Tag Archives: Westport Weston Family Y

Arborcide? You Decide.

It took just a couple of days.

Last week, huge machines swept onto the south side of the Merritt Parkway at Exit 41. Loudly, insistently, they demolished dozens of trees.

Suddenly, the tranquil buffer separating the highway from the Westport Weston Family Y was gone. In its place were brush, wood chips, and an open view of traffic whizzing by.

Y employees were aghast. One said, “They took everything. There was even a hawk’s nest there.”

The Department of Transportation has every right to do what they did. It’s their land. In recent years, at least 2 people have been killed on the Merritt by falling trees.

Still, the speed and ferocity of the project was stunning. This is the same DOT that took about 23 centuries to replace a tiny Merritt Parkway bridge at North Avenue.

Meanwhile, folks on the north side, and east and west of the clear cutting — actual homeowners, not YMCA patrons and employees —  wonder who’s next.

Photo Challenge #162

If you’ve ever been to the Westport Weston Family Y, last week’s photo challenge was a slam dunk.

Ed Simek’s photo showed the cow that sits on the flat roof. You see it from the spinning room, and by the stairs leading down to the pool, fitness center and locker rooms. (Click here for the photo.)

Ben Berkley, Lynn Wilson, Elizabeth Fry, Ann Bernier, Jalna Jaeger, Karen Kim, Art Schoeller, Martin Gitlin, Rick Benson, Kathy Fagan and Eva Lopez Reyman all recognized the cow.

They should. It’s been there since the new Y opened.

Which raises a few questions:

Where did it come from? Who decided to put a cow on the roof? In other words, Why, Y?

If you know the back story, click “Comments” below. And if you know where to find this week’s photo challenge, do the same.

(Photo/Ben Berkley)

 

Unsung Hero #28

Everyone knows Patty Kondub. And everyone loves Patty Kondub.

But she’s one of those people who everyone kind of takes for granted.

We shouldn’t. Which is why Patty Kondub is this week’s Unsung Hero.

Patty is many things. A 1981 Staples High School graduate — and proud University of Connecticut alum — she’s worked for the Westport Weston Family Y for 30 years.

Members flock to her Aquafit classes. She works hard at researching and preparing lessons. But she always welcomes members with a smile, then makes every class fun. One day she’ll wear a costume; the next day she’ll announce a game.

Patty Kondub, in her Aquafit Halloween costume.

When someone is sick, she brings a card for the class to sign. She sings “Happy Birthday” (a lot!). Whenever she sees a news story about a class member — a new book they’ve written, a promotion, or just a brief mention — she tells everyone (and posts its on the bulletin board).

As soon as Ellen Gilbertson joined Aquafit — because of a stress fracture in her foot — Patty called her doctor, so she could design the best workout. If someone is laid up at home, Patty visits (and brings food)

Every day she picks out great music, which puts everyone in a great mood. (For Halloween it was “Monster Mash.” For the Olympics, elections and many other events, she finds something appropriate. On St. Patrick’s Day, she’s got an Irish playlist — and an Irish quiz.)

Patty is no slouch. Her Aquafit students work hard. But she’s such a good teacher, they don’t even realize they’re getting a fantastic workout.

A motivational message from Patty Kondub. (Photo/Barbara Wiederecht)

Her classes get together outside the Y, to celebrate special events. (Ask about her vegetarian chili!)

Colleague Ruth Sherman says, “Patty works so hard to make aging fun. They say our community is getting younger every day, and for this we thank Patty.”

Gilbertson adds, “She goes above and beyond any teacher I’ve ever known, in so many ways.”

Sandra Long says, “Whether it’s your first class or you’ve come for 20 years, Patty knows your name and helps you. She looks out for everyone — it doesn’t even have to be related to the pool. She does whatever she can to help anyone at the Y who’s in need.”

Elsewhere at the Y, Patty helps coordinate indoor triathlons and special needs swim instruction.

Patty Kondub offers hydration tips.

Out of the water, Patty helped organize the Spin Odyssey that over 15 years raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research. Some of her Aquafit fans were involved.

In her spare time (!), Patty is the much-loved coach of the Staples girls golf team. She’s a past president of the Longshore Women’s Golf Association.

And on Saturday mornings, she teaches a class for cancer survivors at CT Challenge.

Patty Kondub always has a smile on her face. The next time you see her, smile back — and congratulate our latest Unsung Hero.

