The Fairfield resident — and, for the past 11 years, Weston Senior Activities Center director — was announced today as the new director of the Westport Center for Senior Activities.
Pfister — who led Westport’s Senior Center for 36 years — retired December 31.
Petty led Weston’s Senior Center expansion through fundraising, capacity-building and advocacy. She established partnerships with local organizations, volunteer networks, colleagues and social services agencies, to develop innovative social and recreational opportunities for seniors.
Originally from Southern California, Petty and her husband Jim raised their children in Weston. She has a BA in counseling and human Services from Notre Dame de Namur University.
In addition to her specialty in senior services, Petty has experience in non-profit operations, team leadership, grant and program development, and budget administration.
“I am very happy to welcome Wendy to Westport’s Center for Senior Activities,” says 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker. “She brings professional expertise, operational management and local knowledge to the Human Services team and, most importantly, to the WCSA.”
Petty says, “I am very excited to join WCSA’s team and look forward to building on their success as an exemplary hub for local seniors. Together, we will continue to provide the best possible care and service to the senior community.”
In her free time Petty enjoys running, taking long walks with friends, and spending time with family. She and her husband are active in the local car enthusiast community, and enjoy weekend rallies on the back roads of Connecticut.
Westport Senior Center
“The Senior Center’s success can be attributed to a variety of factors, including a Town administration that prioritizes seniors, participants who both contribute and drive programming, and our professional staff members who facilitate connections and run the programs day in and day out,” says Human Services Department director Elaine Daignault, which oversees the Senior Center.
“Under Sue Pfister’s leadership, the WCSA’s dedicated team helped to build the center of Westport’s dreams.
“Today, we prepare for a new era of growth and prosperity for our most esteemed senior residents. I could not be more excited to welcome Wendy to the team.”
In addition to Petty’s appointment — effective February 1, 2023 — Tooker promoted Holly Betts to assistant director of the Senior Center, and Jason Wilson to program specialist, effective immediately.
The Staples High School Music Department celebrated the holiday season last night with its 82nd annual Candlelight Concert.
It was stunning.
The choral symphonic and jazz ensembles awed the full auditorium with their voices and musicianship. The program — from the traditional, lovely “Sing We Noel” through the stunning “Nutcracker Suite,” rousing “Jubilate Deo” and clever production number, to the powerful “Home Alone Suite” and rousing “Hallelujah Chorus” finale — was both proof that our town’s young artists are very alive, quite well (and superbly well-trained), and that even in times of uncertainty and division, all can be right in Westport.
Thanks to all who produced and participated in last night’s Candlelight. Two more (sold-out) concerts continue today.
The “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Did you know that black plastic can’t be recycled?*
So what can you do?
Bring your washed, clean, black plastic takeout food containers (and matching lids) to the Westport Farmers’ Market the next 2 Thursdays (December 22 and 29, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Lane).
Food containers will be used by Fridgeport Outdoor Food Pantry to repackage large trays of donated prepared foods into smaller portions for people facing food insecurity. Many recipients reuse the containers many times over.
The event is co-sponsored by Sustainable Westport and Food Rescue CT
*Why can’t black plastic be recycled? Optical sorting systems used to sort recycling cannot identify it as “plastic.” When black plastic is placed incorrectly with other items it contaminates the overall recycling stream reducing its value. In addition, black plastic has a hazardous level of toxins that increase in the recycling center. So whenever you can: Refuse or reuse black plastic!
The bar for our Entitled Parkers feature is extremely high. Usually, someone hogging 2 spaces won’t make the cut. “06880” readers demand something even more egregious: 3 spaces perhaps, or a vehicle completely covering a sidewalk.
But this Very Important Person takes today’s (Trader Joe’s) cake.
He — and you know it’s a guy —
Takes not just 2 spots, but they’re both handicap reserved.
Westport Sunrise Rotary’s guest speaker yesterday was Lexi Shereshewsky.
Founder and Executive Director of the Azraq Education and Community Fund (formerly The Syria Fund) — a non-profit providing education programs and hands-on humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees and other vulnerable families living in Jordan — she’s no stranger to the group. Sunrise Rotary is a longtime supporter.
Lexi Shereshewsky and Rick Jaffe, past president of Westport Sunrise Rotary.
Bagpipes played, colleagues saluted, and hundreds of mourners grieved yesterday, as Mark Blake was laid to rest.
