As gyms, playgrounds and recreational facilities remain closed, the driveway basketball hoop looks better than ever. There are tons in Westport. Some get plenty of use. Others sit idle; the basketball players have moved away.
Full Court Peace is a Norwalk-based charity that collects unwanted portable basketball hoops, cleans them up, then gives them to boys and girls in Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford.
The organization was started by Mike Evans, a Weston native who played basketball at Hamilton College and semi-professionally in Belfast. In Northern Ireland he brought Protestant and Catholic boys together to play as one team.
Email email@example.com with your name, address, and a picture of the hoop you hope to donate. Evans will pick it up at your house, and set it up in a driveway a few miles away. Then he’ll send you a photo of the boy or girl who gets it.
Financial help is welcome to keep this effort going; it requires a U-Haul and manual labor. Click here to help.
But there’s good news. The VFW says: “We are honored and extends our deepest appreciation to the Westport Young Woman’s League for awarding us a generous Super Grant of $20,000. Throughout the past 100 years, VFW Post 399 has been the heart and soul of the veteran community and a Westport institution.
The Super Grant will make a huge difference in helping with our much needed roof repairs and allowing us to continue in our support for both veterans and community. We look forward in partnering with the WYWL to help the community and provide affordable meal programs.”
Stones bearing inspirational messages pop up all over town. This one at Grace Salmon Park caught Marc Frankel’s eye.
I’m guessing whoever painted this was young. If I were an art teacher, I’d give him or her an “A” for creativity. An English teacher would give it an “F.”
And finally … a little Spirit. “It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong …”
Longtime Westport volunteer Sona Current died yesterday. She was 91, and had battled dementia for 11 years.
She met her future husband Bob in 9th grade, in their home town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Sona received a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Oral Hygiene at Temple University, and also attended Penn State College.
Sona and Bob moved to Westport in 1961. They raised their 3 children on Canterbury Close off Park Lane, and spent 35 years with their closest friends in that neighborhood. Those friends followed the Currents to Naples, Florida, where they enjoyed many more years of fun and happiness.
Sona was very active in the Westport Young Woman’s League, which she served as president; the Fairfield County American Cancer Society, for which she co-edited the very successful “Connecticut Cooks” cookbook, and the Westport Garden Club. She was a longtime member of the Green’s Farms Church.
She was also a member of the Patterson Club in Fairfield, and the Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples. She was an avid gardener, water colorist and bridge player, and enjoyed playing golf with family and friends.
Sona is survived by her devoted children, Deborah C. Burns and husband James of Fairfield, and grandchildren, Shea, Cory and Kiara Burns; her son Darrell S. Current and wife Jodine of Louisville, Kentucky and grandchildren,Ashley (Eschenbach) Current and Tyler Current and great- grandchildren, Addison and Avery Eschenbach and Camden Current; and her son Dana Current and wife Jane of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and grandchildren Emily Current and Robert Charles (Charlie) Current.
Sona was preceded in death by her parents, Kevork and Virginia Aznavorian, one brother, George S. Aznavorian and her cherished husband, Robert Charles Current, Jr.
A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, a gift in her memory may be sent to the Women’s Alzheimers Movement, 11440 San Vicente Boulevard., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90049.
Each year, Craft Westport brings over 175 artisans from a variety of genres to town.
The 44th annual event is set for this weekend at Staples High School. It kicks off the holiday shopping season — and all funds raised by the sponsoring Westport Young Woman’s League go to local charities.
The other day, WYWL president Lauren Bromberg sat with Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer to preview the event. They talk about WYWL’s mission, and its work in and around Westport.
(Craft Westport will be held tomorrow — Saturday, November 9 — from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, including tickets, click here.)
Last week’s Photo Challenge was fairly easy. Plenty of women — and men — knew that the gazebo photographed by Tracy Porosoff can be found at 44 Imperial Avenue. (Click here for the photo.)
That’s the site of Bedford Hall, the Curio Cottage, the Yankee Doodle Fair, and the handsome white home of the Westport Woman’s Club.
But only Rosalie Kaye, Diane Bosch, Bobbie Herman, Carla Foster, Linda Amos, Amy Schneider, Lynn Untermeyer Miller and Barbara Raffel called it that. Linda added, “The gazebo was donated in 2000, in memory of long-time member Ronnie Kennedy by her family. It continues to be a lovely addition to the beautiful grounds.”
Many other readers got the name almost correct. Fred Cantor, Diane Silfen, Robert Mitchell, Andrew Colabella, Will Luedke, Jonathan McClure, Michelle Saunders, Seth Braunstein, Wendy Cusick, Shirlee Gordon. Kaye Leong and Bruce Salvo all said it was the Westport Women’s Club.
