Tag Archives: Westport Rotary Club

LobsterFest Canceled — But Support Still Strong

Westport Rotary Club’s annual LobsterFest is one of the town’s great events.

Held at Compo Beach in late September — when the weather is great, and the lobsters (and steaks) are even greater — it’s the perfect way for 1,600 folks to celebrate the end of summer.

It’s also one of the biggest Rotary fundraisers in Connecticut. 100% of the proceeds go to 35 area nonprofits that address poverty, education and social needs, and other development programs overseas.

As the sun set on Lobster Fest in 2016, no one wanted to leave.

LobsterFest is one more cherished tradition to fall victim to COVID-19. But the 9th annual event is not going away.

Many sponsors have already decided it’s too important to drop. They’re contributing their usual amounts, so that Rotary can continue to support so many causes.

Westport Rotary president Leslie Roberts says, “It is important to us to make a responsible decision that considers our community and the sponsors who generously support us. Eradicating disease is a priority for Rotary clubs around the world. As Rotarians, we decided the best choice in the current environment is to cancel the physical LobsterFest event.”

In its place rises “2020 LobsterFest: A Charitable Fundraiser.” Donations from sponsors and would-be guests will honored with banners and lawn signs around Westport, and in media releases and ads.

There’s plenty of time to donate. The deadline is October 30. But you can do it right now — just click here.

(Rotary Club lunch meetings are being conducted virtually via Zoom, 3 Tuesdays a month from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Membership inquiries are welcome: leslie2of8@gmail.com or fidesmo@aol.com.

A few of the 3,000 lobsters.

 

COVID-19 Roundup: Gardens; $$$; More

 


The Westport Garden Club‘s spring plant sale is always a red letter date for green thumbs.

Like so many other events, it’s fallen victim to the coronavirus. But, the club says, it’s only postponed — not canceled. A new date will be announced soon.

COVID-19 has not knocked other plans. Members of the 96-year-old organization continue to beautify and maintain gardens and cemeteries all over town.

They’ve been busy at Grace Salmon Park, Nevada Hitchcock Park, Adams Academy, Earthplace and more. No more than 2 members work at any time, and they keep far apart while weeding, pruning and planting.

Next up: extending the Pollinator Pathway project begun last year, and enhancing the town with floral accents.

Beautiful Grace Salmon Park (Photo/Ginger Donaher)


Westport Rotary Club grants are usually a big deal, unveiled with fanfare at a big May meeting.

This year, the pandemic forced a change. $80,000 in funding was announced by email. And it’s going out now — not next month — because for many recipients, the need is urgent.

Thanks to fundraisers like LobsterFest, and ongoing hard work by members, Westport Rotary can help 35 local organizations. They include Staples Tuition Grants, Homes with Hope, CLASP Homes, and a wide range of Westport-based social services, housing, education and addiction services organizations.

Also receiving grants: Bridgeport and Norwalk organizations that serve the needy, including Mercy Learning Center, Family ReEntry and the Carver Foundation.


Speaking of Mercy Learning: Many Westporters are longtime volunteers. The Bridgeport program provides underserved women with academic, language, computer and life skills; early childhood education; assistance preparing for citizenship, and mental health, job and financial counseling.

Recently, many more Westporters have given generously, as the organization adds food, medicine and diapers for women in need.

Yesterday, the National Catholic Reporter shined a great spotlight on MLC. It’s featured in the paper’s “Saints Next Door.” Click here for the full story on this wonderful institution — and the great people behind it. (Hat tip: Diane Johnson)


More great philanthropic news:

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is giving 90 grants totaling $1,359,500 from its COVID-19 Resiliency Fund. The project was launched just a month ago. Click here for the list.

But they’re not stopping there. An anonymous donor will match every donation — up to a total of $500,000. Click here to make a donation of any size. Every dollar counts!


And finally, a beautiful song that means more than ever, these days:

“State Of The Town” Meeting Set For Sunday

Presidents have their State of the Union addresses. Governors deliver (oddly named) “State of the State” talks.

This Sunday (January 26, 2 p.m., Westport Library), 1st Selectman Jim Marpe will discuss the “State of the Town.” He’ll be joined by Board of Education chair Candice Savin.

They’ll look back at town and school accomplishments over the past year, and preview upcoming initiatives.

There’s audience participation too. A question-and-answer session will be led by RTM deputy moderator Jeffrey Wieser.

The event is sponsored by Westport’s 2 Rotary clubs.

Rotary Clubs: What They Do, And How They Do It

Yesterday’s “06880” highlighted the role that Westport’s Rotary clubs play, helping bring democratic values to Ukraine.

