Tag Archives: Westport Department of Human Services

COVID-19 Roundup: Human Services News; CT FAQs; What’s Open; Resource Pages Galore; Interesting Offers; Inspiring Stories And More

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has added a new page: Markets. It includes not just supermarkets, but food sellers like Balducci’s, Double L, Organic Market and Stiles, with hours of operation (including senior shopping) and phone numbers. Click here to see.

It’s an invaluable service — as is their other page featuring restaurants that offer takeout and delivery. Click here to see.


Human Services Department director Elaine Daignault says:

“The health and safety of our residents is our top priority. The Department of Human Services stands ready to help. Many seniors and other at-risk populations may need assistance in procuring supplies for extended self-isolation. DHS is investigating ways to provide safe and efficient help to at-risk homebound seniors and/or households.

“We encourage residents to call their neighbors and offer help, while taking care to follow CDC precautions by keeping a safe social distance. Remember that even if you are feeling well, you could still be a carrier of the virus.”

The Department has compiled a guide that provides up-to-date financial and social services information for the most vulnerable and at-risk members of the Westport community. Click here to see.

Residents should call Human Services at 203-341-1050 or email humansrv@westportct.gov if they or a neighbor have an emergency need of food or medications, or need other help.

For general town information on the coronavirus, click here.


WestportMoms.com constantly updates their list of things to do with kids (Quarantine Scavenger Hunt, anyone?), along with resources and even a bit of humor. They’re on Facebook and Instagram too, and via email newsletter.


The State of Connecticut has a superb, 34-page document answering Frequently Asked Questions about the coronavirus. It covers everything from testing and childcare to the DMV, unemployment and medical leave. Click here to download.


Alert and involved “06880” reader Gil Ghitelman reports that his wife Doris just came home with bunches of flowers from Trader Joe’s.

“I thought she blew the week’s budget,” he says. “But she told me they’re for some friends and neighbors.”

Gil was still thinking about the budget when Doris added that Jared — one of the Trader Joe’s guys — heard about her kindness. He told her the flowers were on the house.

“The budget’s intact. A bunch of people are happy. And a big hat tip to TJ’s!” Gil says.

 


Several readers report finding discarded latex gloves in supermarket and shopping center parking lots. Bring a bag — then dispose of them carefully! 


Connecticut restaurants are now allowed to sell alcohol with takeout and delivered meals. In addition, bars that deliver can sell beverages in sealed containers, just as liquor stores do.


Tonight (Friday, March 20, 7 p.m.), Senator Chris Murphy will host a telephone town hall. Click here to join in.


Besides the COVID-19 testing planned for Westport over the next 3 Tuesdays, there are other test options in Connecticut. Contact them for screening procedures:

• Yale New Haven Health system (833-275-9644)
• Hartford Health Care (833-621-0600)
• Stamford Health (203-276-4111)
• Connecticut Children’s Hospital (833-226-2362)
• DOCS Urgent Care https://docsmedicalgroup.com/telemedicine/


The Red Cross is in dire need of blood. Click here for donation centers, and to learn who is eligible to give during this pandemic.

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Staples High School Class of 1985 grad Mitch McManus is president of BMW of Bridgeport. They’ll drop a loaner off at your home or workplace, then take your car in for service. I am sure many other dealerships offer ways to avoid crowds too. Call yours for details.


CVS is no longer open 24/7. The new hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. They do offer free delivery (1 to 2 days) of prescriptions and other “essential” items. Click here for details.


Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles will not allow remote or distance driver’s ed classes. (Probably a good move, all things considered.)

So The Next Street — a private company — has pivoted. They’re offering students a 10-week “Intro to Entrepreneurship” remote course — for free. (It is open too to anyone interested in starting and running their own businenss).

The course meets via Zoom on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m. Click here for info.


The Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County asks children to send pictures and letters, to be shared with seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers. Click here for details.

 

Senior Center Suspends Programs

Westport’s Senior Center is the latest victim of the COVID-19 virus.

