Plenty of focus has been put recently on diversity in employment. Town departments, Police and Fire, the schools — all are taking measures to be more inclusive in recruiting and hiring employees.
Another group is important too: those with disabilities.
Next Tuesday (March 29, 10:30 a.m.), First Selectwoman Jen Tooker kicks off a town-wide inclusive employment initiative.
Residents, businesses, employment service agencies and disability advocates are invited to the Town Hall event.
“Employment Is For Everyone” is a collaboration between the Department of Human Services, the Commission on People with Disabilities and the local business community.
The goal is to encourage and support business in the recruitment, hiring, and advancement of people with disabilities in the workplace.
The Commission hopes to create a disability-friendly, inclusive culture by providing guidance and resources for employers and employees to get the support needed to succeed.
CPD chair Jim Ross says, “Westport already has several businesses successfully employing people with disabilities and embracing a disability-friendly and inclusive culture. These employment champions should be celebrated, and their best practices shared with the greater business community.”
Among those businesses: The Porch at Christie’s, and Stop & Shop. A group of Westporters is working right now to form a non-profit and buy the former Elvira’s/Joey’s by the Shore property by Old Mil Beach, and open a market that would offer training and employment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Porch hires people with disabilities. The bakery features items from Sweet P Bakery, which also employs members of the disability community.
Ross adds, “Countless qualified workers with disabilities are eager and ready to work. This population offers tremendous benefits to their colleagues and the businesses that they serve.”
With support from town and business leaders, the Commission has partnered with regional disability employment organizations to create an online platform. The “Employment Gateway” provides a job board, resource guide, and hands-on support for individuals and businesses seeking assistance in enhancing inclusivity among their workforces.
Tooker — who as 2nd selectwoman helped create the “Westport Means Business” and “Choose Westport” platforms — notes, “Studies show that employers who are disability-inclusive realize increased profits and greater consumer loyalty.”
Tomorrow (Sunday, July 25, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) marks Wakeman Town Farm’s first Sustainable Goods Eco Market.
Local vendors and artisans will be selling handwoven baskets and housewares; honey; handmade soaps, body butter and essential oils; skin and hair products for teens; candles; bags; clothing; honey and more.
There’s breakfast from The Granola Bar truck, and ice cream cones from Saugatuck Sweets too.
While adults shop green, youngsters can work on fun projects with WTF director of education Chryse Terrill, or visit with the animals. Expert Judy Panzer will answer animal questions for curious young minds.
Everyone can enjoy music by saxophonist Bobby Master, classical guitarist Jesse Balcom, steel pan and marimba player, and string quartet Vision Academy.
SA couple considering a moving to Westport from New York would love to take the train here, and explore our town by bike.
They asked “06880” about rentals near the station. I don’t think there’s any such thing (though it might not be a bad sideline for a nearby business).
So how about it, “06880” readers: If there are no bike rentals around, does someone have a pair to lend? Maybe meet them at the station, give some tips (or even ride with them)? Or drop bikes off there, with combination locks?
Sure, it’s a long shot. But it’s also one way to help show off our amazing town — and the great people who live here.
I don’t think this is the type of bike ride our guests are looking for.
On Thursday, State Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang were recognized for their bipartisan effort to pass SB 954. The bill will improve college safety, and is seen as a template for federal legislation, sponsored by Congressman Jim Himes. The goal is to increase transparency around college accidents and deaths in all US colleges.
The initiative comes from College911.net, an all-volunteer organization founded in the memory of Corey Hausman. The 2018 Staples High School graduate died from what started as a preventable accident on his college campus just 15 days into his freshman year. Corey’s was the third student death since the start of that semester.
Senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang hold certificates presented by College 911.net. Also pictured: members of the 911 Young Adult Advisory Board (Brendan Carney, Rushil Marallapu, Kate Smith and William Bean), members of Corey Hausman’s family (Joel, Nanette and Lucas), and Jeff Mitchell, an ardent supporter.