The Westport Rotary and Sunrise Rotary are 2 of the more than 35,000 Rotaries worldwide. The couple of hundred members are part of a global organization of 1.6 million. Their projects are international — like Ukraine — but much of their work takes place right here at home.

Westport Rotary was founded 100 years ago, in 1919. Its Sunrise sister is newer — it’s just 31 years old. Sunrise accommodates people who want to give back, but prefer breakfast meetings to midday.

Meetings include sharing of good news, guest speakers, and project plans. Recently, a member mentioned a wheelchair-bound World War II veteran whose home and yard needed major work. A dozen Rotarians spent 2 Saturdays getting it done. Their breaks were enriched by amazing stories of his D-Day landing at Normandy.

Many meetings include presentations by executives of non-profits. They share their organizations’ missions, accomplishments and needs. Club members are often inspired to help.

For example, Homes with Hope — which provides services and housing options to families and individuals seeking their way out of homelessness — is the recipient of monthly meal servings by Sunrise Rotary members. They also sponsor a July 4th barbecue, and food drive the day before the Super Bowl.

Rotary speakers have included the executive director of the Syria Fund, which provides education and assistance to refugees; the CEO of Norwalk’s Carver Foundation, who talked about the “opportunity gap” in education, and the headmaster of the Southport School, which educates students with dyslexia, and tied together the twin issues of incarceration and undiagnosed learning disabilities.

Of course, all of the Rotary Clubs’ charitable efforts cost money. Westporters are familiar with fundraisers like the Great Duck Race and LobsterFest.

Up next: Sunrise Rotary’s Uncorked Wine Tasting Gala.

Good times at last year’s Uncorked wine tasting, at the Inn at Longshore.

The event — set for this Friday (November 22, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., the Inn at Longshore) features 100 wines, craft beers and non-alcoholic drinks, all curated by Cory D’Addario of The Wine Company Westport (the new name for the old Liquor Locker). A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, she is an expert at the synergy between wine and food.

On tap too: excellent hors d’oeuvres, authentic French breads, desserts and amazing chocolates. Full case beverages can be purchased for discounts.

Westport’s Rotary Clubs often operate under the radar. On Friday, you can get a great “taste” of their wonderful work.

(For tickets to the Uncorked Wine Tasting Gala, click here.)

Fairfield’s Isabelle et Vincent will provide authentic French baked goods.

Rotary Clubs Reach Out To Ukraine

For months, Americans have been flooded with news about Ukraine.

For most of us, it’s a foreign country. We can’t quite figure out its politics, its place in the world, or all the political and business figures with similar-sounding names who seem to be doing nefarious things.

Ken Bernhard is not confused.

Ken Bernhard

The longtime Westporter — an attorney who spent 8 years representing Westport in the General Assembly, rising to assistant minority leader; served as 3rd selectman from 1987-89; was on the Zoning Board of Appeals; has been on boards from the Library and Chamber of Commerce to Earthplace, Levitt Pavilion and Aspetuck Land Trust; helped found the Syria Fund for refugee aid, is involved with an orphanage in Haiti, collects shoes for thousands of children worldwide and raises guide dogs — has a connection to that Crimean nation too.

Three years ago, he taught law in the port city of Berdyansk. With that nation in the news now, he wanted to see what his Westport Sunrise Rotary Club — and its sister organization, the Westport Rotary — could do to foster the rule of law and due process.

“We wanted to give evidence that we support democratic values,” he explains.

Through a professor friend in Berdyansk, he found that the law university hoped to construct a moot courtroom where students could learn courtroom skills.

Both clubs quickly agreed to finance construction.

Nothing is easy there. But as soon as banking requirements are fulfilled, and the necessary documents are translated and executed, the project can begin.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Ukraine. But this is one unimpeachable fact: Halfway around the world, Westport is helping democracy thrive.

Ken Bernhard (left) with students in Berdyansk, Ukraine. They hold a Connecticut state flag.

Pic Of The Day #888

Yesterday’s Lobster Fest was a sellout success. A crowd of 1,200 helped the Westport Rotary Club raise tens of thousands of dollars for charitable causes here and abroad.

On the day after an international climate change awareness day, the event had a sustainable bent. Nearly everything was recycled or reused — from steak bones and corn husks to plates, trays and cups.

Plus 2,400 lobsters, and plenty of oysters. At the end of the day, a company hauled away all those shells, for compost. Score one more success for our Westport Rotarians!

(Photos/Sharon Lipper)

LobsterFest: Old Tradition Embraces New Recycling

The Westport Rotary Club‘s LobsterFest is a great Westport tradition.

Over 300 volunteers serve 2,400 lobsters, 300 steaks, 1,600 ears of corn, and plenty of raw oysters to 1,200 ticketholders.

