Peggy Leyden Holda writes from South Easton, Massachusetts:
My mother (Rita Leyden) and I read with great interest your recent Roundup. You reported that the Westport Young Women’s League has distributed more than $4 million in grants since 1956.
Just a few days prior, I had unearthed a gem while going through the boxes (and boxes and boxes) of memorabilia recently relocated from Westport to Massachusetts, after Mom sold her Bradley Street home of 40 years.
Mom typed a draft of her President’s Report on onion skin (which remarkably withstood the test of time) for publication in the League’s 1976-1977 Annual Report. It chronicles the contributions of an extraordinary group of leaders who measurably enriched the lives of their neighbors. Their names read like a Who’s Who of Westport’s great families.
Mom and her WYWL friends were role models for the 14-year-old I was at the time. Through them I learned that women can do just about anything they set their minds to … and have fun while doing it.
As then, so now: The Westport Young Women’s League is proof positive that “in the big things of life we are as one.”
Peggy is right. Her mother’s report lists phenomenal accomplishments of a group of women. There’s Geri Lawrence, Katie Chase, Ellie Hoyt, Ginny Koscomb, Pat Shea, Cathy Ryan and many more.
Some are still around Westport. Mimi Greenlee — who “printed over 47,000 pieces on our Gestetner mimeo machine” — nonetheless always kept smiling. She still does, now as one of the movers behind the new Westport Book Shop.
One page of Rita Leyden’s president’s report mentions Mimi Greenlee — and many other women.
Sue Kane and Joyce Barnhart are still involved too, after a lifetime of volunteerism. Marianne Harrison is retired in North Carolina, where she leads a very active life.
All of which reminds us of the work that the Westport Young Woman’s League — and many similar organizations do — is both important, ongoing, and builds on the shoulders of many who came before.
Today we honor all those civic volunteers who give their time. And we also recognize that they would not be here, doing what they do, without the Unsung Heroes of yesterday.
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email email@example.com)
For 42 years, the Minute Man Race has meant many things. It’s one of the area’s top events. It’s a sure sign that spring is here. And it’s a great fundraiser for the Westport Young Woman’s League.
This year, it’s something else: virtual.
Participants can run any time between April 25 and May 2. And you can do it from anywhere. There’s no excuse not to support the WYWL — and the charities they help, throughout the area.
Last year, the WYWL gave $90,000 to local organizations. They’ve distributed over $4.3 million in grants since 1956. Click here for the full list of recipients. .
In addition to the usual 10K run and 5 K run/walk, there’s a new Minute Man Challenge. The fastest combined time for the 5K and 10K runs earns a prize. That’s in addition to the prizes for the top 3 finishers in each event.
Each registrant gets a Minute Man Race t-shirt, and a “digital runner’s packet” with swag from the race sponsors.
Click here for complete details, and registration information. NOTE: The WYWL offers discounts to essential works, students and others.
And finally … Nina Simone was born on this day, in 1931 1933. The multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician, arranger (and civil rights activist)’s music spanned a broad range of styles, including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel and pop. She died in 2003, at 70.
Dan Sklar is a beloved rabbi, cantor and musician.
Now he’s an author too.
All those identities come together in “Sh*tShow: A Memoir & Mixtape: The Tales of a Reluctant Rabbi.” It’s an insightful, deeply human expression of past and present.
This past year has been challenging for everyone. Sklar was particularly affected. “Reluctant Rabbi” explores how inherited family trauma — and trauma experienced first hand — shape the people we become.
A Spotify playlist of 29 songs that provoke and inspire accompanies the book (you’ll see when and where to play the tracks). Artists include Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, Lyle Lovett, Theodore Bikel, the Indigo Girls, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Rascal Flatts — and Sklar himself.
It’s called “Galentine’s: Wine Night and Bingo Fundraiser.” It’s sponsored by the Westport Young Woman’s League.
But you don’t have to be a woman to participate in this virtual event. All are welcome!
“Galentine’s” (February 4, 7:30 p.m., Zoom) raises funds for local charities. Last year, the WYWL handed out $90,000 to organizations that end hunger, and promote education and health.
