Tag Archives: Westport Woman’s Club

Roundup: Library Reopens; Craig Melvin; Dirty Dancing; Yankee Doodle Fair; More


The reimagined Westport Library was a spectacular success. For a few months, it was packed with users, jammed with events, pulsing with energy.

Then COVID-19 struck.

But 4 months after it closed, the library is poised to reopen. The big date is Monday, July 13.

Limited services begin, weekdays (2 to 6 p.m.) and Saturdays (12 to 4 p.m.). Only 100 people — including staff — will be allowed in the building at any time.

Masks are required. The only entrance is the main one (upper parking lot). The only exit is through the café.

The café and store are not open. Conference and meeting rooms will also be closed. Computer access will be limited to the Express stations.

Curbside pickup services continues weekdays (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

The library will extend loan periods, but fines will accrue for materials not returned within the loan periods.

The library will continue to offer virtual programs and services, while phasing in the full reopening of the building.


During these disconnected times, Dave Briggs — former CNN, NBC Sports and Fox anchor (and proud Westporter) — has conducted a series of Instagram Live interviews with interesting residents.

Folks like 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, restaurant owner Bill Taibe and former NFL quarterback/ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky talk about the town, the pandemic, and answer questions from followers.

Today’s guest (Thursday, July 2) is Craig Melvin. The NBC “Today” host has been square in the middle of both the COVID and racial unrest stories.

Just follow @westportmagazine on Instagram, and click on the “Live” tab at the top of their feed at 4:30 for a fascinating chat. It will be reposted later by Dave (@davebriggstv).

Craig Melvin


There are no fireworks at Compo Beach to celebrate the 4th. BUT … there is a great movie at Westport’s own drive-in!

The Remarkable Theater shows “Dirty Dancing” at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The classic summer romance/dance film begins at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday (the 4th). The lot opens at 7:45, and pre-film content starts at 8:15.

Tickets are $50 per car. Click here to purchase.

It’s a great movie. Even if it’s not “Independence Day,” or “Born on the 4th of July.”


COVID knocked out this year’s Yankee Doodle Fair. But the annual Westport Woman’s Club fundraiser has been around for a century. It will be back next year.

And if you want your Fair fix, check out this video shot last year by interns from Fourth Row Films. It premiered last week, at the Remarkable Theater’s opening night drive-in movie benefit for the WWC.

if you’re inspired by the video — or just want to help provide much-needed funds for the Woman’s Club community grants, scholarships, food pantry and other great causes — click here.


Want to win the war on invasive weeds?

That’s the topic of the next “Pollinator Series” online presentation from Wakeman Town Farm.

This Monday (July 6, 7-8 p.m.), University of Connecticut advanced master gardener Alice Ely will spotlight a guide to invasives, developed by WTF’s 2020 senior class interns.

Click here to register. Registrants will be emailed a Zoom link the day of the talk. Everyone gets a free guide to the area’s worst weeds too.


Missed the benefit cabaret that Staples High School senior Jamie Mann organized for Obi Ndefo — the actor/inspiration/friend who lost both legs when hit by a drunk driver?

Here’s your chance. Just click below. The sound is not great at the start, but it gets better. The performances, back story and messages are well worth it!


And finally … another fun summertime classic.

Roundup: Supper & Soul Tailgate; French Toast; More


Live music is back!

The first in-person “Supper & Soul” concert since the pandemic shutdown is set for Friday, July 3 (6 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot). The Tom Petty Project headlines the “drive-in tailgate” show, sponsored by the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and the Westport Library.

Cars will be set up every other spot, in every other row (a state requirement). But with up to 5 people per car — and tailgating starting at 5 p.m., using the empty space in front of each vehicle — it should be a great (and much-needed) evening out. The Chamber says it’s the first event like this in the state.

The Tom Petty Project includes Westporters Phil LoPresti (lead guitar) and Pete Najarian (lead singer, guitar). The band wowed a Levitt Pavilion crowd last year, and have sold out shows throughout New England. They’re volunteering their time for this show, to help the Chamber while bringing live music back to town.

Tickets are $85 per car. Ten dollars from each sale will be donated to a local non-profit — to be selected by the band.

The Chamber encourages everyone to order takeout from member restaurants, and bring it to the show (click here for the list; it will also be emailed to ticket purchasers). No food or drink will be sold on site. The cost of the meals is not included in the ticket price.