Though the goal is great — proceeds support more than 30 local organizations, plus international Rotary projects — it can be an environmental mess.

At the end of the event, there’s a lot of trash.

Where are you — well, all those volunteers — gonna put all those lobster and oyster shells, steak bones and husks, not to mention thousands of knives, forks, paper plates and napkins?

Don’t worry! These folks think of everything.

This year’s event — set for Saturday, September 21 (3 to 7 p.m., Compo Beach) — is environmentally friendly. Thanks to a partnership with Sustainable Westport, LobsterFest focuses as much on recycling as on raising money for charity.

Tony McDowell — Rotarian, former Fest chair and now a member of the organizing team — explains that this year’s feast picks up where other town local initiatives like the Maker Faire left off.

Last spring, that townwide event recycled in a big way. Every garbage can was labeled for the different type of trash to be deposited in it. Greens Farms Elementary School does the same thing, in their cafeteria.

Greens Farms El offers 3 choices for waste:

LobsterFest will do it too. A company will haul away lobster shells, and compostable plates, trays and cups. Almost all waste will be reused.

But not all. Some plastic knives and forks remain from last year. Moving forward, the event will use all corn-based utensils.

The red trays are plastic. But they’re reused every year.

LobsterFest is a fun, family event. Kids’ activities include the Melissa & Doug children’s tent. The Hot Rubber Monkey Band returns too.

A $60 ticket includes two 1-and-a-quarter-pound lobsters, or a 14-ounce New York strip steak, plus corn, cole slaw, bread and butter, potato salad, peppermint patties, and all the beer or wine you can drink. There’s also a $10 menu for children 12 and under.

Tickets are available only in advance. Click here to order online. They can also be purchased at Joey’s by the Shore, or from any Rotary Club member.

NOTE: The Westport Rotary LobsterFest is different from the Westport Lobster Festival, sponsored by Westport Lifestyles magazine. That event is September 28, at the Fairfield County Hunt Club; it includes a polo match and balloon festival.

No word yet on how much they’ll recycle their lobster shells, utensils and trays.

Photo Challenge #223

On the one hand, it might be called cheating that Rick Benson immediately knew the site of last week’s Photo Challenge.

Alec Head’s image showed the Rotary International symbol in cement. Rick said it was at a bus stop shelter — either in front of Super Stop & Shop, or on Kings Highway North near Canal Street. (It was the latter. Click here for the photo.)

Rick should know. As a longtime Westport Rotary Club member — he’s active at the state level too — he was a driving force behind both shelter projects.

On the other hand, it’s not cheating when we’re highlighting such good works. So let’s give Rick — and all of Rotary — a hand!

This week’s Photo Challenge is a 2-fer. They’re both taken in the same area. And — believe it or not — both are near a state route running through Westport.

If you think you know where you’d see these sights, click “Comments” below.

(Photos/Patrick Laffaye)

Photo Challenge #222

Last week’s Photo Challenge was a seahorse.

Okay, not a living one. This one’s a much larger sculpture.

For some reason, it’s located next to the Parker Mansion (former Mansion Clam House) outdoor dining area.

Diane Silfen, John D. McCarthy, Sue Iseman, Andrew Colabella, Christine Utter, Joelle Malec, Elizabeth Devoll, Peter Barlow, Susan Miller and Richard Santalesa all knew where to find it. (Click here for the photo.)

But no one has yet explained why it’s there. Or for how long. Or who created it. Or any other bit of back story.

If you know anything about this very cool seahorse, click “Comments” below.

Click “Comments” too if you know where in Westport you’d find this week’s Photo Challenge.

(Of course it’s the Rotary International symbol. But which particular local project does this honor? That’s the question!)

(Photo/Alec Head)

Unsung Heroes #66

Hundreds of Westporters enjoyed lobsters (and more) at last weekend’s annual Lobsterfest.

Hundreds more pack downtown every June for the Great Duck Race.

A few take advantage of a specialized wheelchair, to enjoy the sand and shore at Compo Beach.

All are events sponsored — and projects supported — by Westport’s 2 Rotary clubs.

One meets Tuesdays at noon, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall.

The Sunrise Rotary meets Fridays at 7:30 a.m., at the Westport Inn.

Both clubs are filled with busy Westporters, who nonetheless give astonishing amounts of time and energy to raise tons of money. Then they give it all away, to help people in town, across Connecticut, elsewhere in the US and around the world.

I am a huge fan of both the Sunrise and noontime Rotary Clubs. But I admit: I have a hard time keeping them apart.

No matter. Rotarians in both groups put aside their friendly (I think) rivalry, to support each other’s good works — and Rotary International in general.

You may have no idea that so much good comes out of so much hard work, by so many neighbors.

That’s why Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)