Tag Archives: Westport Rotary Club

Roundup: Bike Lights, Jim Himes, Beechwood Arts …

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“06880” gave the wrong date yesterday for the 42nd annual Compo Beach Point to Point Swim. The correct date is Sunday, July 18.

The rest of the story was correct. Its a ton of fun — and a key fundraiser for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s aquatics program.

There are awards for the top 3 male and female finishers, and t-shirts for all. To register, click here. For more information email jrojas@wesetporty.org, or call 203-226-8981, ext. 139.

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John Richers writes:

On Monday night I drove on Hillspoint Road, from the Post Road to the Mill Pond. Just before 10 p.m., I saw 3 separate groups of 2 or 3 teens (or “tweens”) on bikes with no lights heading north, probably from the beach.

It was scary! I want parents to know: Please set your kids’ bikes up with lights. A set of rechargeable white front headlight and red taillight can be ordered through Amazon for under $20. A priceless investment! (Most safety-conscious bicyclists use strobing lights in broad daylight to increase visibility and safety.)

Just a moment of driver inattention or distraction could have tragic consequences. Parents need to know the dangers their kids are facing!

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Got a question, complaint or (even) praise for Jim Himes? Tell him in person.

Our congressman holds a “town hall”-style meeting at the Westport Library on Saturday, July 17 (11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.). Seating is limited; click here to register.

Congressman Jim Himes, at a previous “town hall” meeting at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Speaking of politics: As one of the youngest state politicians in the country, 2014 Staples High School graduate (and state senator) Will Haskell often gets calls from students and recent graduates. They ask how to run for office.

He doesn’t have all the answers. But he’s put his thoughts together in a new Simon & Schuster book. “100,000 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22-Year-Old Lawmaker” describes his 2018 campaign, and first year in the Connecticut Senate.

Haskell’s book goes on sale in January. It’s available for pre-sale now. Click here to order, and for more information.


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Beechwood Arts’ most popular annual event returns August 1 (2 to 6 p.m.).

The grounds at 52 Weston Road will be open. That’s fitting. This year’s theme is “Opening Up.” It’s Beechwood’s first full, in-person arts immersion experience since fall of 2019.

The event marks Beechwood’s 10th year. Favorite musical artists from the past will be on hand; there are special arts installations too, along with spontaneous community performances, an outdoor artist market and sculptures, all on Beechwood’s beautiful property.

Artists and performers are welcome to share their talents. Click here for tickets, and more information on how to take part.

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When the Westport Rotary Club and Westport Soccer Association partnered on a gently used uniform and equipment drive, they expected a few donations.

What they got was astonishing: over 200 pairs of cleats, 150 soccer balls, dozens of jerseys, backpacks, shin guards, cones, even referee equipment.

It will all be shipped to a club in Nicaragua, which will use all of it. Score a big win for Westport!

Leslie Roberts, former Westport Rotary Club president, with a small portion of the donated soccer gear.

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The Westport Police has joined the Gillespie Center food pantry drive.

Now through August, residents can drop items off at the Gillespie Center courtyard (behind Don Memo restaurant, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays), or the Westport Police Department lobby, across from the Gillespie Center men’s shelter on Jesup Road (any time, 24/7).

Non-perishable items needed include canned meats, tuna, salmon, Spam, pasta sauces, hot and cold cereals, canned fruits and soups, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, mac and cheese, paper goods and reusable bags.

Questions? Call 203-226-3426, or email info@hwhct.org.

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Maya Konig and Kathy Belzer met when their children were in Westport preschool. During the pandemic, they tried to think positively. Their combined love for exploring, experiencing and finding beauty in simple things led them to create Local Luxe Co.

It’s a “gift-giving company.” They source local products from artisans and “emerging makers” throughout the Northeast, and offer them online in seasonal collections. Options include real estate broker closing gifts, and corporate and special events.  

Products include environmentally friendly beach bags made from oyster traps, home accessories, eco-friendly wellness and beauty products for adults and tweens, and snacks and drinks.

Among their local partners: The Two-Oh-Three, Allison Daniels Designs, Laurel & Vine and Rustic Ridge.

A portion of proceeds will be given to Breathe4ALS, the foundation started by Westporters Jonathan and Iris Greenfield. (Click here for the Local Luxe Co. website.)

Gift options from Local Luxe Co.

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Noted artist Barbara Bernstein died last month, from chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. She was 86.

A colorist whose work evokes the legacy of the French Impressionists, she produced landscapes and interiors in both oils and watercolors. She was a founding member of Art/Place Gallery.