The grounds of the Westport Weston Family YMCA always look gorgeous, thanks to Tony Palmer Landscaping.
Yesterday they were especially attractive. The Westport Garden Club chose the Mahackeno site for its annual #FridayFlowers display. They were created by Janet Wolgast, with help from new Y CEO Anjali McCormick.
One more reason to smile before — and after — your workout.
Longtime Westport resident Vivian Doak of Spring, Texas, died peacefully at home, surrounded by her immediate family, last Saturday. She was 91 years.
The oldest of 5 children, Vivian graduated from high school in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. After secretarial school in New York, she held various positions. In 1952 she married Malcolm Robert Doak, an Air Force pilot. Following stints in Memphis, Japan, Long Island and Poughkeepsie, the couple settled in Westport in 1964, where they raised their family. In 2009 Vivian and her husband retired to Lake Conroe, Texas, and finally settled in Spring, Texas, at The Village at Gleannloch Farms.
While in Westport Vivian was a mother, housewife, business professional and real estate agent. She served many roles, from Cub Scout and Girl Scout leader to PTA organizer; from church deacon to leading the local Women’s Council of Realtors.
Vivian enjoyed traveling the world with her corporate pilot husband, as well as cultural jaunts with her children. The Doak home was a welcoming place for neighborhood kids, and a great environment for their children’s friends to hang out, be fed delicious meals, and be appreciated. Many still recall her warm smile and generous laugh.
Vivian possessed an ambitious, artistic talent that influenced everything she did. She was an excellent cook and skilled seamstress, skills she passed on to her children, grandchildren and beyond.
She enjoyed dancing, and studied tap and other forms. A painter from early on, she later enjoyed the hands-on hard work of building, refinishing and reupholstering furniture. She brought a creative eye to numerous heirloom quilts made for family members.
Vivian reveled in leading her grandchildren in holiday crafts, and created hand-painted curios for her children and their families. She also mastered a host of magic tricks, and juggled to entertain her grandchildren.
In retirement Doak mastered the art of theorem painting, studying at the Fletcher Farm School for the Arts in Vermont. While a member of the Wilton Presbyterian Church, Vivian designed and oversaw the construction of their on-site Memorial Garden.
Vivian will be remembered for her kindness, patience, loving manner, infectious laugh and bright smile, and as the matriarch of a strong, loving vital family.
Vivian is survived by her husband Malcolm and their 5 children: Kathi Doak of New York City; Lisa Lyne (James) of Spring, Texas; Ivy Doak (Timothy Montler) of Denton, Texas; Robin Neyrey of Spring TX, and Malcolm (Carole Ann) of Kirby, Vermont; 7 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins, and sister Marjorie Schoneboom of Long Island.
A memorial service was held at The Village at Gleannloch Farms. The family is appreciative of everyone there.
Start time for the Representative Town Meeting’s special June 8 (Tuesday) meeting to reconsider the Planning & Zoning’s adoption of a new zoning district that would enable a 157-unit development on Hiawatha Lane has been pushed ahead to 7 p.m.
However, the RTM will not address the petition until 7:30 p.m.
The meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. To attend by video, send an email to RTMcomments@westportct.gov; include your name and address, to receive participation details.
Emails may be sent before the meeting to RTMmailinglist@westportct.gov; this goes to all RTM members.
It’s called “CT Trails Day.” But Friends of Sherwood Island are actually sponsoring two days — today and tomorrow — of activities at Connecticut’s first state park.
Today, there’s a Wonder of Flight Interactive Air Show (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), featuring radio-controlled model planes, helicopters, gliders and drones, followed by a Butterfly Walk with Michele Sorenson (2 p.m.; meet at the Nature Center).
Tomorrow (Sunday), Louis Petig leads a Nature Walk at 1 p.m. along the Sound. It begins at the Nature Center, and includes birding locations, the Connecticut 9/11 memorial, model aircraft airport, trailheads, wetlands and a pine forest.
At last: There’s smooth sailing — well, driving — to the beach.