BONUS FUN FACTAs a field hockey player, Patty was part of the first University of Connecticut team to win a national championship — in any sport.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? To nominate him or her, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Changing Of The Guard

As he promised, David Waldman retained the facade of the old Westport YMCA Bedford building.

But as his Bedford Square project nears completion — it’s slated to open this spring — changes are evident.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

After 94 years, the lintel no longer says “YMCA.”

Welcome to 2017.

Olympic Swimmer Hits The Y

Chad le Clos is a swimmer.

But not just any swimmer. The South African is an Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion. He’s ranked 1st in the world in the 50, 100 and 200 meter butterfly — and is the current world record holder in both the 100 and 200 meter butterfly

He heads soon to Windsor, Ontario for the FINA World Swimming Championships.

If he wins, he’s got the Westport Weston Family Y to thank.

For the past few days, he’s been training there. He has a connection with a Water Rat family, so the Wilton Road facility seemed a great fit.

Chad le Clos (in the water) with Westport Y Water Rat swimmers.

Chad le Clos (in the water) with Westport Y Water Rat swimmers.

This evening, he raced an exhibition 100 yard butterfly there.

Chad le Clos, on the Westport Y starting block.

Chad le Clos, on the Westport Y starting block.

Plenty of Water Rat swimmers, parents and alumni showed up to cheer him on.

Stop the presses: He won.

I'm no swim racing expert. But I'm sure that's a very, very good time.

I’m no swim racing expert. But I’m sure that’s a very, very good time.

UPDATE: Y Purchases Red Barn

Confirming a rumor that has circulated for months, the Westport Weston Family Y announced this morning that they have purchased the Red Barn property.

Update: “06880” reported this morning that earlier this year, the Y denied buying the property. CEO Pat Riemersma says that “whenever talking about the Red Barn, we have indicated no comment because of a confidentiality agreement in the purchase agreement.”

Early this afternoon, she said that the sale became official late Friday afternoon. She added that the purchase agreement pre-dated her arrival as CEO. She assumed that role on June 8.

The landmark Wilton Road site abuts the Y’s new Mahackeno campus.

The 3.2 acre parcel purchased by the Y includes the restaurant building and a separate house. It was owned by members of the Nistico family, who operated the Red Barn Restaurant from 1983 until July 2015.

Lining up for a sale of Red Barn items and artifacts, last June.

Lining up for a sale of Red Barn items and artifacts, last June.

“This is a unique opportunity for our YMCA — a long-term investment that allows us to preserve neighborhood values and, ultimately, utilize the property for the benefit of our members and the community we have served since 1923,” said Y CEO Pat Riemersma.

The Y’s announcement added:

The volunteer leaders who govern the Family YMCA, a charitable nonprofit organization, are in the process of developing a plan that will provide guidance as to the future use of the property. The Y has established a Limited Liability Company, known as 290 Wilton Road LLC, as part of the transaction.

Unsubstantiated rumors over the past many months have offered many potential reasons for the Y’s purchase of the property, including additional parking, use for its preschool, and to tie its septic system in with the Red Barn sewer line.

YMCA logo

Red Barn — Revisited

Last week — based on a phone call to the Red Barn — I reported that the rumors of the restaurant’s closing were wrong.

I said — based on what I’d been told — that the kitchen was being revamped. New ovens and a natural gas hookup were on the way. Re-opening was set for today (Wednesday, July 8).

A number of readers suggested — publicly and privately — that I was wrong.

A woman said that one of the owners called to tell her that her group’s annual luncheon — held every year in late July — would not happen, because the restaurant had been sold.

A salesperson described going to the Red Barn at midday to pick up a check. No renovation work was underway. In fact, no one was there at all.

Red Barn painting

I called this afternoon — the day I was told they’d reopen. The phone rang and rang and rang. Finally, I hung up.

Just in case, I checked the website.

It still touts itself as “a unique, rustic place for your next event or function.”

But even more prominently, it still advertises its Mother’s Day specials.

Meanwhile, the Westport Family Y — which everyone in Westport thinks has bought the property, though no real estate transaction has been filed — is not talking either.

The out-of-date (and strangely dark) Red Barn website.

The out-of-date (and strangely dark) Red Barn website.

  

 

Red Barn Is NOT Closing

The rumors have swirled for weeks: The Westport Family Y bought the Red Barn. It will be torn down, and used for parking.