Mark Blake leaves St. Matthew Church for the last time …
The beloved Westport Emergency Medical Services crew chief and Weston EMS volunteer died last week, after a long battle with COVID. After a funeral at St. Matthew Church in Norwalk he was buried in Westport’s Willowbrook Cemetery.
“A servant on earth, now a servant in heaven,” one admirer said.
… as friends and colleagues pay tribute. (Photos/Andrew Colabella)
They’ll continue through the day she leaves the place she loves, on Imperial Avenue.
I was fortunate to interview Sue on my “06880” podcast at the Westport Library last February. To get a sense of what she means to Westport — and to enjoy her energy, wisdom, enormous commitment and lively sense of humor — click here, then scroll down to February 18.
The next “Andrew Wilk Presents …” is a musical highlight.
The Emmy Award-winning TV, film, music and media producer (and longtime executive producer of Live From Lincoln Center) brings American String Quartet violinist Peter Winograd and celebrated pianist Rohan De Silva to the Westport Library on October 16 (2 p.m.).
They’ll perform — and also answer questions from Wilk. Click here for more information, and to register for a seat in the Trefz Forum.
Susan L. Pfister — the only director the Westport Center for Senior Activities has known at its Imperial Avenue home — has announced her retirement.
She leaves the post she has made an enormous mark on, effective January 1.
Pfister has spent 35 years with Westport’s Department of Human Services. She was hired in 1987, after graduating from Sacred Heart University with a bachelor’s in social work.
She earned a master’s in social work at Fordham University, and dedicated her career to supporting Westport senior citizens.
The Senior Center had humble beginnings, and no permanent home. It bounced between the YMCA, Greens Farms Elementary School, Longshore and Staples High School.
Pfister helped lead construction of the Imperial Avenue facility in 2004, ahead of schedule and under budget. She also oversaw the 2016 expansion.
Westport’s Senior Center serves hundreds of people daily, thanks in large part to Pfister’s expertise and administration. “Sue’s Café” is just one honor. It was named in recognition of her establishment of the daily congregate meal program, complete with its own chef.
Westporters of all ages — along with town officials, and her colleagues around the state — admire Pfister’s creativity, resourcefulness and inclusive vision.
Sue Pfister (seated, right), at her beloved Senior Center.
I’m honored to have had the opportunity to spend my entire career with the Town of Westport. Westport truly values and recognizes the important role seniors play in the community.
I send heartfelt appreciation and thanks to the various administrations, boards and commissions, town departments and staff, instructors and volunteers, and most importantly, my staff for supporting me throughout my career. I will always call Westport my home away from home.
The Westport Senior Center.
First Selectwoman Jen Tooker adds:
Westport residents, and in particular our seniors and their families and caregivers, have been blessed with Sue’s presence. Through her due diligence and oversight, the Senior Center has become a crown jewel of Westport, offering comprehensive programs that enhance the lives of seniors and create countless opportunities for seniors and volunteers to enjoy friendships and daily enrichment.
Sue always has the best interests of those she cared for at the forefront. Her considerate nature and calm demeanor, coupled with a no-nonsense management style has been an enormous asset to this community.
On a personal level, when my mom and dad moved to town, my dad became enamored of the Center and its many activities. It was Sue and her staff who were sincerely welcoming and hands-on in helping with a difficult life transition for him.
I know she is the same with all her beloved seniors. Sue took the lead without fanfare – she just did it – and with a smile on her face. Of course, Sue will be sorely missed as the Senior Center director. But I also know that she will continue to be in service to others as she enters a new chapter in her life. We wish her only health and happiness in her retirement.
Carl Frey blew out birthday candles with (from right) his wife Iris, and Senior Center director Sue Pfister.
Human Services director Elaine Daignault notes:
Sue has a penchant for quick-thinking, organization, and collaboration, playing a critical role in the town’s emergency response efforts through countless storms and public health emergencies. She and her team offered essential respite and support by feeding, housing, and comforting emergency workers and residents during significant nor’easter storm events like Hurricanes Sandy, Irene and Isais, and the COVID19 pandemic.
Sue’s energy and dedication are inspirational. Her drive and compassion for others have been a tremendous source of reassurance to me, and those that she has helped along the way.
I am very grateful for her camaraderie and friendship, and I wish her a well-deserved retirement where she’ll continue to spread light and hope to others.
From the time she visited her grandmother in a nursing home, Sue Pfister felt drawn to older people. She earned a social work degree, and in 1986 interned at Westport’s Senior Center.
She’s been there ever since.