A limited number of tickets goes on sale this Monday (June 22, 10 a.m.). For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.


COVID-19 canceled many Westport Woman’s Club events. There was no March fashion show, April art show, May antique appraisal day, and — this one really hurts — no June Yankee Doodle Fair.

They can’t get those fundraisers back. But the 113-year-old civic organization still awarded $40,000 in college scholarships. And though the 10 deserving Staples High School seniors did not get the public ceremony they deserved, the get this shout-out on “06880.”

Congratulations to the honorees — and thanks to the WWC, for their continued yeowomen’s work!

  • Tamikah Boyer (University of New Haven, Emily Duvoisin Scholarship)
  • Nicole Caiati (Georgia State University)
  • Victoria Caiati (Marist College)
  • Alyssa Chariot (Penn State University)
  • Anna Fuori (Penn State University, Emily Fuller Scholarship)
  • Audrey Kramer (California Polytechnic State University)
  • Ian Kramer (Penn State University)
  • Katherine Meszaros (College of the Holy Cross, Lea Ruegg Scholarship)
  • Niyhive Michel (Morgan State University)
  • Tomaso Scotti (University of Connecticut, “Most Active Member” Scholarship, which this year honors Mira Auxier).


Hilary Arnow Burns did it all in Staples. The 1977 graduate played in the orchestra and band. She sang in the choir. She played tennis, and was on the cheerleading team.

After Wharton came consulting work with Arthur Young and Drexel Burnham. She married, moved back to Westport, started 2 businesses, had 2 children, and got divorced.

When he was 50, she caught a glimpse of someone who did not look good. It was her — in the mirror. “What happened to me?” she wondered.

At a Staples reunion a classmate said, “You were so much fun!” Hilary thought, “I’ve become another person. I was not happy.”

She lost weight. She rediscovered “athletics, my brain, and fun.” She got her life back.

Now — after writing classes with Jessica Bram (and 7 years of revisions), and  she’s written a memoir about her journey. The Second Piece of French Toast: If Marriage Was My Dream, Why Was I Numbing Myself? 

It’s been called “the wake-up call I didn’t know I needed.” To order the book, click here. For her website, blog and YouTube channel, click here.

Hilary Arnow Burns


And finally … I heard this yesterday, on Juneteenth. It brought me back several decades. Sweet Honey in the Rock is as uplifting, and important, as ever.

COVID-19 Roundup: Face Masks; Food Closet; Moms’ Morning Photos; More


Since 1975, the Westport Woman’s Club has partnered with the Department of Human Services on a year-round, emergency food distribution program, the Food Closet.

When the club gets a call members fill bags of groceries, add Stop & Shop gift cards that the WWC purchases, and deliver the food to Town Hall, or directly to the recipient (whose name remains anonymous).

During the pandemic, requests for food have risen dramatically. In addition to increased demand, a traditional May food drive with the US Postal Service has been canceled.

Non-perishables are desperately needed. Canned goods can be dropped off at the Woman’s Club (44 Imperial Avenue) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, between 9 a.m. and noon. (If the door is locked, call 203-227-4240.)

Checks are also welcome. Click here to donate online. They can also be made out to “Westport Woman’s Club,” and sent to 44 Imperial Avenue, Westport CT 06880.

Last year, Westport Woman’s Club members Wendy McKeon, Catherine Smith and Kim Reichert helped out with the Food Closet drive.


Two women-owned local businesses — Bungalow and Private Portraits — have teamed up to capture casual, candid glimpses of women at home, while raising money for female entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19.

“Sophisticated boudoir photographer” Jen Goldberg takes sunrise, socially distanced front porch sessions — as early as 5:30 a.m. — capturing moms in the moments just before their house awakens.

A portion of the proceeds benefits Sara Blakely’s The Red Backpack Fund. The nationwide effort will make at least 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to women whose businesses have been impacted during the pandemic.

For $100 (additional donations welcome), you’ll receive a 5 x 7 print and a $25 gift card to Bungalow, the Sconset Square boutique. For more information, email jen@privateportraits.com.

HINT: Mother’s Day is Sunday!

(Photo/Jen Goldberg)


Rye Ridge Deli originally stayed open, with curbside and delivery service. Business was slow though, so they closed. Now they’re back open, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here to order online.

Also now open, after an initial closure: Five Guys (11 a.m. to 10 p.m.). Click here for curbside pickup and delivery.