A press release from Human Services Department director Elaine Daignault says:

The Westport Center for Senior Activities will suspend daily programs until further notice. This decision has been made after a thorough examination of the widespread health risks posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The closure impacts all activities held by the Senior Center, except for the Home Delivered Meal Program which will continue to deliver to homebound seniors.

Starting Thursday, there will be no daily congregate luncheon program or outside groups utilizing the facility. The building will be open on Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during this period, but no programs, activities or scheduled will occur.

The Westport Senior Center.

Senior Center director Susan Pfister said, “The Center has been diligent in following CDC guidelines and has continued to encourage residents to regularly wash their hands, cover a cough or sneeze, and remain at home when feeling unwell in order to minimize the spread of the virus.

“There is no indication of reported cases of the COVID-19 at the Center at this time. The governor’s recent announcement to declare a public health emergency and a civil preparedness emergency in response to the coronavirus exemplifies just how serious this situation is.  This decision to suspend all programming was based on the health and safety of our senior participants, their families and out of an abundance of caution for the greater community.”

Although the Senior Center will be closed for general programming, the staff will be on site for routine administrative operations and communications via telephone and email in order to remain connected to residents. To contact the Center, call 203-341-5099 or email seniorcenter@westportct.gov.

Senior Center gatherings are on hold through the end of March.

The Town of Westport is encouraging all residents to practice social distancing by maintaining a 6-foot distance between yourself and others, and to take extra precautions by planning for possible social isolation by stocking their pantries with enough food for 2 to 4 weeks, procuring necessary medicine and reaching out to loved ones and neighbors to inform them of their status.

Neighbors are encouraged to check on seniors in their neighborhoods via telephone, to offer assistance and/or refer them to Human Services as needed.

It is advisable to follow reliable news sources for updates including www.westportct.gov, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus, www.wwhd.org, and www.ct.gov/coronavirus. Any resident seeking more local information and resources regarding the COVID-19 can receive the town’s press releases by going to www.WestportCT.Gov/subscribe and selecting “town news.” Residents are encouraged to sign up for the Westport emergency notification system by texting 06880 to 888777 to subscribe, or go online to sign up.

The Senior Center is a program of the Department of Human Services, which offers a variety of services to residents. The department will continue to provide essential support services in the safest possible environment for staff and with careful consideration of our most vulnerable clients.

Residents requiring additional support are encouraged to call 203-341-1050 or visit the Human Services webpage on the town website for information on available services — including the Westport Emergency Assistance application for seniors and people with disabilities who live alone and/or have special medical needs requiring assistance in times of emergency.

To apply for regular check-ins during an emergency, please complete the form online or request a paper copy. Seniors can also call DHS at 203-341-1050 to provide information over the phone.

COVID-19 is an evolving situation, changing by the hour. The DHS, as part of the Emergency Operations Team, is engaged in meetings and coordinating with other government town agencies, and has contingency plans to address varying situations as they unfold.

The uncertainty related to COVID-19 may cause an increase in anxiety and depression among residents.  If you are a parent or a caregiver, and are looking for ways to manage the stress, the following articles may be helpful in establishing healthy coping and communication skills around this issue.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-talk-to-children-about-the-coronavirus-2020030719111

https://acl.gov/COVID-19

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/03/811656226/pandemic-panic-these-5-tips-can-help-you-regain-your-calm

The health and safety of our residents is our top priority. We stand ready to help as needed.

Free Tax Help Offered

No one likes paying taxes. And almost as bad is figuring them out.

Plowing through all those IRS forms and regulations can be particularly tough for folks without accountants or access to other help.

Fortunately — in conjunction with AARP and the IRS — Westport’s Department of Human Services provides a free, full-service tax assistance program. Special attention is paid to senior citizens, and low to moderate income households. (It is available to all filers, regardless of income or age.)

Tax preparation and electronic filing of federal and state taxes is offered from January 27 (early) through April 15 (really, really late) at 2 locations.

The Senior Center program runs Wednesdays (9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and Thursdays (1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.). Call 203-341-5099 for appointments.

