Tag Archives: Westport CT Department of Human Services

A Decade Of “Ceremonies And Celebrations”

As high school and middle school graduations approach, many Westport students worry about what’s ahead.

Some have more immediate concerns: having the right clothes for the ceremony, and the festivities that surround it.

Class of 2013For 10 years, Westport’s Human Services Department has eased those fears. Its “Ceremonies and Celebrations” program helps purchase new clothing for graduates who cannot afford them.

Last year, 41  Westport students were able to purchase “special event” wear. This year’s need is even higher.

In the grand scheme of things, the right clothes for graduation might not seem like much. To a teenager, it can be the biggest thing in the world.

Tax-deductible checks (payable to “DHS Families Program”; memo line: “Ceremonies”) may be sent to the Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport CT 06880. Gift cards of any amount (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Marshall’s, The Gap, Trumbull Mall/Westfield Shopping Center) are also gratefully accepted.

Human Services notes that donations honoring a teacher or special person in a student’s life will be acknowledged with a letter to the honoree.

(For further information, call Patty Haberstroh at 341-1069.)

Heartwarming Holidays

“06880” reader Christy Colasurdo sent this important note along.  She says it perfectly — I wouldn’t add a word:

On Thursday I made the last of several trips to Toquet Hall.  Local volunteers were sorting donated clothing, toys, books, CDs and gift cards for our neighbors in need.

This year, Westport’s Human Services Department Holiday Family Giving Program received a record number of requests from families hit hard by the recession.

To fill the need, it took a village. At King’s Highway Elementary School, for example, the kids raised more than $11,000 through bake sales, read-a-thons, even a walk-a-thon.  Everyone was told their efforts would help make the holidays brighter for other kids like them, whose parents had lost jobs or were experiencing financial difficulties. Knowing this, they pushed themselves, and learned that the true spirit of the holiday lies in giving to others.

Next, an army of mom shoppers filled the wish lists of 110 individuals, running to outlet centers, malls, megastores and supermarkets, picking up gift cards, warm jackets, boots, a countertop oven and all sorts of small items for kids and their families. This scenario played itself out at all the elementary and middle schools in town, and at Staples too.

This week, another army of volunteers sorted the goods collected from the schools and other community organizations.   Then Patty Haberstroh, Westport’s real Santa, called her clients and brought them individually into Toquet Hall, where they privately received their early Christmas loot.

Yesterday, a mom came in with her daughters not 5 minutes after a generous client dropped off 2 beautiful new faux-fur-lined parkas that fit both girls perfectly.  An 8-year-old Coleytown student donated all of his birthday gifts to the cause.  These little moments of serendipity bring the efforts home.

People in Westport are proud, and Human Services strives to serve them with the utmost confidentiality and respect.  Although Patty gets to know her clients well, she ensures that they remain anonymous in the community.

The need for donations doesn’t stop at the holidays.  In fact, it ramps up, as many folks are simply too tapped out to consider reaching into their wallets for one more gift.  But  the Human Services Department, located on the 1st floor of Town Hall, gladly accepts donations of cash or gift cards from supermarkets, gas companies, CVS, Walmart—wherever!  Every little bit helps a family stay afloat.

(For more information, call Patty Haberstroh at 203-341-1069.)

Backpack For A Cause

Back-to-school shopping is seldom the grinning, hand-holding experience portrayed in TV and print ads.

backpacksKids worry they’ll have the “wrong” notebooks or pens.  Parents fear they’ll forget something important, and their kid’s teacher will think they’re idiots.

Other Westporters have a deeper, more realistic fear:  They can’t pay for everything their kids need.

Every year that’s true.  In 2009, it’s truer than ever.

Fortunately, Westport’s Human Services Department is on the case.

Its annual Back to School program, offering supplies to eligible families, begins tomorrow.  It runs for a week.

The program provides new backpacks and school materials, as well as shoe gift cards, to low-income Westporters.  Last year, 186 kids from 99 families received assistance.  It doesn’t take Nostradamus to know this year’s numbers will be higher.

The program depends entirely on the generosity of individuals and organizations.  Tax-deductible monetary donations, made payable to “Families in Need Fund” (memo:  “Backpacks”) can be sent to, or dropped off at, Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave. (Town Hall), Westport CT 06880.

Donations of new school supplies — including backpacks, that most visible fitting-in sign of all — can be made at Room 200 in Town Hall, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

To find out if you qualify for assistance, contact Margaret Pinheiro by phone (341-1050) or email (humansrv@westportct.gov).

Celebrating, Westport-Style

Little things mean a lot.

As high school and middle school graduations approach, some Westport students worry about having the right clothes for the ceremony, and the festivities that surround it.

Class of 2009For 6 years, Westport’s Human Services Department has eased those fears.  Its “Ceremonies and Celebrations” program helps purchase new clothing for graduates. 

Last year, 30 Westport students bought “special event” wear.  It doesn’t take a valedictorian to know this year’s need is higher.

In the grand scheme of things, the right clothes for graduation might not seem like a big deal.  To a teenager, it can be huge. 

Checks (payable to the “Families in Need” fund; memo line: “Ceremonies”) may be sent to the Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport CT 06880.  Gift cards of any amount (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Marshall’s, The Gap, Trumbull Mall/Westfield Shopping Center) are also gratefully accepted.

(For further information, call Patty Haberstroh at 341-1069.)