The other day, Sue — now its beloved director — traveled the short distance from the Senior Center to the Westport Library’s Verso Studios. We chatted about her career path, the Center’s journey through many stops to its current beautiful home, the Center today and tomorrow, demographic trends in town, and much more.
As always, I learned a lot from Sue. You will too. Just click here and scroll down, for the latest “06880” podcast.
Now the 2 — both, in their way, “homes” for older men and women — are working together, to end feelings of isolation forced by the pandemic.
With its Imperial Avenue doors shut, the Senior Center has moved many programs to Zoom, YouTube and Cablevision Channel 79.
Music performances, museum tours, art shows, workouts with Patty Kondub, book talks, discussions on emotional well-being — all are shared with the Residence. That’s the new assisted living community, opposite Greens Farms Elementary School.
The Senior Center is closed. But its programs continue.
Meanwhile, Residence residents made decorations, like Halloween pumpkins, to add to Senior Center home delivery programs. The Residence’s chef baked pies for Thanksgiving meals.
Senior Center director Sue Pfister has known The Residence executive director Michelle Piskin for years. Both women take holistic approaches, caring for the physical, emotional and social needs of the people they work with.
Pfister also reached out Heather Wood, activities director at The Residence, to make sure she knew everything the Senior Center offers, to all Westporters.
Whether in-person or online, the Senior Center is a superb resource for older citizens. The Residence is a great option for people wanting to downsize, yet still live in the area.
When the Senior Center reopens, the relationship between it and The Residence will continue — in-person, as well as in cyberspace.
When the Senior Center reopens, residents at The Residence will enjoy in-person events. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Yesterday, “06880” announced the opening of a Westport Food Fund. The aim was to raise money for the 4% of our neighbors — 1,200 or so — who face food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis.
The goal was $50,000. A couple of generous contributions had seeded the fund. But there was much more to raise.
Within 12 hours, that lofty goal was reached.
Organizers were ecstatic — and inspired. The new goal: $75,000.
Department of Human Services director Elaine Daignault says:
We don’t know how much longer and to what extent this crisis will affect the community. But we do know the challenges are significant.
Our mission is to ensure that Westport’s most vulnerable have food on their tables in the coming weeks, and perhaps months. The funds raised in just 24 hours will ensure that their most essential nutritional needs are met.
Our call volume increases every day. We now have more resources to help, thanks to the awe inspiring generosity and compassion of our town.
She loved the hashtag in one of the comments: #westportstrong. Though she prefers a new one: #westportwow!
In fewer than 4 weeks since the coronavirus struck, calls to Westport’s Department of Human Services quadrupled.
Residents worry about countless things. But the most common fear is food insecurity.
“Between our established clients whom we’ve worked with for years, and new callers who find themselves unable to make ends meet, anxiety and panic is setting in for many,” says director Elaine Daignault.
“A lot of them already face tough decisions between putting food on the table, and paying household expenses.” Already, it is estimated, more than 4% of Westporters face food insecurity.
That’s around 1,200 people. Many are seniors and children.
And, Daignault warns, as social isolation continues and unemployment rises, those challenge will be felt by people who never in the past faced financial difficulties.
This photo symbolizes the fears of a rising number of Westporters.
A single mom with 3 kids has kept only one part-time job. But her rent is due. Without enough savings to stock up at the grocery store, she must stop in 3 times a week. That increases her risk of exposure, causing further despair.
One Westporter relies on the gig economy; his wife is disabled. Suddenly, his income does not cover the cost of food, rent and medications.
A senior citizen has worked part-time as a grocery clerk to supplement his Social Security income. Fearful of exposure to infection, he quit working. He can afford food — but he’s stopped paying his cell phone and electric bills.
An elderly, ailing couple have depended on the Senior Center for their daily hot, nutritious meal. The rest of the time, the wife prepares simple canned soups and frozen dinners.
Daignault is proud of her small staff. They offer connections, support and resources to residents in need. They make personal phone calls, and are working harder now than ever.
They’re providing grocery gift cards to Westporters, and collaborating with the school district to help families access the free and reduced lunch curbside pickup program.
Human Services has a rainy day fund. But there is a limit to their financial resources.
“We can’t wait for state and federal programs to kick in,” Daignault says. “People are hungry now.”
Dan Levinson shares her concerns. A longtime Westporter who years ago helped organize the original Green Village Initiative, he gets things done.
Quickly, he and other concerned residents created a Food Fund. The money they raise will be administered by Westport’s Department of Human Services.
The goal is ambitious: $50,000. But generous contributions jump started it nicely.