The Town Hall program runs Mondays, from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call 203-341-1050 for appointments.

Nationwide, more than 35,000 IRS-certified volunteers help out, at nearly 5,000 sites. Last year, 748 returns were filed in Westport.

Tax forms can be daunting for anyone.

If married, both spouses should be present at the appointment. Taxpayers must bring:

  • Copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns
  • Government-issued photo ID
  • Social Security or ITIN numbers for all taxpayers and dependents
  • Bank account/routing numbers (blank check preferred) if expecting a refun
  • SSA1099 if you were paid Social Security benefits
  • W-2s from employers
  • W-2G from gambling winnings
  • 1099G from unemployment compensation payments
  • 1099s: bank interest, stock dividends, retirement distributions, broker statements
  • Receipts for deductible expenses, including real estate and vehicle taxes paid
  • Verification of the original purchase price of sold assets (home, stocks, etc.)
  • Receipts/canceled checks if itemizing deductions (charitable contributions, etc.)
  • Form 1095-A if health insurance was from the Access Health Connecticut Marketplace.

For more information, call the Department of Human Services: 203-341-1050.

NOTE: The “tax assistance program” refers to helping figure out your taxes — not actually paying them. Damn!

Persona Of The Week: Westport’s Human Services Department

With the holiday season in full swing, Westporters frantically shuttle between shopping and holiday parties.

Yet despite our perceived affluence, many families here struggle to buy gifts for their kids, or pay heating bills as the weather gets colder.

In this week’s “Persona” 06880 interview, Rob Simmelkjaer sits with Susan Stefenson and Annette D’Augelli of Westport’s Department of Human Services. They discuss how Westporters can lend a hand to neighbors in need this holiday season.

How To Help This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

And to help those whose holidays may otherwise be less than joyful.

Eileen Daignault — director of Westport’s Department of Human Services — offers these ideas:

You and your family can ring the Salvation Army bell, December 14 at the Westport or Fairfield Stop & Shop. This date and these locations directly benefit Westport residents in need. To help, click here.

You can also deliver a meal to homebound residents on Christmas or New Year’s Day.

Brighten someone’s day by delivering a Christmas or New Year’s Day meal.

Volunteers meet at the Sherwood Diner mid-morning to pick up their food and route. They head to the home of the resident, knock on the door and offer the meal. Some residents even invite you in for a few minutes.

Volunteers deliver 1 to 4 meals. Families and friends can deliver together. To help out on one or both days, click here. For more information, email kmalagise@westportct.gov.

Human Services’ Holiday Giving Program is also in full swing. Last year, 412 people — including 229 children — were helped by this effort. To purchase gifts or gift cards, or donate cash, click here, then scroll down). For more information, contact sstefenson@westportct.gov.


Meanwhile, Westporter Joel Treisman and his daughters have initiated a winter clothing drive. They are collecting new and gently used adult winter gloves, hats and scarves for the Gillespie Center. Overflow items will go to nearby shelters.

Collection bins have been placed at Westport F-45 Team Training, 222 Post Road West (5:15 a.m. to 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.); Steven Mancini Salon, 180 Post Road East (business hours, Tuesday through Friday) and JoyRide Cycling, 1200 Post Road East (weekday and and weekend mornings; weekday evenings).

Joel Treisman, JoyRide’s Michaela Conlon, and a collection bin.

Make A Difference — And Help For the Holidays

It started out as “Make a Difference Day.” Now, the Westport event spans the entire month of October.

The goal is for volunteers to help local non-profits. They register their projects; willing hands are then matched with needs.

Projects are updated regularly. They include painting, maintenance, helping with compost piles, collecting used eyeglasses and children’s clothes — you name it. Click here for a list.

To register a project — or volunteer for one — click here.

It’s a month-long event — but Saturday, October 26 is special. Volunteers will gather at Christ & Holy Trinity Church at 9 a.m. They’ll assemble toiletry bags for homeless men, comfort bags for abused women, arts and craft kits for children in need, and Hug a Senior bags.