Barbara participated in more than 200 group and national juried shows, and won more than 40 awards. She was a juried artists member of the Connecticut Watercolor Society, Connecticut Women Artists and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. Her works are in the collections of General Electric Corp. the town of Westport and many others.

Passionate about art and education, she received two graduate degrees, in teaching and education. She taught art in the Westport school system for many years.

Barbara was also known for her commitment to social justice. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and protested the wars in Vietnam and Iraq in weekly vigils. She was arrested for civil disobedience while protesting the mining of Haiphong Harbor and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Barbara was also passionate about travel, often bringing her sketchbooks and watercolors on diverse treks. She traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America and New Zealand.

Barbara was preceded in death by her brother Albert and sister Alice. She is survived by her husband Joseph; children Eric, Sara and David; 2 nephews and many cousins.

Services are private. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Planned Parenthood or the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. For information or to sign an online register, click here.

Barbara Bernstein

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“Naturally … Westport” offers up today’s beautiful image:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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And finally … on this day in 1889, the Wall Street Journal published its first issue.

Also today in 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest level of the Great Depression. It closed at 41.22.

Roundup: Backpacks, Wings, Rotary …

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Many religious organizations take deserved summer breaks.

The Conservative Synagogue is launching a big Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) project. Their goal is to supply over 100 backpacks, fully stocked with school supplies, to local children in for the start of the school year this coming fall.

The first phase — during July — involves fundraising. Then come packing the backpacks, and delivering. For more information, click here.

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Westporters of a certain age remember fondly their introduction to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Now young Westporters of a certain age — grades kindergarten through 3 — return to the storied theater. “Story Hour with Jenny” — a live, in-person series — presents an interactive reading of the picture book “Wings” on Sunday, July 11 (11 a.m.). It’s about a boy whose appearance makes him the target of bullies.

“Story Hour with Jenny” is a series of readings of social justice picture books written and illustrated by BIPOC artists. Themes center on the 4 pillars of the Playhouse’s education department: empathy, collaboration, activism and literacy.

To register, click here, call 203-227-4177, or email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org.

Jenny Nelson, Westport Country Playhouse director of education and community engagement.

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Westport Rotary Club has a new president.

Lyla Steenburgen took over from Leslie Roberts at the annual Pass-the-Gavel Lobster Bake, at the Ned Dimes Marina.

“During the pandemic, a lot has been written about happiness and how to find fulfilment in life,” said Lyla, gift advancement officer at Bridgeport Hospital Foundation/Yale New Haven Health.

“Experts all say that it comes from connecting, belonging, being a part of something bigger than yourself, and engaging with and helping others – that’s Rotary. Rotary gives us the opportunity to render some service to the world in return for living in it. We are healthier and better citizens because of it.”

Leslie Roberts (left) hands the gavel to new Rotary Club president Lyla Steenbergen.

The Sunrise Rotary also changed presidents, at the same site. George Masumian will be replaced by Rick Jaffe. Mark Mathias sent along this drone video of the event:

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“06880” has posted plenty of “entitled parking” photos — many of them at Fresh Market.

This driver took up 6 spots (!) yesterday. But big props. If you’re going to park a vehicle that size, this is the way to do it.

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows droppings collected by Jay Dirnberger. They’re from a kousa dogwood tree.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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And finally … today in 1846, Adolphe Sax patented the saxophone.

(Two questions on the Doors’ song: Why did Robbie Kreiger have an amazing black eye? And did Jim Morrison actually forget his cue, midway through?)

Roundup: Leonard Bernstein, Yappy Hour, Kids Talking …

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The TriBeca Film Festival is back. This year, it’s very New York-centric.

Among the films: “Bernstein’s Wall.”

The Tribeca website describes the world premiere of the film directed by Westporter Douglas Tirola (4thRow Films; co-founder, Westport’s Remarkable Theater):

In this enlightening look at one of the greatest classical music figures of the 20th century, director Douglas Tirola mines a rich trove of interviews, television appearances, home movie footage, photos, letters to craft a comprehensive look at Leonard Bernstein, whose passion and drive took him well beyond the marvelous music he wrote and conducted.

Spanning the breadth of a life interwoven with key historic moments outside the concert hall, Bernstein’s Wall follows the son of a Russian Jewish immigrant who arrives in New York from his Boston hometown to eventually become conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and becomes a household name thanks to his numerous TV appearances, educating the public on all things symphonic, West Side Story, being seen with celebrities and politicians, and his crossing-the-line activism, from protesting the Vietnam War to (controversially) supporting the Black Panthers.