Just in time for this weekend’s 90-degree weather, Hillspoint Road has been repaved. Residents and beach-goers have been frustrated for weeks, after Aquarion’s work left the street rough and rutted.
Striping should begin next week, weather permitting.
RTM member Andrew Colabella credits teamwork with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich, RTM colleague Chris Tait, Joey’s by the Shore owner Hal Kravitz and resident Robin Tauck for helping move the project along.
Speaking of Tauck: The upscale guided tour and cruise company — based now in Wilton, but for many years a Westport operation, where many family members still live — will resume tour and river cruise operations in Europe, Africa and central America, beginning this month.
Some North America tours have already begun. Click here for details.
A limited audience saw Staples High’s first live musical performance of the school year last night.
Thunderstorms moved the first of 2 Pops Concerts was moved from the Levitt Pavilion to the auditorium. After a year of COVID, that hardly mattered.
A variety of choruses, orchestras and the freshman band entertained the socially distanced — but very grateful — crowd. Despite the masks, it was a sure sign that the district’s superb staff had shepherded through a very difficult year.
And that music makes us all truly alive.
The 2nd night of the Pops Concert — with other groups — is scheduled for tonight. All tickets have already been distributed.
Luke Rosenberg directs the Anima Cantorum.
Staples High School music instructors (from left): Luke Rosenberg, Candida Inanaco, Phil Giampietro, Carrie Mascaro, Jeri Muehleise. Innaco retires this year, after 36 years of teaching. (Photos/Dan Woog)
The Artists’ Collective celebrates Westport’s return to actual, live activities with 2 big events.
A pop-up art show opens in the Westport Country Playhouse barn June 12. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. every day, through June 19. An artist’s talk on closing day begins at 4 p.m.
Participating artists include local favorites Lucienne Buckner, Miggs Burroughs, Elizabeth DeVoll, Charles Douthat, Susan Fehlinger, Noah Fox, Jen Greely, Toby Michaels, Nancy Moore, Mary Ann Neilson, Melissa Newman, Diane Pollack, Ellen Schiffman and Jahmane West.
The Collective’s very popular trunk show returns in the Westport Library’s lower parking lot: July 11 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
What is the Artists’ Collective of Westport? Click below to learn more.
The return to indoor events came too late for the Westport Country Playhouse to stage its full summer productions.
But the venerable theater welcomes a series of special events, to support next year’s full reopening.
“Cabaret in the Robards” is 3 evenings of shows featuring Broadway talent, with music, song and comedy.
The first one — June 26 — is “An Evening with Brad Simmons and Tonya Pinkins.” She’s a Tony-winning Broadway veteran; he’s a famed music director and concert artist. They’ll combine for show favorites, contemporary covers, classics and more.
Westport’s newest hot spot opened its doors yesterday.
And its porch.
From 6:30 a.m. till dark, The Porch at Christie’s was packed.
The Porch at Christie’s co-owner Bill Pecoriello, on the porch.
Neighbors, contractors, middle and high school kids, folks from across town — all headed to the Cross Highway bakery/café/ice cream stand.
They loved the breakfast specials, bowls, paninis, wraps and baked goods. They hung out on the porch (of course), and played cornhole on the grass.
But that’s only part of the story.
“We have 3 pillars: food, community and purpose,” says Bill Pecoriello, who with his wife Andrea own The Porch.
The food speaks for itself: high quality, affordable prices, everything from bagels and egg sandwiches to crumb cakes, cookies, freshly turkey and roast beef, flatbreads, farro and salmon teriyaki — plus “fun snacks” for kids, like hot pretzels with dipping sauce, pizza pops and Belgian-style waffles.
Not to mention great J. Foster ice cream.
The Porch ice cream stand.
The community part is important too. At a soft opening for nearby residents on Saturday, newcomers from New York met 50-year residents. When the Pecoriellos turned off the lights, people were still socializing on the (of course) porch.