Click here for the full Make a Difference Day Month website. For more information, call Barbara Pearson-Rac: 203-226-1390.

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Meanwhile, it’s not even Halloween. But Westport’s Department of Human Services is already thinking about the holidays.

They see a side of town most Westporters never do. The Town Hall staff knows our neighbors are coping with layoffs, reduced work hours, even foreclosures.

For years, Human Services has facilitated a Holiday Giving Program. It’s as important today as it ever was.

Residents can donate grocery and gas gift cards of any amount, as well as gift cards to local stores.

Cash donations are always welcome. They allow for the purchase of last-minute gift cards for clients. Residents who wish to shop for a family’s actual gift requests can do so, at whatever level the donor feels comfortable.

Organizations — including non-profits, religious institutions and businesses — can donate too.

The more the “merrier,” for sure.

(To donate online, click here; select “Holiday Giving” in the the “Seasonal Program” dropdown prompt. Checks made payable to “DHS Family Programs” — with “Holiday” on the memo line — may be mailed to Human Services, c/o Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880, or dropped off there in Room 200. For more information, email familyprograms@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-1183. Families that need support during the holidays should call 203-341-1050.)

Backpacks 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.

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

Its annual Back to School program, offering supplies to eligible families, is underway.

The program provides new backpacks and gift cards (Staples Office Supply, Walmart, Target) to income-eligible families with children in the Westport schools. Cash donations to the program are welcome too.

Last year, 181 boys and girls received assistance. Director of Human Services Elaine Daignault estimated the number as equivalent to 10 classrooms of kids.

“A growing number of Westport families face the burden of financial hardship,” she notes.

“Back-to-school time can be particularly stressful on a family budget. Thanks to generous Westporters, our department provides discreet assistance to families who want to give their children the best possible start to the school year.

“Parents can share in the excitement of back-to-school shopping with their children. And donors can be confident that 100% of their donations benefit their Westport neighbors.”

The program depends entirely on the generosity of individuals and organizations.

There’s a new online donation portal: click here. When you get to “Seasonal program name if applicable,” click “Back to School program” from the drop-down menu.

Tax-deductible monetary donations of any amount made payable to “Family Programs Fund” (memo: “Backpacks”), as well as gift cards, can be sent to: Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave. (Town Hall), Westport CT 06880.

New backpacks and gift cards can be dropped off at the department offices, Room 200 in Town Hall, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., now through August 12.

To find out if you qualify for assistance, call 203-341-1050, or email emilton@westportct.gov.

Weather Or Not: Be Ready!

It’s not Chicago. Or Wisconsin. Or International Falls.

But the weather this week could be pretty nasty. (Right now, snow is squalling and winds are howling).

Westport’s Department of Human Services reminds residents that there are resources available to those who need assistance during weather emergencies.

Don’t be that guy (or girl).

DHS works closely with police, fire, EMS and the health district to help seniors and people with disabilities. Residents are encouraged to plan ahead by registering with DHS before a storm or emergency hits. Call 203-341-1050, or click here to search for information on these programs:

  • Westport Emergency Evacuation Assistance
  • File of Life
  • NIXLE
  • Assistance with home heating expenses
  • Voluntary Registry for People with Disabilities
  • One-on-one assistance

The best way to stay informed about weather related advisories, alerts and community messages is to pre-register for the assistance programs, and utilize local news and information resources including the town’s website (www.westportct.gov) and/or the town Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/westportct).

Additional updates may be posted on the Westport Fire Department Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/westportctfire

4 Ways To Make A Difference

Westporters care.

We care about our friends and neighbors. We care about kids and older folks in need, here and in nearby towns and cities.

We want to help — particularly in this holiday season.

But we don’t always know how.

Here are a few great ideas.


The Westport Police Department Local Union #2080 and Police Benevolent Association host an annual Holiday Toy Drive. Thousands of donations benefit underprivileged children throughout Fairfield County, and beyond.

