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Tag Archives: Westport Woman’s Club
In 2015, a $5,000 grant enabled Earthplace to update maps of their 74-acre sanctuary. Visitors can now find all trails — including those suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.
In 2016, a gift of $10,000 helped Project Return repaint their historic North Compo Road home.
A 2017 grant of nearly $5,000 gave the Westport Astronomical Society a new solar telescope for its Rolnick Observatory.
Last year, Wakeman Town Farm used $1,200 to purchase an innovative mobile chicken coop.
All of those “Ruegg Grants” came from the Westport Woman’s Club. Established in 1995 by former member Lea Ruegg, they’re given each spring to a local non-profit with a project that makes a meaningful difference in social services, health, safety, the arts or education.
Other previous recipients include ITN Coastal Connecticut, CLASP Homes, the Westport Police Department, Hall-Brooke Hospital, Interfaith Housing, Mercy Learning Center, Toquet Hall, the Westport Rotary Club, Staples Players and the Westport Library.
Your organization could be next. The Woman’s Club is accepting submissions now through March 8.
The Westport Woman’s Club is no Jenny-come-lately to the field of philanthropy. Since 1907 they’ve supported area educational, charitable, cultural and health services. (Their first projects: sidewalks, bathrooms at Compo Beach, and hot lunches and vaccinations in schools.)
Perhaps it was a slow news week.
More likely, a Westport Woman’s Club member’s husband was a high-ranking Life Magazine staffer.
Whatever the reason, on August 11, 1947 America’s leading photo magazine featured the organization in a 2-page spread.
Describing the town of 8,258 just 45 minutes from Manhattan, Life said Westport “pleasantly combines the character of New England and the up-to-date bustle of a commuting population.”
Like most American towns, Life noted, Westport has a woman’s club. But ours had “little time for lectures, cards and teas.”
Instead — already 40 years old — the Westport Woman’s Club had transformed our “once somnolent” town through good works: organizing and funding street signs, public drinking fountains, garbage collections and trash cans, playgrounds, sidewalks, street lights, hot lunches in schools, and lifesaving equipment and a pavilion at Compo Beach.
Now, Life said, the club was focused on a visiting nurse service, free milk for underprivileged children and a free dental clinic. They also provided over $1,000 in scholarships each year.
With 693 members — but annual dues of only $3 — members relied on the Yankee Doodle Fair to fund those projects. The 1947 event raised $18,000, with attractions like a merry-go-round, dart games, pony rides, and a raffle with prizes including cars, washing machines, luggage, watches and cases of scotch.
More than 70 years later, the Westport Woman’s Club — and Yankee Doodle Fair — are still going strong.
Which is more than can be said for Life magazine.
(Hat tip: Paul Ehrismann)
Those pesky time capsules.
We keep burying them. And keep forgetting where they are.
It happened a few years ago with Greens Farms Elementary School.
Now it’s Saugatuck Congregational Church’s turn.
In 1866 a time capsule was buried under the cornerstone of their then-new Sunday school building. The church was located across the Post Road, and up the hill from where it is now — approximately where the gas station and adjacent bank are, near South Compo Road.
In 1950 the church was moved — v-e-r-y slowly — across the street, to its current location by Myrtle Avenue. At the same time the school building was relocated to Imperial Avenue, where it created what is now Bedford Hall at the Westport Woman’s Club.
The cornerstone was not unearthed during the move. No one seems to know what happened to it.
Now — 68 years later — the Westport Historical Society is on the case.
If you have any idea of the whereabouts of the Saugatuck Church cornerstone — or hey, any other in town — email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for God’s sake, the next time you bury a time capsule, leave detailed instructions!
Westporters are great at getting rid of things.
We tear down old houses. We run tag sales. We bring books to the library, clothes to Goodwill, and everything else to the transfer station.
Does anyone here keep anything old? And if so, how old?
The Westport Woman’s Club believes many owners of private treasures may be surprised to learn their origin, purpose, age and current value.
So this Saturday (June 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 44 Imperial Avenue), they invite the public to bring objects — or good photos and measurements of pieces too heavy to carry) — to Appraisal Day.
Nine professional appraisers — whose specialties include antiques, paintings, jewelry, clocks, books, and Asian and mid-century modern collectibles — will be on hand. All donate their time.
The cost is just $25 for 3 items, $10 for each additional piece. The fundraiser helps the Woman’s Club provide community grants and scholarships.
Organizer Deb Fratino offers $100 to whoever brings the oldest collectible item. There’s also a random drawing for a restaurant gift certificate.