“Essential businesses” in Westport with 50 employees or fewer are are eligible for free masks, under a state plan. Click this link, but hurry: The application deadline is early afternoon tomorrow (Thursday, May 7).

In addition, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe advises residents about the proper use of cloth face masks. According to the CDC, they should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Do not put your hands on the front of mask when putting it on or taking it off. Use the loops or attached ties to secure or remove. Click here for more instructions on cloth mask use.


Homes With Hope hosts a non-perishable food drive this Saturday (May 9), from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Gillespie Center behind Restoration Hardware. Items needed include canned chicken, salmon, Spam, tuna, fruit, applesauce, soups, stews and vegetables; pasta sauce; peanut butter and jelly; mac and cheese; Chef Boyardee, and cereal.


 

The Sunny Daes cow has the right idea. (Photo/Lily Bloomingdale)


And finally … this underrated gem, from Sir Elton John:

Woman’s Club Grants Go To Groups With COVID Need

Since 1907 — 10 years before the Spanish flu pandemic – the Westport Woman’s Club has served Westport.

They’ve done too many good things for the town to list (click here for the “History” page).

Just one example: Westport’s Visiting Nurse Service was started and funded by the club. Free dental, vaccination and well-child clinics;tuberculosis campaigns; free milk distribution; polio tests; a lending service of sickroom equipment – all were begun by the WWC.

Each year the club evaluates applications for Community Service Grants from nonprofit organizations in Fairfield County. Members volunteer many hours from October through spring, finding the right balance between needs and the WWC’s mission to support nearby charitable, educational, cultural and public health services.

At the end of this year’s cycle, COVID-19 roared through town. Club members wondered how they could now make the biggest impact for the most people in Fairfield County. They realized that the public health, and physical and mental well-being of residents, should take precedence in the spring grants.

Today they announce 5 non-profits, to share $50,000 in WWC Community Service Grants.

Bridgeport Rescue Mission provides 3 meals a day in containers; a mobile kitchen that distributes meals in South Norwalk and Bridgeport, and a food pantry, among many other services. All food programs are free to anyone who is hungry, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic group.

 

Filling in the Blanks. Schools offer weekday lunches for children in need. This organization provides them on weekends for vulnerable children in Norwalk, Stamford, Greenwich and Westport.

Westport Families in Need (coordinated by Westport’s Department of Human Services). Funds are needed for food and requests for help, like rent money, which are increasing rapidly. Some families need gas cards to pick up school meals. A town COVID fund addresses those issues, as well as the mental health needs of people affected by the crisis.

Domestic Violence Crisis Center (Stamford and Norwalk). In stressful times, domestic violence increases. DVCC offers 24/7 crisis intervention, counseling and advocacy, safe housing, and a 24-hour hotline (888-774-2900).

Homes with Hope. The demands of this Westport nonprofit — which provides safe emergency shelter, as well as food assistance — have greatly increased during the coronavirus.

Project Return’s “Susie’s House,” on North Compo Road. All residents — and those at other supportive housing facilities, like the Gillespie Center — have been moved into local hotels, during the coronavirus. That’s another financial burden for Homes with Hope

The Westport Woman’s Club has not been immune to the pandemic’s effects. They’ve suspended all fundraisers (like the Art Show, originally scheduled for this weekend), closed their Curio Cottage Gift Shop, and lost rental income through the closing of their Bedford Hall meeting space.

Anyone wishing to support the 113-year-old club’s good works can do so through the newly designed website (click here).

One good thing from all this time at home: Members had a chance to create an Instagram account. You can follow the club: @westportwomansclub.

Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue.

“Sounds For A Starry Night” Set

“The arts” is a broad term. Westport embraces various forms — music, visual arts, poetry — in various ways.

On Friday, December 6, a variety of disciplines come together. A pair of internationally acclaimed musicians — both Westporters — join a visual artist and the town’s poet laureate. It’s a night of classical music, poetry and vocals — and a benefit for Staples High School students needing help with college costs.

“Sounds for a Starry Night” stars violinist Igor Pikayzen and his mother, pianist Tatyana Pikayzen.

Igor Pikayzen

Igor — a Russian native — made his concert debut with the Moscow Philharmonic at age 8. Now — a graduate of Staples High School, Juilliard and Yale — he has performed with major orchestras around the world, and won numerous competitions.