Westport police officers will accept new, unopened and unwrapped toys — and cash donations — in the ASF Sports parking lot (1560 Post Road East) on Saturdays and Sundays, December 8, 9, 15 and 16, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Collection boxes will also be set up from Monday (December 3) through December 16, at:

  • Westport Police Department, 50 Jesup Road (24 hours a day)
  • Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue (weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
  • ASF Sports, 1560 Post Road East (weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Questions? Email jruggiero@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-6017.

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Westport’s Department of Human Services annual, confidential Holiday Giving Program helps over 400 residents each year.

Donors contribute gift cards to local stores, supermarkets and gas stations. Cash donations are welcome too; Human Services staff uses them to make purchases for clients.

Checks (payable to “DHS Family Programs,” with “Holidays” on the memo line) and gift cards may be mailed to or dropped off at: Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Room 200, Westport, CT 06880.

For more information, email hsyouth@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-1069. Individuals and families needing extra support during the holiday season should call 203-341-1050.


A new online option helps Westport’s most vulnerable residents this season — and beyond. Over 400 individuals and families in town meet the federal poverty level.

The “WeCare Westport” portal provides access to 7 funds:

The Barbara Butler Fund connects at-risk youth with enrichment opportunities.

The Residents in Need Fund provides emergency financial assistance for food, shelter, utilities, medical expenses and other critical needs to Westport residents meeting income guidelines.

The Senior Client Needs Fund serves seniors on limited or fixed incomes during periods of financial hardship.

The Family-to-Family Fund supports offers help with unforeseen expenses during times of financial hardship.

Toquet Hall, located downtown, offers social, cultural and recreational opportunities to teenagers.

Prevention and Educational Programming gives free education and awareness events addressing substance abuse, mental health and parenting education.

Donors who want to help but have no preference of which population to assist can direct funds to the Area of Most Need. This assists residents of any age, when most urgently needed.

To donate to any of these 7 funds, click here.


In recent years, Bridgeport’s Cesar Batalla School has become a favorite destination for Westporters hoping to help youngsters enjoy the holidays.

The school serves children in high poverty brackets. Some live in shelters. 100% are fed breakfast and lunch at school.

Their families have no money for basic necessities — let alone holiday gifts.

Westporters can provide some of those gifts, for children in pre-K through 3rd grade.

It’s easy: Click here to order online from Amazon. Orders from the Wish List will be shipped directly to the school. They are also accepting donations at the Family Resource Center in the school (606 Howard Avenue, Bridgeport).  Call 203-579-8526 for drop-off times. For more information, email blabrador@bridgeportedu.net.

In addition, Lucy’s (23 Jesup Road, next to Green and Tonic ) is taking donations for the Cesar Batalla School. Unwrapped new toys can be dropped off Mondays through Saturdays (10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays noon to 5pm).

If interested, act now! Gifts will be given by Santa on December 20.

In 2016, Westporters donated these gifts to the Cesar Batalla School.

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(These are only a few ways to help. To add your own favorite cause, click “Comments” below.)

 

Backpacks 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.

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

Its annual Back to School program, offering supplies to eligible families, is underway.

The program provides new backpacks and gift cards (Staples Office Supply, Walmart, Target) to income-eligible families with children in the Westport schools. Cash donations to the program are welcome too.

Last year, scores of youngsters received assistance. Director of Human Services Elaine Daignault estimated the number as equivalent to 10 classrooms of kids.

“A growing number of Westport families face the burden of financial hardship,” she notes.

“Back-to-school time can be particularly stressful on a family budget. Thanks to generous Westporters, our department provides discreet assistance to families who want to give their children the best possible start to the school year.

“Parents can share in the excitement of back-to-school shopping with their children. And donors can be confident that 100% of their donations benefit their Westport neighbors.”

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

New backpacks can be dropped off at the department offices, Room 200 in Town Hall, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., now through August 20.

To find out if you qualify for assistance, contact Margaret Piheiro at 341-1050, or email emilton@westportct.gov.