The Y is not talking. But the lights were off last night, the parking lot deserted — and Westporters got even more worried.

Red Barn restaurant

You can keep worrying — but only if you wanted to dine there before Wednesday.

The Red Barn is closed because the kitchen is being revamped. They’re adding new ovens, and a natural gas hookup.

It reopens July 8.

At the same place its been all these years: next to Merritt Parkway Exit 41.

You know: Right near the new Y.

New Y CEO: A “People Person” Moves Forward

Pat Riemersma likes to tell stories.

There’s the one about the 300-pound woman in Minnesota. She came into the YMCA where Riemersma was a top executive, and could not even stand up to fill out forms.

Riemersma connected her with a good personal trainer. The woman lost 180 pounds. Now — in her 70s — she leads a life she never dreamed of.

Or the story about the father whose wife had just entered a psychiatric hospital. Riemersma quickly found Y after-school programs for his 3 children, so the man could concentrate on his work during the day.

“I know there are tons of stories about positive impact in Westport too,” Riemersma. “I just don’t know them yet.”

Pat Riemersma

Pat Riemersma

She will. The new Westport Weston Family Y CEO is still settling into her job. But she does not seem like the type of person who spends much time behind a desk.

Riemersma (pronounced REE-mers-mah) is a Midwesterner. Born in Iowa, she entered Central College with the idea of teaching elementary school phys. ed., and coaching high school sports.

But teaching jobs were scarce in 1982. After working at a Girl Scout camp, she got a job as program director at the Siouxland YMCAs. She’s been with Ys ever since.

Much of her work has been in Minnesota. Riemersma has served in a variety of capacities, including vice president of youth development, vice president of operations, and executive director.

From 1989 to 1994 she came east, as program and executive director of the YMCA of Greater Hartford.

“I enjoyed exploring a new part of the country,” she says of her Hartford days. “I met so many wonderful people, and had a chance to help change lives.”

Now — 21 years later — she’s back in Connecticut. She was ready to advance in her career. CEO seemed the next logical step.

She jumped at the Westport opening, and never looked back.

Pat Riemersma, a few days into her new job as CEO of the Westport Weston Family Y.

Pat Riemersma, a few days into her new job as CEO of the Westport Weston Family Y.

“The stars are aligned,” Riemersma says. “My house in Minnesota sold before it went on the market. I found a house in Southport in 1 day. I know I’m in the right place here.”

Her welcome so far has been warm. Y members and Southport neighbors are very friendly. She attended Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis’ retirement sendoff earlier this month, and met a ton of people.

She made 2 trips to Westport before accepting the position. Driving around, she was struck by the area’s beauty. She also is thankful for GPS. “The roads are a lot straighter” in the Midwest, she laughs.

But she knows that this town — and its Y — present challenges.

She spoke with former CEO Helene Weir, who described the back story involving the long process of moving from downtown to the Mahackeno site.

“I’m aware of the past,” Riemersma says. “But I don’t want it to bog me down moving forward.”

So what does “moving forward” mean?

YMCA logoRiemersma will examine programs and internal processes, to see what needs expansion, revision or tweaking. She plans no immediate major overhauls, but she knows that small changes can yield big results.

“Right now I’m focusing on the positive,” she says. “I’m excited about working with this staff, and this community. In 6 months I’ll have a better understanding of the challenges.”

One final question: What’s the new CEO’s own Y workout routine?

“Cardio and weights in the fitness center,” she says. “And I like to work out once a week with a personal trainer.”

Y Announces $5 Million Social Responsibility Fund

Pat Riemersma has been CEO of the Westport Weston Family YMCA for only a week. But her 1st announcement was a big one.

The Y’s 91st annual meeting yesterday was highlighted by the formation of a new Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund.

With $5 million from the estate of Ruth Bedford — out of $40 million in total she bequeathed to the Y that her grandfather, Edward T. Bedford, founded — as well as from past president and longtime trustee Allen Raymond, the fund will provide grants in areas like child welfare, substance abuse, community service and military outreach. It will also work with faith-based organizations, and serve residents of Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport, in cooperation with neighboring Ys.

The first funds will be distributed in June 2016.

Riemersma’s announcement was made at a fitting site: the Y’s Bedford Family Center is on Allen Raymond Lane.

The Westport Weston Family Y hosted its 1st annual meeting at its new home yesterday.

The Westport Weston Family Y hosted its 1st annual meeting at its new home yesterday.