Igor received a Westport Arts Advisory Committee Horizon Award, as an outstanding Westport artist under age 30 with an international reputation. Critics note his astounding technical ability and majestically lush tone.

His mother — called “the Paganini of the keyboard” — has earned acclaim on 3 continents. A top prize winner at the Chopin International Competition in Warsaw, she has soloed in the world’s most prestigious concert halls.

Cellist Michael Katz completes the distinguished chamber ensemble. Casey Rose Clark will perform a vocal interlude. Noted illustrator Miggs Burroughs and Westport poet laureate Diane Meyer Lowman will speak too.

All artists will be on hand for a post-concert reception.

It’s a benefit for the Westport Woman’s Club scholarship program. Grants are awarded, on a financial need basis, to graduating Staples High School seniors.

The salon-style concert and reception take place at the Westport Woman’s Club. Seating is limited. For tickets ($50 adults, $25 students), click here.

Remembering JoAnne Siebrasse

Westport has lost another longtime civic volunteer.

JoAnne Siebrasse died last month. She was 93 years old.

She and her late husband Dick spent most of their long married life as enthusiastic Westporters. They came here after several corporate transfers, requiring 2- and 3-year semi-permanent relocations in the Midwest.

While Dick first commuted to New York as an advertising “Mad Man,” and later climbed the corporate ladder at CPC International in New Jersey, Westport remained their home for over 50 years. JoAnne invested her time and significant effort to make many long-term friends and community connections here.

JoAnne Siebrasse

Her primary focus in life was to be of service to others. She was active with the Westport Woman’s Club serving on its board  and with the Curio Cottage, Scholarship Committee, Yankee Doodle Fair and more.

JoAnne also was an avid, longtime participant in American Red Cross blood drives; Meals on Wheels; board member of Christian Community Action food pantry (now Person-2-Person); Westport Senior Center; Westport Historical Society, and community outreach at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Greens Farms Congregational Church.

Her son Tom says, “Never one to take direction well, she always served on the boards of the organizations she joined to make her voice and enthusiasm heard. She gathered countless friends and interesting companions along the way.”

Donations in JoAnne Siebrasse’s name can be sent to CT Food Bank, Fidelco Guide Dogs or Homes for Our Troops.

Woman’s Club Gives Grants, Forges Forward

The Westport Woman’s Club is 112 years old.

But members of the Imperial Avenue organization — founded in the early years of the 20th century — are continuing their long tradition of working to improve our town, far into the future.

Recently, the WWC gave a $10,000 Ruegg Grant to Aspetuck Land Trust. Funds will help educate and motivate homeowners to take care of their yards in more sustainable ways, including planting native plants, switching to organic lawn care and reducing pesticides. Model landscape demonstration sites are set for Earthplace and the Haskins Preserve.

Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue.

The Woman’s Club also provided community service grants to 34 Fairfield County non-profits. Ranging from arts, counseling, education and housing to seniors, special needs and women’s enrichment, awardees include Norwalk Youth Symphony, the Westport Country Playhouse, Mercy Learning Center, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Connecticut Food Bank, Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation, Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Homes with Hope, Elderhouse and CLASP Homes.

Applications are available for 2020 grants. The deadline is October 31; click here for details.

Of course, none of that happens without active members. No one in the Westport Woman’s Club was alive at its 1907 founding — but all are looking forward to the next 112 years.

And they can always use more help.

A wine-and-cheese reception on Wednesday, September 25 (5:30 to 7:30 p.m., 44 Imperial Avenue) will introduce prospective members to community service, fundraising, special interest and monthly meeting opportunities. Non-Westporters are welcome to join. For more information, email rclark@westportnational.com, or call 203-227-4240.

(Click here for the Westport Woman’s Club website.)

Pics Of The Day #789

The Yankee Doodle Fair was packed last night. It runs till 10 p.m. tonight, at the Westport Woman’s Club (44 Imperial Avenue). Tomorrow is the last day: 1 to 5 p.m. Don’t miss it!

(Photo/Lee Scharfstein)

(Photo/Kristina Bory)

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

(Photo/Dan Woog)

Pic Of The Day #784

Rides are arriving for the annual Yankee Doodle fair. The much-anticipated, unofficial-start-of-summer event at the Westport Woman’s Club on Imperial Avenue kicks off Thursday at 6 p.m. It continues Friday evening, all day Saturday, and ends Sunday afternoon. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Pic Of The Day #742

Westport Woman’s Club (Photo/Alison Patton)