Tirola incorporates Bernstein’s personal life — his fraught relationship with his father, his marriage, his family life, his struggles to be at peace with his sexuality — to paint a complex portrait of a complex, driven individual who produced some of the most memorable music of his time as a product of those times.

(“Bernstein’s Wall” is available for streaming from June 15-23. Click here for details. Hat tip: Kerry Long)

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Yesterday’s Yappy Hour at MoCA Westport was paws-itively cool.

The arts center hosted plenty of dogs (and their owners) on its expansive Newtown Turnpike lawn. Food was collected for PAWS and Westport Animal Shelter Advocates.

Missed yesterday? Doggone it! The next one is July 1.

Yappy Hour at MoCA Westport! The next one will be held on Thursday, July 1.

Yappy hour, yesterday at MoCA Westport.

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Just in time for the end of the spring sports season: Westport Rotary Club and the Westport Soccer Association are collecting used soccer uniforms, clothing, shoes, shin guards, balls and other equipment.

They’ll ship it all to Nicaragua. Rotary already works there with NicaPhoteo, a non-profit that helps communities.

The soccer equipment is much needed. Soft backpack bags, old balls, socks, jerseys and shirts — it will all go to good use.

The drop-off location is 5 Sugar Maple Lane, Westport (off Whitney Street). There’s a box on the front porch. Please wash clothing items first!

Questions? Email registrar@westportsoccer.org.

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More than 30 years ago, kids were talking.

Dr. Donald Cohen’s nationally televised show — in which, well, kids talked (about everything in their lives) is being relaunched. Fittingly for a new century, it’s a livestream, on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch.

The first episode of the relaunch is tonight (Thursday, June 10), at 7 p.m. The topic is body image and eating disorders. Teenage guests come from Westport — and around the country.

“Kids Are Talking” started in 1990 at Fairfield University. It became a national radio call-in show on WICC, simulcast on Cablevision. In the late ’90s it found a home on WWPT-FM, broadcast from Toquet Hall.

“Kids Are Talking” and its host, Cohen, have been featured on “The CBS Morning Show”  and ABC-TV, as well as in the New York Times.

For more information, click here.

A retro poster.

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Traffic is up. Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, the Westport Police Department was on the lookout for people not wearing seatbelts.

The campaign — part of the state Department of Transportation’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign — yielded only 6 tickets.

Police call Westport compliance rate “remarkably high.” But until it’s 100%, they’ll stick be looking for infractions.

And don’t forget: After clicking your seatbelt, don’t look at your phone!

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TAP Strength Lab is the latest business to join the “Summer of Pride” promotion.

The downtown personalized fitness coaching, therapy, nutrition and preventative health center will donate 10% of the first month of membership (for new members who sign up now through August) to Westport Pride. Mention the code “Summer of Love.”

Oh, yeah: They’ve got a special Pride logo for this month too.

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Questions, concerns or just thoughts about Norwalk Hospital?

The local institution hosts an online “Community Update” (June 29, 5:30 to 7 p.m.).

President Peter Cordeau will discuss the latest hospital developments. an independent monitor will report on its review of compliance.

A Q-and-A session follows the presentation. Submit questions in advance by emailing (norwalkhospital.communityrelations@nuvancehealth.org), or call 203-852-2250. Click here for instructions on joining the virtual meeting.

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An osprey and a chick are today’s gorgeous “Westport … Naturally” subjects.

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

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Patricia Rogers Suda, died peacefully at home on May 24, surrounded by her loving family after a courageous fight against cancer. She was 69.

Born in New Haven, her family moved to Westport in 1959. She graduated in 1970 from Staples High, where she met and married the love of her life, Mark R. Suda.

Patti and Mark moved to Norwalk. They were married for nearly 50 years, before he passed in 2020.

Survivors include sons, Mark Suda Jr. (Michelle) and Joseph Suda (Amy); grandchildren Skyler, Madyson, Samantha and Joseph Jr.; brothers Bill, Paul and John Rogers; sister Janet Aitoro, and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Patti loved watching her sons in their sports. From Cranbury League baseball and Pop Warner football, to high school baseball and football, she was there. She also enjoyed watching her grandkids in softball, baseball, gymnastics, soccer and hockey.

Patti retired in December 2017 as a bookkeeper after 32 years, to spend time with her family.

Her words to all family and friends are, “Live life to the fullest, with love and respect to others, because you never know what tomorrow brings.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Whittingham Cancer Center,  in memory of Patti.

