited to today’s Staples Tuition Grants ceremony [Thursday, June 9, 5:30 p.m. in the Staples library]. To donate to Staples Tuition Grants, click here.) 

all feature Fred Cantor's photos of Westport.

Luggage tags, coffee mugs, magnets, note cards and tote bags feature Fred Cantor’s photos of Westport. Fairfield Furniture is now back to its original name: National Hall.

Tracy Yost Peddles Great New Bike Rental Service

When Tracy Yost’s husband was transferred to Santa Cruz, she stayed behind in Bethel. Her twin daughters were finishing high school, and she had a great job as a fitness director in Greenwich.

A year later, Tracy joined him in California. When she could not find fitness work, her husband encouraged her to unwind.

Tracy Yost

Tracy Yost

She hiked, played beach volleyball, and biked and walked everywhere. She fell in love with the wonderful weather, and “came alive.” She had never been so happy.

Looking back, she saw that she’d been caught up in Fairfield County’s long, daily marathon of work, driving, and running a high-pressure household.

Eighteen months later — right after her youngest daughter was accepted at Cal Poly — her husband’s company asked him to return to the East Coast. Tracy was devastated.

She moved back on January 16, 2015 — her birthday. With her driver’s license expired that day, she could not rent a car at the airport. Besides which, the airline lost her luggage.

But someone lent her a car. A friend took her to the Spotted Horse. She realized she’d be fine.

Leaving California, Tracy knew she wanted to live somewhere near the water, in a town influenced by New York with a vibrant downtown. Her home would be no bigger than 3,000 square feet — without a pool.

She had a preconceived, not-good notion of Westport. But realtor Lisa Duguay said, “It’s a jewel — a real community. People really support good organizations. There’s a great beach.”

Tracy found a perfect house near downtown. She and her husband moved in.

Then came 9 weeks of snow. And, a month after arriving, Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today — after an operation and radiation — she believes it was cancer, not Santa Cruz, that made her understand she has only one life. She needed direction, and had to take care of herself.

Westport is not Santa Cruz. But it has its own charms.

Westport is not Santa Cruz. But it has its own charms.

She started juicing, and going to hot yoga. And she thought of what she could do for others.

Assessing her new life, she looked back on what she missed: Connecting with people in a fun, leisurely way. The California coastline. The “pedestrian” lifestyle.

Then she thought: Hey! I live on a coastline. I have a degree in fitness. I can do something recreational, connecting people with the beach, downtown, and a lifestyle that does not always have to be crazy busy.

Westporters were already rowing, and renting stand-up paddleboards.

But no one was renting bikes here. Whoa!

Bob Hogan, of Fairfield County SCORE — the organization that offers free advice to budding entrepreneurs — helped her write a business plan. They did it during her radiation. (“Now you have focus!” he said.)

Which is how and why Westport Bike Rentals is ready to take Westport by storm.

Tracy bought 20 bikes, and a van. She developed a few Westport routes (and can customize more, on request).

Riders call 203-917-9533,  click on www.westportbikerentals.com, or email thebikelady@westportbikerentals.com. She meets them, delivering bikes for one of 3 options: a twilight ride ($25), 6 hours ($39) or all-day ($49). Helmets and a bike lock are included.

Tracy brings her bikes to riders, via van.

Tracy brings her bikes to riders, via van.

Tracy chose her 3 drop-off locations carefully. One is Long Lots School.

Another is the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The bike can be locked for a walk downtown, through Baron’s South, then over to Granola Bar — or anywhere else.

Saugatuck train station is the 3rd spot. Tracy has a contract with Metro-North, so riders can purchase a ticket and bike rental together.

The idea is not just to hop on a bike and pedal. Tracy wants riders to “go slow and explore.” In other words: Don’t just ride. If you’re heading through Longshore, stop at Pearl and have an appetizer. Then examine the graveyard on the exit route.

She offers plenty of pre-planned routes. Some are “low-key and chill,” with stops at places like the Black Duck or Christie’s Country Store. Others are “hip and happenin'” (Bartaco, Neat).

Tracy enjoys getting lost in history, so many of her routes take riders past historic sites and landmarks.

Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.

Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.

She kicks off Westport Bike Rentals with a series of Monday 2-hour twilight  rides. They’re free — but donations are accepted. Each week, a different local non-profit will benefit. The first — on May 2 — aids Staples Tuition Grants(Click here for more information, or to sign up.)

Tracy says “I want to be part of the local community.”

It sounds like she already is. And bikers, explorers and everyone else should be glad that her local community is Westport — not Santa Cruz.

(Anyone signing up for Tracy’s newsletter receives 10% off a May rental — and a copy of “The Bike Lady’s 10 Secret Locations to Chillax in Westport.”)