“Commuters, teachers, students, landscapers — everyone is welcome. There’s something for everyone, 7 days a week,” Andrea says. “Hello Friend” signs and t-shirts are everywhere. Half the employees are Staples students.
But “purpose” may be the most important pillar.
The Porch is the Pecoriellos’ second venture into providing opportunities for those who often lack them. Inspired by their 3 children’s volunteer efforts while at Staples High School, they founded Sweet P Bakery. The Norwalk non-profit teaches baking skills to people with disabilities — then hires them.
The Porch purchases baked goods from Sweet P. (The muffins, cinnamon buns and more are made in Norwalk, but finished at the store. The aroma alone will sell dozens a day.)
The bakery features sweet items from Sweet P.
They have also hired a dozen people with physical and developmental disabilities. They work the counter, serve as greeters, and help in other capacities. They’re trained and supervised by an educator.
That’s not all. The Pecoriellos — whose Sweet P bakery has partnered with STAR on a baking class — hope to sell paintings and more, made by STAR clients. And they’ve talked with Westport Book Shop (which also employs people with disabilities) to paint unsold books as decorative items, sell them, and split the profits.
Speaking of paint: You won’t find a more pleasant place to work (or eat) (or hang). The interior of what was most recently Chef’s Table is bright and new. Staples grad Jess Spector painted a mural on the side of the building, where extra chairs invite even more sitting.
The fresh, new Porch interior. (Photos/Dan Woog)
It was hard to tell yesterday who smiled more: the customers, employees or owners.
The Pecoriellos have worked hard for nearly a year to make their vision come true. Andrea described it as the kind of place where, “if I was on vacation somewhere in New England and saw this, I’d say, ‘If this was in Westport, I’d support it every day.'”
They’ve created that vibe, for sure.
And they’ve done much more.
During the soft opening, a man with a special needs son stopped by. He’d moved to Westport for the school system’s opportunities.
Seeing people with special needs greeting customers, and serving them, he thanked the owners.
Then he said, “Today, I see a future for my son.”
PORCH SWINGS: The Porch at Christie’s is open weekdays 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The ice cream stand (adjacent to the store) is open weekdays from 2 to 8 p.m., weekends noon to 8.
A weekend-only brunch menu features babka French toast, pancakes, scrambles and more.
Online ordering is coming soon, through the website (www.theporchatchristies.com). QR codes will be available outside for customers who are still uncomfortable indoors; orders will be brought out.
Westport filmmaker Doug Tirola made a documentary about Sweet P Bakery. It plays on a loop near the baked goods. Another film is in the works, about the long history of the store — founded in 1926 by Christie Masiello.
Andrea and Bill Pecoriello: the visionary Porch owners.
Renovations are coming along well at The Porch at Christie’s — the new breakfast/lunch/dinner-to-go (plus brunch, coffee, smoothies, baked goods and ice cream) spot that will build) upon a Cross Highway tradition dating back to 1926.
Owners Andrea and Bill Pecoriello — “proud Westporters since 1994” — already own Sweet P Bakery in Norwalk, providing job training and employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Sweet P will supply most of the baked treats for The Porch. Graduates of its programs will bake there, with 2 amazing pastry chefs. Additional Sweet P staff will work in front-of-house operations.
As the sign below notes, The Porch will open this spring — offering “local food, community and purpose.” Follow online, or on Facebook and Instagram (theporchatchristies; @sweetpbakeryct). For more information, email email@example.com.
There’s a new COVID vaccination site, not far away.
Harry Evans reports it opened this week at 110 High Ridge Road in Stamford (the Lord & Taylor parking lot). He called Wednesday to schedule an appointment, and I got one for the next day.
He was in and out yesterday in 20 minutes — including the 15-minute waiting time after the shot itself.
“Everything was easy and very efficiently run, and extremely easy to reach from Exit 35 on the Merritt,” he reports.
“When the word gets out it may be mobbed. But right now it is the only drive-through facility in Fairfield County.” Harry called Connecticut’s COVID assistance hotline: 877-918-2224.
