Posted onJuly 17, 2020|Comments Off on Wanted: 100+ People Who Care
It’s nice to write a $100 check to help an organization. It’s even nicer when you and 99 other people write $100 checks. Bundled together,it’s $10,000.
That’s the idea behind a national movement called “100+ Women Who Care.”
Every 3 months, there’s a 1-hour meeting. Each member brings a check for $100. Anyone can nominate local charities, non-profits or worthy causes. All names go in a hat.
Three names are drawn, randomly. The 3 members who nominated them make 5-minute presentations, “selling” their causes.
Everyone then votes on which cause to support. The winner gets all the checks — made out to their organizations, on the spot. Such a simple idea — and so powerful.
Tracy Yost helped found the local “100+ Women Who Care” chapter, 6 years ago. She’s proud of her fellow members, and their contributions. Recent honorees include ConnectUS, the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, Mercy Learning Center, Circle of Care, and the Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education.
But while the coronavirus has increased the need for help dramatically, it’s also impacted donors’ checkbooks. The most recent awardee — Fairfield County’s Community Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund — received only half the usual donations.
Yost is undaunted.
“If you can only give $50, that’s great,” she says. “The key is to give. For those who can, there’s never been a more meaningful time.”
She looks forward to the next meeting: Tuesday, July 21. It’s via Zoom, but there will be the usual optional “social hour” from 6 to 6:30. The business portion begins at 6:30.
Non-members can’t vote on the recipient. But they can — and should! — donate.
In fact, Yost hopes for some inter-generational attendees. “Maybe you’re a mom who can’t usually make meetings,” she says. “But you can now. Bring your own mother and daughter too. Join us. It’s easy and fun.”
There’s one more thing: You don’t have to be a woman to be a woman who cares.
The Fairfield County chapter is one of many nationwide. Some are called “100+ Men Who Care.” Others are “100+ Students Who Care” … you get the idea.
Just think of it this way: “During COVID, 100+ Fairfield County People Who Care.”
(For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To register for the July 21 “100+ Women Who Care” meeting, click here.)
The winter’s first snow is gone from most sidewalks.
Thank Mother Nature for that. Not your fellow Westporters.
Several days ago — after a few inches fell here — alert “06880” reader Tracy Yost ventured out. She calls her journey on Cross Highway and Main Street “harrowing.” Only 4 homeowners had shoveled their sidewalks.
Cross Highway …
The next day she tried to walk at Compo Beach. Those walkways were not clear either.
This being 2016, Tracy did the natural thing: She posted on Facebook. She described her frustration, and asked what she could do about it.
Reaction was swift. Several people thought that homeowners are required to clear “one shovel width” of their sidewalk. Others noted that in Norwalk and Fairfield, that’s definitely the law.
Tracy followed up with Westport town and officials. Lo and behold: The same 15 guys who plow are responsible for clearing sidewalks. They begin with schools and town buildings, so regular sidewalks are clearly not Priority 1.
… and the new Main Street sidewalk. (Photos/Tracy Yost)
Tracy suggests that homeowners do the right thing anyway, and shovel the walks in front of their homes.
“For some people — the elderly come to mind — walking is the only way to exercise, see people, get food, go to the doctor,” she says.
“For others — like me — it’s a way to walk the dogs, check in on neighbors, use the car less.”
For everyone, of course, safe streets — including clear sidewalks and slow driving — make for a better community.
Or, as Bridgeport mayor Jasper McLevy famously said when asked when his city would begin plowing: “God put the snow there. Let him take it away.”
But too often she hears: “I’d never ride my bike around here.” She thinks that’s wrong. If we want to ride bikes safely in Westport, Tracy says, we all need to get involved. “It takes a village to make our community livable, walkable and bikeable.”
Here, Tracy explains what that means:
Livable, walkable, bikeable communities have a designed plan to improve the way everyone — young, old, handicapped, etc. — connects to our town amenities. These are our main streets, our train and transit system, our schools and beaches.
Compo Beach is a great place for walking and biking. Tracy Yost would like to see more people able to walk and bike TO the beach. (Photo/Chip Stephens)
When some people hear the word “bikeable,” they think of groups of cyclists out for a 50-mile ride on weekends. I’m all for more cyclists on the road. But I’d like to connect the average person — elderly, school-aged, handicapped, without a license — by walking, biking or transit. Anything except a personal car.
There are many reasons to embrace the idea of a livable, walkable, bikeable community. It’s environmentally friendly. It builds stronger local economies. It creates stronger bonds among residents. It’s safer. It’s healthier for minds and bodies. It’s also more appealing in the real estate market.
Earlier this month I attended the Connecticut Bike Walk Summit in New Britain. Keynote speaker Mark Fenton — a public health, planning and transportation consultant — challenged us to stretch the idea of what’s possible, by presenting real-life scenarios from around the country.
I imagined: What if there was absolutely no parking or driving downtown? What if it were much more appealing to walk or ride a bike?