PS: If you’re disappointed with an appraisal, you don’t have to haul your item back home. Just donate it to the Curio Cottage next door. They’ll be happy to have it!
(Click here for more information on the Westport Woman’s Club Appraisal Day.)
If you’ve been in Westport for any length of time, you’ve probably heard — and met — Jo Fuchs Luscombe.
She’s been involved in every aspect of life here — politics, education, community service. If it needs doing, Jo has done it.
But how many people know her back story?
A Dallas native, she was just a year old when her father — an oilman — moved the family to Venezuela. Jo grew up speaking Spanish — and gaining an important, real-world view of life.
She went to boarding school and college in Texas, headed to Katherine Gibbs secretarial school, got married at 19 and had a child at 20.
Her husband was in oil too, so they headed to Libya. Jo learned Italian there, and was once more immersed in a very different culture.
In 1969, the family moved back to the US. Her boys were 13 and 10.
In her mid-30s, Jo and her husband divorced. Encouraged by Rev. Dana Forrest Kennedy, she threw herself into every aspect Christ & Holy Trinity Church. She became president of the Women’s Guild, served on the vestry, and ran fundraisers.
She got interested too in the Westport Historical Society. Jo was a driving force behind the acquisition and restoration of Wheeler House — owned at the time by her church — as the organization’s headquarters.
In 1980, Jo was asked to fill out an unexpired term on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Public speaking did not come easily. But — as with everything else in her life — she worked to master it.
She won a full term on her own, then was appointed to the vacant post of 3rd selectman.
In 1986, Jo headed up her friend and fellow Westporter Julie Belaga’s campaign for governor.
Jo’s next step was the state House of Representatives. She served 5 terms — from 1987 to ’97 — and rose to Republican minority whip.
Retirement from state politics did not slow her down. As a member of Westport’s School Building Committee, she helped oversee 5 major construction and renovation projects (including the new Staples High School).
Remarriage did not slow her down either. Jo has been president of the Westport Woman’s Club (where she helped run major events like the art show), and is active in Westport Rotary, Greens Farms Garden club, and countless others.
As a longtime Westport Family YMCA board member, she helped shepherd the new building on its long, torturous journey from downtown to Mahackeno.
Her husband John says there is one reason she accomplishes so much: “She doesn’t sleep.”
There’s one more thing: Jo Fuchs Luscombe is one of the nicest, most always-smiling people you’ll ever meet.
Congratulations, Jo. And thanks from all of us, for all you’ve done in so many ways.
(Hat tip: Bobbie Herman)
Westport’s annual rite of almost-summer — the Yankee Doodle Fair — kicked off last night at the Westport Woman’s Club.
The first night always attracts a horde of tweens and young teens. Alert “06880” reader Andrea Pouliot was there, with kids and a camera.
For 110 years, the Westport Woman’s Club has sponsored the Yankee Doodle Fair.
Attractions and entertainment have changed. But for 100 years, fair-goers have wondered “Who puts this on?”
When someone tells them, their next question is, “What’s the Westport Woman’s Club?”
To answer a century-plus of inquiring minds — and to honor their 110-year history — the WWC has hung a pop-up exhibit inside Bedford Hall. (That’s the wonderfully refurbished auditorium in their Imperial Avenue clubhouse, on the hill overlooking the Yankee Doodle Fair.)
Nearly 120 placards recount all those years of Westport Woman’s Club fundraising, and service to the town.
The story begins long before women could vote, and provides a fascinating window on women’s history, locally and nationally.
It also provides insight into public health and social services delivery here, before and after town government got involved.
It’s all for a great cause. Funds raised at the Fair go right back into the community, as grants and scholarships.
Just as they have for the past 110 years.
(The Yankee Doodle Fair — and accompanying exhibit — are open tonight and tomorrow [Thursday and Friday, June 15-16], 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday hours are 1 to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.)
This weekend — as it has since 1907 — the Yankee Doodle Fair entertains thousands of kids of all ages. (Mostly kids.) (And their parents.)
Pam Ehrenburg — Pam Blackburn, as she was known in her Yankee Doodle-going days — has unearthed some fascinating old photos. All were taken by her father, famed magazine photographer George Barkentin.
They show the fair on what appears to be Jesup Green — or perhaps the topography of the sponsoring Westport Woman’s Club was different 60-plus yeas ago. (Pam believes the images were taken in 1952.)
Some of the fashions are different. But in many ways, the Yankee Doodle Fair is timeless too.