Westport Bike Rentals logo

Give The Gift Of…

Sure, you could have blown off your family, friends and football, and spent Thanksgiving at a mall.

Or you could have blown off work and the kids, and spent yesterday shopping online, during the made-up holiday called “Cyber Monday.”

But it’s so much better to shop locally. So here — as Christmas creeps up on us, and Chanukah looms even closer (it starts Sunday!) — “06880” presents our 1st-ever Holiday Shopping Guide.

If you’re looking for something that says (or screams) “Westport,” consider:

The Beautiful Pond.” This just-released book celebrates — in stunning watercolor and text — the historic, versatile and beautiful Sherwood Mill Pond.
A labor of love from Judith Katz and Robin Tauck — with all proceeds benefiting Sound Waters’ academic enrichment programs — it’s available at Barnes & Noble, Earthplace, and online here.

Beautiful Pond cover

A restaurant gift card is always welcome. One of my favorite spots is Kibberia. Located on the Norwalk line, this unpretentious spot serves spectacular Middle Eastern food. Owner Nick Iskandar is one of the truly good guys, and deserves all the support we can give him.

Kibberia

A bit pricier — and like Kibberia, not always on everyone’s radar — is Positano. This summer the Scarpati family relocated from Old Mill Beach to the site of the old Dressing Room, next to the Westport Country Playhouse. It’s a beautiful space, with the same regional Italian cuisine and family atmosphere diners have loved for years. Mangia!

Positano

From Positano, stroll a few feet to the Playhouse. Gift certificates are available there too, for events from the 2016 season to the Family Festivities series and Script in Hand play readings. Too often, Westporters overlook this cultural (and very cool) gem.

Playhouse logo

Speaking of food, the Farmers Market (winter version) is open Saturdays, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Gilberties’ Herb Gardens on Sylvan Lane. You may not always think of artisanal breads and cheeses, meats, baked goods, seasonal vegetables and hydroponically grown salad greens as holiday gifts, but there’s also organic maple syrup, interesting teas, dog biscuits and the like. Hey, I’m just trying to offer some only-in-Westport choices…

Westport farmers market logo

The chainification strangling Main Street is thankfully absent from Saugatuck. That neighborhood is still home to unique shops. The funkiest, friendliest and most fun of all may be Indulge by Mersene. From her digs on Railroad Place directly across from the train station, Mersene (like Cher and Adele, she needs only one name) sells a melange of gifts. Local artisans’ works, gourmet foods, decorative pillows, jewelry, home decor — it’s all there. The owner is as much an attraction as her goods — and that’s saying something.

Mersene, with some of her many unique creations.

Mersene, with some of her many unique creations.

A couple of steps from Indulge by Mersene is Suited.co. This men’s store — offering custom-tailored suits, blazers and shirts — is a cut apart from traditional clothing shops. The fabrics and selections are both classic and hip. Suited.co is a little fish in a big sartorial pond, but definitely worth checking out.

Suited.co

If you’re one of those who look for worthy causes at the holidays — and I sure hope you do — you don’t have to look far. Some of my favorites in Westport are A Better ChanceAl’s Angels, Homes With Hope, Project Return and Staples Tuition Grants. Many others — including those just beyond our borders, like Mercy Learning Center and the Adam J. Lewis Preschool — do amazing work (and have amazing needs).

ABC logo

You can add your own special organization to the list. I’m sure you’ve got other gift ideas too. I’ve only scratched the surface. Click “Comments” below, to share your favorites with the very giving, very generous “06880” community.

WHS 06880 towels

Bonus idea: Why not give “06880” itself? You’ll find items like these at the Westport Historical Society.

Honoring John Dodig: The Best Way Possible

The other day, John Dodig bought a lottery ticket. If he won, he thought to himself, his first act would be donating $20 million to Staples Tuition Grants.

Odds are, he won’t win. But I bet he’s thrilled at this news: The organization is naming an award in his honor.

Now it’s up to the Dodig’s many fans to get the scholarship as close to $20 million as we can.

John Dodig -- a Superfan of Staples -- has many fans throughout the community.

John Dodig — a Superfan of Staples — has many fans throughout the community. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

When the Staples High School principal announced he will retire in June, Lee Saveliff and Kate Andrews had the same reaction as many Westporters: great sadness.

But as former PTA presidents, now Tuition Grants donor co-chairs, they knew of Dodig’s great fondness for, and support of, the organization.

They asked if he’d be comfortable with a new award, named in his honor. The criteria: 1 boy and 1 girl each year, who are outstanding citizens, active in Staples activities and volunteerism, known to be caring, open-minded and willing to accept others.

Dodig was honored to be honored.

“There is no better investment than in education,” Dodig says.