Imagine a downtown where it’s okay to walk in the middle of Main Street.
Picture downtown like a campus: walker- and bike-friendly, with few or no cars.
Picture parking on the outskirts, in lots behind Town Hall, on Imperial Avenue, the garage across from Bartaco. Picture a riverwalk from Main Street to the train station.
Picture an attractive, useful transit system. Picture a bikeway (protected or off-road) from the schools to Main Street and the beach.
Picture an event like the Dog Festival with a transit system drop-off, and the Playhouse parking lot filled with strollers, bikes and wagons.
I know this is an extreme scenario, one that requires a drastic shift in thinking. But the Bike Lady can dream.
Tracy Yost, with some of her 20 bikes.
The picture I see is of a bustling downtown, where people and places are connected safely and enjoyably. It’s a place to shop and dine and be outdoors. It’s a place that cares about the health of the earth, and its people. It’s a place accessible to everyone, modeling healthy living for its children.
Here’s another real-life scenario, shared by Mark. Consider how many parents drop their children off at school with their cars, rather than having them take the bus. What if we made walking and biking to school the safer, healthier and preferred mode of transportation?
What if walkers and bikers were released first from school? Volunteer parents could lead both groups.
In 2012 — once — Saugatuck Elementary School youngsters walked to school. (Photo/Gina Beranek)
Bus riders would be dismissed next, and children being picked up by parents last. Parent pick-up would be at a church or public place (like the VFW) with adequate parking, a walkable (and parent-led) distance from school.
We’d have children who are more active, cars that are not idling, buses that are more filled, and a policy that promotes walking and biking.
I know Westport has a downtown plan. As a recent addition to the Downtown Planning Committee’s biking subcommittee, I’m catching up on where we are in the process of moving from surveys and plans, to the execution of those plans.
We will need buy-in and commitment from our town officials, leaders, boards, agencies, departments, businesses,schools, Chamber of Commerce, churches and synagogues, library — and every voter.
Mark believes in a pyramid system to elicit change. At the bottom is policy. We must change rules, ordinances, practices and procedures to get outcomes that stick.
The next step up in the pyramid is projects. We need an infrastructure that improves our willingness to walk, bike and use transit. It must be safe, appealing and rewarded.
This is what a jogging and biking path might look like.
At the top, we must create and support programs that educate people and businesses in Westport about the importance of being walkable and bikeable. We must build awareness, and get buy-in.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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 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.
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.”)
Like many women, Tracy Yost’s volunteerism revolved around her children’s activities. Community service was a resume builder. Life was busy; time was tight.
Then, in 2013 — having just moved from Fairfield County to Santa Cruz, California — she discovered “100+ Women Who Care.”
Founded in 2006 in Michigan, it’s an organization so clever I barely know where to begin.
Every 3 months, there’s a 1-hour meeting. Each member brings a check for $100. Any member can nominate local charities, non-profits or worthy causes. All names are put in a hat.
Three names are drawn, randomly. The 3 members who nominated them make 5-minute presentations, “selling” their causes.
Everyone then votes on which cause to support. The winner gets all the checks — made out to them, on the spot.
100 women = $10,000. Amazing!
Within a year, Tracy’s nominee — Coastal Watershed Council — was drawn. She spoke passionately — and won.
“It was an amazing, powerful experience,” she recalls. “I felt so empowered, and so connected to the community.”
A few months later, her husband was transferred back to this area. Tracy knew she wanted to start a “100+ Women Who Care” chapter here.
A woman in Wilton had the same idea. Beth Kisielius contacted — out of all 150 or so chapters in the US and Canada — the Santa Cruz one for help. The 2 women connected quickly, and fortuitously.
Tracy arrived in Westport on January 16 (her birthday — go figure). Within a week, she and Beth had planned a working dinner.
Since then they’ve set up Facebook pages, a website and newsletters. Neither woman had ever done something like this, but clearly they are on a mission.
Now they’ve set a date for the 1st Fairfield County meeting. It’s Tuesday, March 10 (DoubleTree by Hilton, Norwalk). A social hour (5:30-6:30 p.m.) precedes the “business” meeting (6:30-7:30).
“We’re looking for women who are too busy to volunteer, or who like to know all the little things going on in the community, who like to get involved outside of their children’s schedules,” Tracy says.
She is passionate about the impact 100+ Women Who Care made on her life, in a little over a year in Santa Cruz.
“I felt connected to the community,” she says. “I felt empathy, because I heard very personal stories about people who struggle. I felt part of a group who strives to make a difference locally.
“The group not only donates 4 times a year. They connect people. They seek out ways to help. They raise the bar. They empowered me.”
Your charity doesn’t even have to win, for you to feel good. “It’s great just to tell 100 women about a really terrific cause,” Tracy notes. “And sometimes you spark an interest, and end up with new volunteers for your organization.”
(For more information on 100+ Women Who Care — including the March 10 meeting at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Norwalk, click here.)
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