That actually makes more sense. It’s a club — and since 1907, a great and important one — for Westport women.
Not just one “woman.”
But Westport Woman’s Club it is. If anyone — woman or man — knows the story behind the name, please click “Comments” below.
Click “Comments” too if you know where you would find this week’s Photo Challenge.
(Hint: This morning, the Westport Young Woman’s (ahem) League — a different organization altogether, though its roots were in the Westport Woman’s Club — held its 41st annual Minute Man Race. This photo has nothing to do with that. But it’s a nice tie-in.)
The weather was great in 1989, when during one glorious late April weekend hundreds of volunteers — including many from the Westport Young Woman’s League — constructed the Compo Beach playground.
The weather will not be great this evening, when veterans of that wonderful project (and anyone else who worked on subsequent maintenance days, plus their kids, and all other Westporters who enjoy a good party) planned to celebrate the playground’s 30th anniversary.
So the event is postponed to tomorrow (Saturday, April 27). All are invited to South Beach (the area nearest the cannons).
It’s BYO food and drinks.
And don’t forget that old souvenir t-shirt you’ve held on to for all these years.
Which makes this a perfect opportunity to highlight the Westport Young Woman’s League’s $20,000 Super Grant recipient: the Rowan Center.
Formerly known as the Center for Sexual Assault Crisis and Counseling Education, the Stamford-based organization empowers clients to find strength, resilience and courage — while educating Fairfield County communities to help change social norms.
In Westport, the Rowan Center puts the WYWL’s grant toward programs in the elementary schools, and Staples High.
In addition, the Young Woman’s League is partnering with the Rowan Center and Westport Library to screen the documentary “Roll Red Roll” (Tuesday, April 30, 6:30 p.m., Christ & Holy Trinity Church). A panel discussion follows.
The film uncovers the “rape culture” in Steubenville, Ohio, brought to light at a high school football party. Teenage social media bullying ran rampant, as adults looked away.
The Rowan Center grant is just part of what the Westport Young Woman’s League does. Last year they gave over $80,000 to local and education-based charitable organization. Recipients include A Better Chance of Westport, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Caroline House, CLASP Homes, Homes with Hope, Family & Children’s Agency, Mercy Learning Center and Positive Directions.
But that money does not fall from the sky.
One of the WYWL’s major fundraising events is the Minute Man Race.
Actually, “races.” This year there are 10K and 5K runs, a 5K walk, and a Kids Fun Run with Kids Zone.
The 41st annual Minute Man Race is set for Sunday, April 28. It starts and ends at Compo Beach.
The start of a Minute Man race is always exciting.
It’s 4 decades old, but there are always new twists. For the first time this year, there’s a “corporate and small business team” category. The WYWL encourages local businesses to sign up and compete together, for a fun team-builder that helps good causes.
You’ve seen the signs. You know the Minute Man Race.
Now that you know the back story — where the money goes — there’s even more incentive to run. Or walk.
Or just donate and cheer.
(For more information on the Minute Man Race — including registration and sponsorships — click here.)
It’s still here. The 38th annual Minute Man Race — actually, a 10K, 5K walk (untimed) and Kids’ Fun Run — is set for this Sunday (May 1), at the traditional starting and ending point: Compo Beach.
The starter’s gun goes off every year, rain or shine. The race is still on this year, despite construction of a new walkway at Compo, and renovation of the parking lot.
A typical Minute Man race.
The Minute Man Race is one of the Young Woman’s League’s biggest fundraisers of the year. Last year, participants helped fund over $75,000, which the League distributed to 31 charities — all in lower Fairfield County.
Westport racers are a hardy bunch. A couple of sawhorses won’t stop them!
(To register for Sunday’s Minute Man Race, click here. Online registration is open until Thursday, April 28 at 6 p.m. In-person registration takes place at Performance Physical Therapy, 333 Post Road East, on Saturday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or at the Compo Beach pavilion on race day, Sunday May 1, from 7 to 8 a.m. — provided the cap of 1,500 participants has not been reached.)
Bedford Hall — the Westport Woman’s Club‘s newly renovated, recently dedicated event space — is very modern.
Costing $120,000, it includes a state-of-the-art AV/home theater system, recessed and cove LED lighting, new halogen stage lights, and much more. It will be Westport’s go-to space for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, art shows, memorial services and much more, for years to come.
But its story begins 108 years ago.
In 1907, a group of Westport women decided to do something about the muddy, horse manure-filled streets of downtown. They put on a fair, raised money, and built sidewalks.