“But not everyone — even in Westport — can afford it. Staples Tuition Grants does a fantastic job. Every June, at the awards ceremony, we hear from a speaker whose life was changed by a grant.

“Now, every year when this award is announced, it will be a way for people to remember that education is so important to me.”

Each year, Staples Tuition Grants helps dozens of Staples seniors and graduates attend college.

Each year, Staples Tuition Grants helps dozens of Staples seniors and graduates attend college.

Saveliff and Andrews agree. “This grant will represent John for years to come. It reflects the kind of person he is, and the legacy he leaves behind. It’s one way to recognize him for his years of service, and thank him for all he has done for our Staples students, families, faculty and staff.”

Funding the John M. Dodig Award is harder than simply buying a lottery ticket. Fortunately, it’s easier than actually winning the lottery.

It takes donations. You have to click on the website, or mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.

But that’s all it takes — a minute or two, max.

Staples Tuition Grants new logoThink how much John Dodig has given this community — and us, individually. Think how important Staples Tuition Grants is to him. To the awardees. To all of us.

So let’s do what we can to make the John M. Dodig Award the biggest of all 100-plus grants each year.

We may not be able to hit a Powerball-winning figure. But what about setting a goal for 2 full scholarships each year?

That’s very ambitious. Then again, John Dodig has always encouraged all of us to aim high, and reach our potential. This is the least we can do, to honor him.

(To contribute to the John M. Dodig Award, click here or mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)

Stop & Shop’s 100 Years = STG’s $1,000

To celebrate their 100th year in business, Stop & Shop asked their 200 store managers to solicit ideas for local worthy organizations.

Managers got feedback from employees. Each store then selected 1 charity or group.

Of the 200 suggestions, 100 were selected. Westport’s Stop & Shop made the cut — and Staples Tuition Grants is now $1,000 richer.

Stop and ShopPat Mooney — pictured at right with store manager David Faccin and STG president Rob Morrison — is a 23-year Westport resident. A single mother, she works hard to stay in Westport to send her 2 daughters through local schools.

She knew that without lots of help, college was out of reach.

Thanks to 4 years of aid from STG, Caitlin graduated from Wheelock College. She’s now teaching elementary school in Boston.

Her sister Brittainie graduated from Staples in 2011. She too received Tuition Grants help, and she too is interested in the field of education.

Pat — who says that her daughters would never be where they are now without STG — submitted the organization’s name to Stop & Shop.

Thanks, Pat. And happy 100th anniversary, Stop & Shop!

(For more information on STG, click on www.StaplesTuitionGrants.org)

Longtime Westporters Pay Staples Tuition Grants Forward

When Richard Berkowitz served on Staples Tuition Grants’ board in the late 1970s, only a few small grants were awarded to graduating seniors. Board members quietly solicited donations from friends and neighbors.

In the early to mid-1980s — when Dick Fincher served on the STG board — a $1,000 grant was considered great.

Dick Fincher (left) and his son Doug.

Dick Fincher (left) and his son Doug.

Fincher recalls, “This was a period of very high unemployment. Interest rates got up to about 20%, for a short time. It was surprising then, as it probably is now, who in Westport had a financial need in terms of paying college expenses.”

Berkowitz and Fincher’s rewarding experiences serving on the STG board — helping students earn a college education — was noticed by their children.

“That sense of community drew me to the program. I’m following my dad’s lead,” says Dick’s son, Doug Fincher. He — along with Berkowitz’s daughter, Jody Beck — are now STG board members.

When Doug graduated from Staples in 1982, friends received grants. Some still live in town today.

Families he knew as a student continue to support STG’s named awards. There are nearly 100 of them, established by individuals, companies and civic groups.

The 2 newest named awards honor Ken Brummel and Westport Temple Lodge #65.

Ken Brummel

Ken Brummel

The Brummel award — donated by his daughter Lisa — celebrates a longtime educator. In 1964 — at just 28 years old — Ken Brummel was named principal of Bedford Junior High School. He later served 12 years as Westport’s superintendent of schools. He was widely admired as an innovator, and a strong supporter of teachers. He died a year ago, at 77.

The Temple Lodge has served the town since 1824. Freemasonry is the oldest fraternal organization in the world, with members dedicated to caring for those less fortunate and giving back to their community.

Staples Tuition Grants is not as old as the Temple Lodge — but few organizations are. STG was established in 1943 with a $100 gift from the Staples PTA. Last year it awarded $317,000 in grants to 122 students — graduating seniors, and alumni already in college — thanks to gifts from over 500 individuals, PTAs, civic organizations, local businesses, trusts and private foundations.

(To make a tax-deductible donation, or for more information, click here; email giving@staplestuitiongrants.org, or write STG, Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)

Staples Tuition Grants new logo