Though Connecticut is one of the leading states in the nation in terms of percentages of vaccines administered, it is still available only to people over 75, healthcare personnel, medical first responders, and residents of long-term care facilities. The next phase will include people 65 to 74.
Today’s New York Times includes a story on Samuel Fisher — aka Brad Holiday — the 2007 Weston High School graduate/misogynistic dating coach arrested last month for his involvement in the January 6 insurrection at the US Captiol.
Investigators found a shotgun, machetes and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his Chevy Tahoe
Despite plenty of information about Fisher/Holiday’s social media posts celebrating his role on the storming of the building — along with other videos “denigrating women (and guides on) how to defeat Communists, expose what he claimed were government pedophilia cabals, and properly wield a Glock.”
However, the Times story does not mention Weston. It says simply that he “grew up in New Jersey.” Click here for the full story.
“The Porch at Christie’s” is the name new owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello have chosen for the venerable space. It’s a nod to the storied past, and a welcome addition to the area.
But the couple will serve much more than breakfast, lunch, pastries, soups, salads and prepared meals. By hiring people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, they’ll provide job training, income, social interaction, life skills coaching, and opportunities for personal growth to that often underserved population.
Andrea and Bill Pecoriello.
This is not the Pecoriellos’ first such venture. Last year — inspired by their own 3 children’s volunteer efforts with a boy with disabilities — they founded Sweet P.
Seven students and 2 chefs operated the non-profit bakery out of a Norwalk commercial kitchen until March, when COVID struck.
The chefs stayed through June, making granola for frontline workers and food pantries. In-person, socially distanced baking classes are set to resume this month, along with another class they run sponsored by STAR Lighting the Way.
The Porch at Christie’s will go much further than the bakery (which will supply some of the goods sold there). Interacting with customers, employees can learn front-of-the-house skills.
The Pecoriellos also wanted to do something for Westport — the town they’ve lived in for nearly 26 years. They envision The Porch as a community gathering spot. “We want to be very inclusive,” they say, bringing together the neighborhood and employees.
They’ll do it with breakfast burritos, muffins and granola (and a more “brunch-y” menu on weekends); coffee, tea and smoothies; lunches; prepared meals to go; salads, paninis and flatbreads.
They’ll sell crackers and jams for picnics, gift baskets — and milk, eggs and cheese, products neighbors have long clamored for. Catering will be available too.
The couple is also excited to bring back the former Frosty Bear ice cream hut. They’re scouting out top local dairy farms to supply it, and will run a contest to pick its name.
The Frosty Bear ice cream stand will reopen, with a new name.
The Pecoriellos are searching too for the best Connecticut coffee roasters.
The Porch at Christie’s will be open 7 days a week, starting at 7 a.m. It will be “very COVID-friendly,” the Pecoriellos says, with curbside pick-up and takeout.
They hope to have a permit for lawn seating. Of course, they’ll have tables on the porch (alongside a new ADA-compliant ramp).
The interior will be refurbished with a “modern farmhouse” look. The target date for opening is March.
“We have a great relationship with our landlord, Tim Purcell,” says Bill Pecoriello. “He knows how important this is for the neighborhood.”
That “neighborhood” extends far beyond Cross Highway residents. It includes construction and lawn workers; parents and athletes at Wakeman Field, and students and teachers at Bedford Middle and Staples High School.
The new owners also hope for a partnership with Wakeman Town Farm, a few hundred yards away.
Next spring, the porch at The Porch at Christie’s will again be open.
Bill and Andrea Pecoriello seem to have thought of everything. They’re even buying a generator, to serve the neighborhood during power outages.
“We’ll have ice and everything else. Including WiFi,” they say.
So when the next blizzard passes, or another storm blows away, you can eat, drink and do your work at — and on — The Porch at Christie’s.
(The Pecoriellos want to hear suggestions and ideas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome, appreciated — and tax-deductible! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881. Or use Venmo: @blog06880. Or Zelle: email@example.com. Thanks!)