Patti Suda

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And finally … Happy Kamehameha Day! The state holiday (one state only!) honors the monarch who first established the unified Kingdom of Hawai’i.

 

Roundup: Vaccine, Leah Rondon, Rotary $$ …

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The latest COVID news, via Kerry Foley and Facebook’s “Westport Coronavirus Info” page:

  • “Tens of thousands” of additional doses should be added to the system this week. That means appointment slots will open up soon.
  • If you have a vaccine appointment in  April May or June, you should be able to get an earlier date in the next 3 weeks. If you do get an earlier date, cancel your later appointment.
  • The state is on target to open appointments to the 45 to 54 age group on March 22.

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For several years, a Birthday Bash in honor of Leah Rondon raised money for several scholarships. It honored the 6-year-old daughter of Bedford Middle School teacher Colleen Rondon, who was killed when struck by a car while playing at a friend’s house.

COVID canceled the most recent event. But the show goes on — literally.

This Saturday (March 6, 6 p.m.), a cabaret with young performers from around the globe will be livestreamed on Triple Threat Academy‘s Facebook and YouTube pages. Triple Threat founder/noted “Fame” actress/Staples High School grad Cynthia Gibb co-hosts, with Leah’s mom Colleen.

Performers – most of whom train with Triple Threat in Westport and Hollywood — include Makayla Joy Connolly of Broadway’s “Harry Potter,” and Westport’s own Jamie Mann, of Netflix’s new show “Country  Comfort.”

Leah’s brother Sam joins on sax, Cooper Sadler tears it up at the Levitt Pavilion, and Sophie Walther sings her heart out from the UK.

The family-friendly benefit relies on donations from viewers and supporters. Click here for the link; click for the livestream via Triple Threat’s Facebook Live and YouTube pages.

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It’s been a tough year for non-profits. In-person fundraising has suffered, while demands for their services has spiked.

But thanks to one organization, another can continue its work.

Westport Rotary Club recently donated $1,075 to Homes with Hope. The funds will provide transportation for children living in supportive housing to HwH’s After School Academic Program, where they receive food, tutoring and mentoring. It’s especially important with the rise in online learning, and the widening academic gap for children without a parent to assist them.

Westport Rotary will distribute all of the funds donated by the community to its 2020 LobsterFest Charitable Giving fundraiser. More grant recipients will be announced soon.

Rotary meetings now held virtually 3 Tuesdays a month (12:30 to 1:30 p.m.). For more information, click here.

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March is Women’s History Month. For 25 years, Winged Monkey has been a woman-owned Westport business.

To celebrate both the month and their 25th anniversary, the popular Post Road East shop is offering — yes — 25% sales. There are other promotions all month long too.

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And finally … 3 big birthdays today. They represent a wide range of genres.

Karen Carpenter was born March 2, 1950. She died in 1983.

Jon Bon Jovi was born today in 1962.

And happy 50th birthday to Method Man.

Remembering Lee Greenberg

Lee Greenberg — longtime resident, active volunteer, salon host, talented sculptor, noted tennis player and skier, yoga teacher (long before most people knew what that was), and friend to countless Westporters of all ages — died Friday at her beloved home of 43 years, on Duck Pond Road.

Born Lee Snell during the Spanish flu influenza on January 22, 1918 in Hell’s Kitchen, New York to parents from Belarus Russia, she came to Westport in 1941 after marrying Nat Greenberg. He operated the Westport Hardware Store for more than 55 years, and became a noted real estate developer.

Lee and Nat were among the earlier Jewish residents of Westport. Nat helped establish Temple Israel, and later enabled the development of Birchwood Country Club.

Lee Greenberg

Lee was intellectually curious, bold and worldly, and dedicated to a healthy lifestyle including exercise and mobility long before it became popular. She played tennis, did yoga, and did splits into her 90s.

A perennial beach and sun worshiper, she held court year-round with friends and family while playing backgammon and Scrabble on her cherished beaches (from Block Island in summer to St. thomas in winter). Young at heart, she kept her mind active with games and news to the end of her life. 

She was aided by the irreplaceable love, endless dedication and careful driving of her 18-year caregiver, Gina Prempeh from Ghana. Through this winter she could be found at Compo Beach, listening to her favorite operas and watching the sun set next to her “bouquet of trees.”