The League has partnered with the female-owned vineyard Aquila’s Nest. The $65 ticket price includes 2 bottles of wine, bingo spot and fun surprises. Click here to purchase a ticket, and for more information.
And finally … happy 53rd birthday to rapper/producer/actor/author/ entrepreneur/Kennedy Center honors winner LL Cool J.
Which, I just found out today, stands for Ladies Love Cool James.
In a first for Staples High School sports — and perhaps for any team anywhere in the country — the boys soccer team broadcast last night’s match at Norwalk on a drive-in movie screen.
With a limited number of spectators allowed due to COVID at most schools — and Norwalk banning even parents — the Wreckers have livestreamed all their games this year.
GKess Films of Cheshire provide high-def quality video. WWPT-FM students provide play-by-play; alumni athletes, former coaches and other soccer aficionados add color commentary.
Cars filled with parents, siblings, younger players and random soccer fans headed to the Remarkable Theater Imperial Avenue parking lot for tailgating, and the game. They honked their horns and flashed their lights when Haydn Siroka and Alan Fiore scored early goals, and when Sebi Montoulieu saved a penalty kick.
Staples won 2-1 — their 3rd consecutive victory — and perhaps a new tradition was born.
A scene from the big screen at the Remarkable Theater. (Photo/Neil Brickley)
Good news from the Westport Library!
Starting Monday, November 9, they’ll expand hours, institute cart-side pick-up, and will offer access to the media studios, Maker Space and Children’s Department (by appointment).
New hours are Monday through Friday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The Library will remain closed on Sunday.
Patrons can browse for materials in the Library, place them on hold remotely, or do so by calling 203-291-4807. Items placed on hold can be picked up in the tent outside the building at any time during operating hours. This replaces the current curbside pick-up arrangement.
Delivery services will continue for residents who are homebound or in a high-risk category that prevents them from visiting the Library.
The Library is also adding printing services to its 3 Express computers. and will reintroduce loans from in-state Libraries.
Shopping in the Library store will continue in person or virtually by appointment. Click here to schedule.
The Library will continue to limit the number of people in the building to 100 at any time.
Tony Award-winning actor and noted director James Naughton is also a noted animal advocate. He writes:
Having lived in Weston for 43 years, and been raised in Connecticut, I count myself very lucky to have shared this wonderful, woodsy environment with nature’s creatures.
Just in the last 6 months while sequestered, we were entertained daily by a couple of foxes raising their 5 little kits in our yard, then a family of groundhogs and a raccoon family. Owls hoot in the woods , hawks circle overhead, and we watch out for fawns crossing the roads.
When some of these animals aren’t so lucky — hey are orphaned or encounter an automobile they (and we) are lucky to have a place to take them right here.
Dara and Peter Reid created Wildlife in Crisis, and have been its stewards for over 30 years.
Normally, they take in 5,000 animals a year. This year they’ve taken in an unusually large number of creatures–and they need our help.
They’re a 501C3, and depend on charitable contributions. Click here, and watch a 10-minute video of them releasing back into the wild some of the animals they’ve raised or rehabilitated.
It’s inspiring, and a delight to show to your children and grandchildren. Then please: Make a donation.
Jim Naughton with a baby possum.
Speaking of famous Weston residents: This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. The other day, singer-songwriter Jose Feliciano popped into a Norwalk TV studio to talk with Telemundo about the jazzy, jangly classic.
Click here to see. The interview is in Spanish. But if you don’t speak it: no hay problema.
The song — and Jose’s exubertant personality — are universal.
Saturday (October 31) is the deadline to apply for a Westport Young Woman’s League Super Grant.
They’re awarded to local organizations working in areas like food insecurity, education, and health and wellness.
Despite the impact of COVID on fundraising, the WYWL continues to support our community. For a grant application, click here. To learn more, click here.
Halloween is not yet here.
But Christmas is, at Anthropologie downtown.
Can spring be far behind?
And finally … thanks to Jose Feliciano and Anthropologie, “06880” officially kicks off the holiday season:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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