Daignault welcomes the support. She calls the Food Fund “a great example of how we as a community can express compassion, and use our skills and creativity to benefit others. It also shows how we are all in this together.”
Senior Center director Sue Pfister adds, “My heart broke when my colleagues in Human Services began to worry about not having resources needed to handle the calls they were getting about folks needing basic food and grocery money.
“I knew if the word got out the community would rise to the occasion, and see to it that not one human being went hungry in Westport. Dan Levinson loved the mission, and ran with the concept. 72 hours later, we were halfway to our goal!”
Click here to donate. For more information — including how to benefit from food funds — call 203-341-1050.
As of 4:30 p.m. yesterday (Monday, March 30), Westport had 115 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up 1 from the previous day. Weston had 24, up 3.
Of Connecticut’s 2,571 confirmed cases, the largest number continues to be in the 50-59 age group. The over-80 group has the highest rate of hospitalizations and deaths. Click here for a detailed look at the statewide spread of the disease.
Connecticut’s hospitals, nursing homes and medical facilities are in desperate need of medical volunteers. The state has embarked on a campaign to urge people with healthcare or medical backgrounds. Click here to register.
Rizzuto’s, Amis and Terrain restaurants have closed, until further notice. All had provided curbside and takeout dining during the coronavirus crisis.
As healthcare workers and first responders work tirelessly to keep us healthy, we should do the same for them.
“Mission Nutrition” helps. As described by Westporter Lisa Adelmann (whose husband and 2 brothers are local physicians), the goal is to deliver healthy care packages to hospitals, nursing homes, and police and fire departments around the country.
Packages contain protein shake mix, protein bars, energy and hydration drinks, and herbal tea. Some have hand cream.
To minimize human contact, each care package is assembled in a warehouse, and shipped directly to a hospital or first responder site.
Funds are needed. No donation is too small (or too big). To donate, Venmo @missionnutrition. Questions? Email email@example.com.
The town of Westport now offers online tax preparation, with no in-person contact.
Volunteers — led by Westporter Mark Spivack — are the same IRS-certified tax preparers who have offered these services for years. The site is safely encrypted.
Users need a smartphone or computer, WiFi access, a working phone number and email address.
Though the US tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, many Westporters have time on their hands now to “be prepared.”
For more information and to access the service, click here.
Bill Vornkahl reports that although the Greens Farms Fire Company’s 69th annual Easter Egg Hunt has been canceled, the Easter Bunny will make rounds throughout town starting early afternoon on Sunday, April 12.
Be on the lookout for him! (Although, Bill says confidentially, Westport’s Bunny is really a her.)
Not the Greens Farms Volunteer Fire Company’s Easter Bunny. (Photo/Hannah Hall)
Need info on the federal government plan to distribute direct payments to individuals and families? Congressman Jim Himes sends along this link to frequently asked questions. To learn more, call his office: 203-333-6600.
Linda Hall offers a special shout-out to Sue Pfister: “My parents never expected the Senior Center director to be their Meals on Wheels delivery person. But last week, there Sue was — by herself, in a downpour.” Thank you, Sue!
Sue Pfister (seated, right), at her beloved Senior Center.
Staples High School Class of 2011 graduate Nicki Brill now works as a middle school math teacher.
She says she is “lucky to be healthy and quarantined with my family.” She wants to recruit volunteers to help neighbors in need.
Click here for her form for healthy volunteers. Click here if you should not leave home (immunocompromised, older, other pre-existing conditions, quarantined). and need help with groceries or errands.
Looking to help in other ways? Click here for a link to many great ideas.
Village Pediatrics posted this, on social media. Their “kids” do grow up!
(Dr. Nikki Gorman adds, “We really need these, to use as reusable masks over our N95s that we can wash daily with the new washer dryer we are installing in our office — and for patients’ parents and some patients who could be asymptomatic carriers of COVID.”)
COVID-19 put a brutal end to the Staples High School girls basketball team’s magical season, just hours before the state semifinal game tipped off.
Senior co-captain Marisa Shorrock wrote about that emotional end for The Ruden Report. I reposted her insightful story on “06880.”
ESPN got into the act. Her essay was featured on the sports network.
Then last night, the entire team got a shout-out on ESPN’s Senior Moments feature. Scott Van Pelt did the honors — and quoted from Marisa’s story.
It’s not the state championship they probably would have won. But it’s nice to get a bit of well-deserved national recognition! Click below (skip to 1:44, if all you care about are our Wreckers).