Lee was married to Nat Greenberg for 43 years, and to the late Jacques Sternberg for 10 years. She is survived by her children, Linda Libow of New York, Gail Greenberg of California, Michael Greenberg of Westport and Debbie Filkins of Block Island, Rhode Island, and their spouses; step-children Edward Sternberg, Cathy O’Gara and spouses; 8 grandchildren, 3 step-grandchildren; 4 great-grandchildren; 6 step-great-grandchildren; the Snell nephews and their children, and her beloved caretaker Gina Prempeh.

In the spirit of Lee’s love of and support for the environment, music, history and equality, the family welcomes donations in her memory to the Westport Rotary Club, Temple Israel Community Tzedakah Fund (Social Action), Norwalk Symphony, Block Island Historical Society, or Salmon River Restoration Council

A week ago, “06880” and the entire town honored her on her 103rd birthday

Fellow Rotarian Gillian Anderson writes:

I was fortunate to see her recently. On January 19 a half dozen friends from the Westport Rotary Club gave her an ice cream cake (chocolate, her favorite), a bouquet of roses, some fabulous balloons and a card made by Dave Matlow of his photographs of Lee with family and friends.

We saw her in her heated garage with her loyal companion and aide Gina, her son Michael and one of her granddaughters. We enjoyed a short, socially distanced visit and sang “Happy Birthday.”

She was happy to see us. She spoke about her husband Nat and her long life in Westport. She celebrated her 103rd birthday with her family 2 days later.

We are so pleased to have seen her and to greet her so happily in this special way. She was a remarkable, unique character. We shall miss her very much.

Gillian prepared these remarks for the Rotary’s celebration of her 103rd birthday:

The former Leah Snell moved to Westport from New York in 1941, when she married Nathan Greenberg. He was a native of the town, and an early member of Westport Rotary. As fellow Rotarian Ann Sheffer said, “The Greenbergs were committed to the evolving community of Westport, and the world in general. They brought the world into their Westport home.”

Lee continues to be an inspiration, an example to us all of a life well lived, a truly abundant life.

Lee has continued to represent an outward looking, worldly curiosity and contributes so much to the local community. Until COVID hit, she was not only a regular attendee at Rotary but also active over many years in the Westport Historical Society, a board member of Norwalk Symphony, the Westport Arts Center, and her Carriage Barn sculpture group at the New Canaan Society for the Arts

Horse sculpture, by Lee Greenberg.

I first got to know Lee 10 years ago at Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler’s house. Political candidates were making rousing “get out the vote” speeches. I sat down next to her and introduced myself. I had no idea I was sitting with the Grand Dame of Westport, the person who knew everyone in the room and just about everyone in the entire town.

She showed me her sculpture (“When Pigs Can Fly”), which she was donating to raise funds for the DNC silent auction that night, then gave me thumbnail bios of all the important folks in the room. Quite an education! Gradually we became friends, particularly when she invited me to attend her renowned cultural salon.

Lee’s cultural salon was an extraordinary gathering at her home each week. She and her friend Herb Podell invited a small group of friends and acquaintances to hear a speaker or performer of note. The cosmopolitan range of her interests and connections was breath taking: opera singers, musicians, journalists, political columnists, photographers, artists, human rights activists, politicians, economists and authors. For many years, each shared their ideas and talents in Lee’s living room to an appreciative audience, who were thrilled to attend and join in the lively discussion that followed.

One of the striking aspects to me of Lee’s persona is her intellect and curiosity. Her conversation is peppered with questions and references to current events, to making connections and with people in the news, many of whom she knows personally. Until quite recently, here at Rotary lunches when the speaker would ask for questions from the floor, Lee often nailed it with a reference to a relevant  New York Times article she just read and quiz the speaker on his opinion!!

In her second century, Lee Greenberg was as sharp as ever.

Of course, we must mention Lee’s life-long athleticism. Local tennis champion – often playing on her back yard tennis court, skiing every winter, and yoga and daily exercise routines. For many years she taught yoga on the beach at her place in St Thomas, and on Block Island.

This perhaps is one of her secrets to long life and mobility. I had been unaware of all this until one evening about 8 years ago (when she was a mere 95). I was working out at the NY Sports Club. There was Lee doing a circuit of the machines – legs and abs, all manner of major stretches. My trainer said, “Oh yes, Lee’s one of my best clients. She’s often here 5 days a week!”

Mobility is still important to Lee – she loves to be out and about in her beloved Westport. Thanks to the TLC and careful driving of her loyal helper Gina, you’ll easily find Lee most afternoons at Compo Beach. Her white SUV is parked overlooking the water. She often holds court with many friends who love to be in her company.

When we celebrated Lee’s 100th, several members spoke.