By 1925, the Westport Town Improvement Association had added sidewalks — and gotten rid of mud and manure on Main Street. The entrance to what became the Westport Woman’s Club (the “Bedford House” portion of the YMCA) is on the right side in this 1925 photo.
That “sanitary” project led to others: bathrooms at Compo Beach. Hot lunches and vaccinations (!) in the schools. More sidewalks on Compo Road.
A few years later, when E.T. Bedford was building his YMCA, that same group of women — now called the Westport Town Improvement Association — asked what he was doing for the ladies. He modified the Y’s design, giving them a separate entrance on Main Street. It was called “Bedford House.”
That’s where the Westport Woman’s Club — as it was known by the 1930s — held art shows, conducted dental screenings, handed out scholarships and hosted the visiting nurses’ offices.
“It was a very popular club to be in,” says current WWC president Dorothy Curran. “It was also the de facto health department in town.”
In 1945, as men returned from war and new families began moving to Westport, demands on the Y space increased. Bedford’s son Frederick continued his father’s commitment to the Woman’s Club, buying an 1881 house at 44 Imperial Avenue for the organization to use.
It was a beautiful waterfront home, with a big veranda. But it was in disrepair. And because there was no meeting space inside, it sat unused for 5 years.
In 1950, as the Saugatuck Church prepared to move its 1832 meetinghouse from the Post Road/North Compo corner, several hundred feet across US 1 (to its present site near Myrtle Avenue), it put its 1866 Sunday school building on the market for $2,000.
The WWC was interested. It would cost another $18,000 to move it to Imperial Avenue, and renovate the interior. Frederick Bedford agreed to pay half the cost of the purchase, moving and renovation price.
In September 1950 — a couple of weeks after the church made its slow, famous trek across the Post Road — the 2nd, less famous building was cut in half. The 2 sections then made their own journey west.
Photos depicting the Saugatuck Congregational Church’s Sunday School building move hang in its current home on Imperial Avenue.
When the Sunday school building was reassembled and joined to the Imperial Avenue house, the clapboard matched. “It was meant to be!” Curran says.
A kitchen was added. Dedicated the following June, the hall was used for the WWC’s active theater club, and rented to outside groups.
Over the years, the room grew old. Rental income dropped.
The gazebo and gardens are a lot lovelier in spring, summer and fall.
But the space is great. It’s centrally located. There’s a garden with a gazebo, for wedding photos ops. And so much parking! In 1955 the WWC granted the town 2 acres of riparian rights. The land was filled in, and now the club has 100 parking spaces to use in perpetuity.
Westport is one of only 2 Woman’s Clubs in the state with their own clubhouse. (The other is in Greenwich.) They share space with 2 tenants: Connecticut Braille Association, and the Westport Young Woman’s League.
The WYWL was formed in 1956, when a group of younger Woman’s Club members realized they were doing much of the group’s work, but had no representation on the board. The split made the New York Times.
Westport Woman’s Club president Dorothy Curran stands proudly outside the organization’s Imperial Avenue home.
At the time, the Young Woman’s upper age limit was 35. It became 40, then 50. Now there is no limit at all.
Today, the median age of Woman’s Club members is “a bit older” than the Young Woman’s group, Curran says. But in many ways the 2 clubs are similar.
The WWYL organizes the Minute Man Race and CraftWestport, and awards many grants.
The WWC runs the Yankee Doodle Fair, art shows, the Nutcracker Tea, Curio Cottage, Westport food pantry — and donates to many of the same organizations as the WWYL.
Which brings us back to the new Bedford Hall. The $120,000 project — funded mostly by Lea Ruegg and her son Erhart, and completed in January with a stage, Steinway baby grand piano, maple floors, crown moldings and seating for over 100 people — will be the site this Wednesday (March 18, 12-1:30 pm) of the 1st-ever event co-sponsored by the Westport Woman’s Club and Westport Young Woman’s League.
A Steinway piano and modern lighting are just 2 features of the new Bedford Hall stage.
It’s a panel, breakout discussion and brown bag lunch on the topic: “What is the role of women’s volunteer service organizations in the 21st century?” The public is welcome.
After so much help from 2 philanthropic Bedfords, it’s fitting that 44 Imperial Avenue finally has a “Bedford Hall.”
And fitting too, that a pair of well-run, very generous women’s organizations — both born in the 20th century — are joining forces in their shared 19th-century home, to address 21st-century women’s issues.
(For information on renting Bedford Hall, contact Susan Loselle: 203-227-4240 or 203-246-9258; firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
A handsome, 19th-century interior leads into the modern Bedford Hall (rear).
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