(Hat tip: Russell and Don Kubie)
A bogus website claims that the Greens Farms post office is closed. (Here it is — but don’t click on any links inside it. You can never be too safe!)
The cute little post office by the train station is not closed. They’re still open, still serving customers in their homey, neighborhood way. Officials are aware of the fake site, but have been unable to shut it down.
(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Though the awards ceremony for TEAM Westport’s annual teen diversity essay contest is postponed, the group — town’s multicultural committee — has announced the 3 finalists.
Staples High School seniors Sahiba Dhindsa and Zachary Terrillion, and sophomore Victoria Holoubek-Sebok, are in the running for prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500.
This year’s prompt asked teens to describe experiences involving stereotypes focused on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, and consider steps that organizations, schools or individuals could take to counteract those stereotypes.
Westport musician Jon Saxon has performed for the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce at Supper & Soul and the Levitt Pavilion.
Tonight at 8 p.m. he livestreams a 30-minute concert. Click here for the Zoom link. The meeting ID is 901 431 6011.
It”s free — but he encourages donations during the show (or any time!) to benefit Yale New Haven Hospital. Click here to contribute.
Many supermarkets take strong measures to guard against COVID’s spread. Stew Leonard’s goes extra far. They’ve put Plexiglas shields on all registers and express lines, and at the customer service and coffee departments. Their hot and cold bar food is all pre-packaged now, and employees serve hot food and soup.
And finally, I love the song “500 Miles” by the Proclaimers. This isn’t it. (It’s a lot less Scottish, for one thing.) But it’s almost as good.
Martha Aasen remembers when Westport’s Senior Center was part of Staples High School.
Two small rooms were hidden between the fieldhouse and wood shop. It was open just a few hours a day. Lunch came from the school cafeteria.
In 2003, a new Senior Center opened on Imperial Avenue. It was a spectacular improvement.
Bright and airy, it was filled with rooms for meetings, lectures, fitness and films. There was a library and dining room too. Seniors flocked there for events, classes and camaraderie.
That was 15 years ago. When First Selectman Jim Marpe cuts a ribbon tomorrow (Friday, January 4, 11 a.m.), Westporters of all ages will marvel at the first major enhancement of the Senior Center since it opened.
The 9-month project comes in on schedule — and on budget. The town appropriated $3.975 million. Friends of the Senior Center raised $300,000 for equipment and amenities.
(Clockwise from lower left): Martha Aasen, Leslie Wolf, Stan Nayer and Sue Pfister in the lobby of the newly modernized Senior Center.
Last week, Senior Center director Sue Pfister, Friends president Leslie Wolf, and Aasen — now in her 90s, and as passionate about the Center as ever — offered a tour of the new facility. It blends seamlessly with the original.
The 5,000-square foot new wing includes:
A new fitness center, with modern treadmills and machines
A strength classroom, also used for tap dancing and Zumba
A new library, with a computer and magnifiers
A drop-in game room
All new furniture and carpeting
New display cases for artwork
Outdoor access to the adjacent Baron’s South meadow, for tai chi and meditation
Offices for program manager Holly Betts, and interns
New restrooms with showers (for when the Senior Center is used as an emergency shelter).
Martha Aasen on the new treadmill. Doors open onto the Baron’s South park.
Other parts of the Senior Center have been modernized too. There are new floors, chairs and tabletops in the “Sue’s Cafe” dining room (where “grab-and-go” food will soon be available); a new wood floor next door, for dance classes; a second art room, and a handsome new custom desk in the entry foyer.
“It’s even better than we envisioned,” says Aasen — who was closely involved in the project — proudly.
“We’ve had so many meetings, and we saw all the plans. But when you actually see it finished, it’s unbelievable.”
“Stunning!” adds Pfister.
New windows provide the same airy look as the original wing of the Senior Center.
The Senior Center director credits the project’s smooth completion to “tremendous cooperation” from local officials. The Building Department’s Steve Smith, the Department of Public Works, and Parks & Recreation director Jen Fava were all all-in.
Architect Brian Scheuzger designed the original building too. A.P. Construction — which is also handling the Westport Library’s Transformation Project — did all the work.
The Senior Center attracts a wide range of people, Pfister notes: Those who are very active; those looking for quiet activities; those who want to meet old friends, and those seeking companionship.
It’s a welcoming facility for some, a second home for others.
Now — for all of them — Westport’s Senior Center is better than ever.
Workers were still finishing up — and unloading furniture — last week.
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