Martha Aasen talked of Lee’s outstanding generosity and energy as a fund raiser for countless political candidates over many decades. She said, “It’s a privilege to call her a friend.” Martha told this story:

In the late 1950’s, Lee, Nat and their 4 children were living in a then-huge house on Long Lots Road, enjoying a very comfortable life Liz Taylor and then-husband Mike Todd were house hunting. She was pregnant. Her mother lived in Ridgefield, and Liz wanted to be near her mom.

Their realtor called Nat Greenberg — a long-time Westport real estate developer — in a panic. The realtor had nothing to show them, so he asked Nat if he could them his house.

In walked Liz Taylor and Mike Todd. They loved the house — one of the few in those days with a swimming pool and tennis court — and asked if the Greenbergs would  consider renting it for a year.

Their first reaction was “of course not!” But Nat and Lee talked. They came up with an idea: They could live in Switzerland for a year. Mike offered to pay not only the year’s rental, but for the family of 6 to travel to Europe in style, by ocean liner — and for their chalet.

Unfortunately, during that year Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash. Lee learned the news at a ski mountain. It was a tragic ending to Liz Taylor’s Westport adventure.

A post-script on the 175 Long Lots Road house: Liz Taylor and Mike Todd were not the only famous residents. Lee and Nat eventually sold their home to Harry Reasoner in 1968 — the same year the TV newscaster teamed up with Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace to begin CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”

Ann Sheffer also spoke. She talked about the strong family ties between generations of Greenbergs and Sheffers. Her grandparents were close friends of Lee and Nat — all wicked tennis players, and all involved in local real estate development.

Ann also talked about Lee’s talent as an artist, and how nearly every Democratic candidates for state and local elections — and many national ones — from the 1950s through the ’80s were hosted by their two families, for fundraising and support.

Longtime Democratic activists Lee Greenberg (center) and Martha Aasen, with President Bill Clinton.

After the speeches. cake and singing of “Happy Birthday,” Lee stood up. She expressed great joy for all the wonderful words spoken about her. She thanked the Rotary Club and guests for a great celebration, and said she had so much fun she’d like to do it all over again.

However, she concluded, she’d settle for seeing her friends again next Tuesday at the Rotary Club.

For Westport Rotary Clubs, Ukraine Is Moot

Whenever Ukraine is in the headlines, the news is bad. Border disputes, business shenanigans — even Chernobyl is there.

Rule of law has broken down in the Eastern European nation.

We’re going through a rough patch ourselves. But a few months ago, during the impeachment process, Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs decided to do something in support of our country’s faith in law. It’s something, they said, that’s fundamental to our democracy, and separates us from many other nations oppressed by tyranny.

Because Ukraine is desperately trying to expunge corruption from both its political and legal systems, the clubs — Sunrise Rotary, and the noontime Rotary Club — decided to focus their efforts there.

Ken Bernhard — an attorney, constitutional law professor and former state representative — had also taught in Ukraine. He contacted Professor Demitriy Kamensky of the Berdyansk State Pedagogical University.

Berdyansk State Pedagogical University

Kamensky — who has an LLM in taxation, a Ph.D. in criminal law, and taught at Florida State College of Law — said the clubs’ timing was perfect. Berdyansk State had hoped to construct a moot court setting, to resemble one in their country’s actual legal system. It would provide a training environment for aspiring litigators.

Westport’s 2 Rotaries contributed $2,500 each. The courtroom was opened last week.

Kamesky says:

Thanks to our friends at Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club for their support of the rule of law in Ukraine, which is no longer a distant, foreign principle. Indeed it affirms that reality for our law students, faculty and legal professionals.

The moot courtroom has become a place to learn how the judicial systems operates within a free, democratic society. This is where legal theory meets legal practice, where new skills are learned and progressive legal tools are examined. We are very grateful to the clubs for their confidence in our legal community.

The moot classroom.

It seems like a small gesture. The impact on Ukraine’s legal system will not be felt for a while — and it can never be measured.

Rotary clubs raise money so that they can give it away. (And they keep doing it, despite a steep drop in fundraising during COVID).

Combine that with the fact that “Supporting education” is one of Rotary’s six areas of focus.

Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self.” “Supporting education” is one of their 6 areas of focus.

From Westport to Ukraine, today there is living — and legal — proof that it matters.

(For information on the Westport Rotary Club, click here. For Westport Sunrise Rotary, click here.)

Ken Bernhard (left) and Professor Kamensky, with the Connecticut state flag, in 2018.

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.