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Connecticut Braille Association

Connecticut Braille Association, Westport

44 Imperial Avenue, Westport

Robin’s note: File this under “Unsung Heroes”: the only Braille association in Connecticut is all volunteers (save one), and often outsources work to prisoners, with commendable results.

Who they are: CBA, with only one paid employee (director Micki McCabe), consists of a small number of committed folks with extensive experience and freelancers around the country. While Braille literacy is down, its proponents insist literacy is an integral part of education and communication for the vision-impaired. Currently, there are 100 Braille readers in Connecticut.

What they provide: The workers translate texts—from Harry Potter to science textbook—into Braille, using computer programs and those proficient in Braille. A small group of them work each day in the basement of their Westport headquarters.

Approximate number of employees: 1, and many volunteers.
(203) 227-5243‎

Give     Westport    
Friday, January 21, 2011 • Permalink

Red Ribbon Foundation

Red Ribbon Foundation
270 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich
(203) 861-2775

My husband and I love our iPod. It has enabled us to re-discover our love of music and connect with our children on numerous levels. Our songs are unexpectedly expanding their vocabulary (“Mom, what does it mean when he sings ‘she f*cking hates me’?” Answer: “Go ask your father. He compiled the song list.”) and, despite all evidence to the contrary, I know they appreciate Mommy’s heartfelt and emotive rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” with an Argentine-ish dialect.

Yes, music is a very powerful thing. Which is why Red Ribbon Foundation (RRF) is using it to fight AIDS and help those living with HIV/AIDS.

Who they are: Karl and Florence Suerig founded RRF in memory of her son’s succumbing to the virus in the ‘80s. He, a doctor, and she, an artist and interior designer, wanted to help those living with the disease and find a way to eradicate the pandemic.

What it is: RRF “raises money to fight AIDS through a large-scale music-oriented fundraiser held every two years. The proceeds of this event are then awarded as grants to organizations that demonstrate results as well as promising ideas for preventing the spread of AIDS and caring for those with the disease. RRF grants support prevention education programs for high-risk individuals, cutting-edge research to eradicate the disease, and assistance programs for those living with HIV/AIDS” - website. Last June, they donated $285,000 to 20 AIDS organizations.

How you can help:
  1. In addition to buying a ticket for the Bollywood concert scheduled in November, you can sponsor a Kilimanjaro climber’s ascent to the top of the mountain. Contributions may be made by length traveled or lump sum.
  2. Volunteer positions are also available. See website for more information.

Give     Greenwich    
Friday, January 14, 2011 • Permalink



Sidekick Secrets

Our 6 year-old son decided to augment his cash stash by selling rocks he found in our yard. He put them in a bucket, rinsed them in the kitchen sink, let them drip dry in my colander, and hit up our guests for $5-10 a pop. It was kind of cute. Now it’s uncomfortable. I carefully explained to him our friends will stop visiting us if they’re bulldozed into dropping coin for a rock. So he plans to sell chunks of asphalt instead.

Sure, he makes a little cash because our friends are gracious and understanding, but is selling something of marginal use the most effective way to raise money? Like, for instance, how charities in Fairfield County sell eco-friendly reusable shopping bags for a small fraction of the proceeds. I have so many reusable shopping bags I’m starting to throw them away.

Jenna Roche, a former internet professional, had the same issue in her home: so much junk, so little money going to the charity she was trying to support. So three years ago she devised a strategy to raise lots of money without selling tissue-thin wrapping paper and that ilk: sell good stuff at a great price. She began by asking friends and family about their favorite online retailers, then she asked these retailers to offer exclusive discounts on select items when purchased through her website, Sidekicksecrets.com.

Click to read the rest ... "Sidekicksecrets.com"

Give     Wilton    
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 • Permalink

Magical Music for Life Foundation

76 Elm Street, New Canaan
(203) 966-178

Robin’s note: If your boys are anything like mine, they watch Star Wars, “cut off” each others arms with lightsabers, and say cute things like, “I’m going to kill you.” So sweet. As an antidote to the harrowing images and stories in modern media (children’s shows, nonetheless), a group of parents and artists pulled together to form a foundation that brings a positive, musical message to kids.

Who they are: “…a team of professional musicians, actors, writers and producers (founded in 1999 by Carter and Chris Norton) [who] develop and produce a wide range of musical projects that can bring a positive approach to everyday life to young children and their families. ...each of these projects are designed to enable children to perform / participate in the professional productions.” (website)

What they provide: Their traveling show, The Adventures of Zak, consists of 2 adults actors, 3 child actors, a rudimentary set, and sound equipment. The show can include the local school/organizations children’s choir in the final number. Zak is about “daily struggles and frustrations” and is most appropriate for children age 4-11.

What you may not know but should:
  1. The touring production of Zak has played at a many impressive venues, including The White House Egg Roll and The Tribeca Film Family Festival. The larger production has played at many major theatres throughout the US.
  2. The touring production may be used to raise money for other organizations and charities.

For more information, please contact:
Carter Norton, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Give     New Canaan    
Monday, January 03, 2011 • Permalink

Merri Mueller, 108 Sun Salutations

108 Sun Salutations

Tonight, December 21 at 7:00 at Kaia Yoga
1200 Post Road East, Westport
(behind Crate & Barrel in Westport)

108 is a sacred number in many religions. A mala is a string of 108 beads. Hindu deities have 108 names (Christians are lucky in that regard). Tibetan Buddhists must resist 108 earthly temptations to achieve nirvana which, honestly, makes nirvana sound like a drag.

Caption (Click to enlarge)

A Westport yoga instructor, Merri Mueller, chose 108 Sun Salutations to celebrate the solstice and raise money for a struggling Bridgeport family. Last year, her celebration raised over $1,100 for a family who had lost their home in a fire. They were living with friends and used the money to buy mattresses, “so everyone has a place to sleep.” This year, the proceeds will help a family of four who have difficulty feeding their two young boys. The husband and wife are both unemployed and trying to find new jobs.

Merri founded the fundraiser/celebration a year ago and holds them on the first day of each season. She donates the money to causes such as breast cancer, hospitals for alternative medicines and, of course, to families in need. Participants are invited to donate $20 each, but many donate between $50-100.

The 108 Sun Salutations are a “series of poses that flow together, looking like a prayer in motion—one breath, no talking, with positive powerful energy in the room.” She encourages people to do however many they can. Some do 10, some do 108 which takes about an hour and a half. The poses are done in 4 sets of 27, with breaks. Word is, it’s tiring.

An accomplished yoga instructor, Merri is certified to teach women with cancer and is a frequent volunteer at the Bridgeport Resources Center, offering instruction to women who would otherwise have no means of receiving classes. So 108 also represents the number of words to describe her, beginning with generous, kind, beautiful, resourceful, hard-working, amazing…

Robin’s note: During the 3rd set, Merri’s friend Scott Williams plays the guitar for the Sun Saluters. Scott is also in an ‘80s cover band called “Fake ID” which is the greatest name for a cover band ever.

Date, Time, Location: Tonight from 7:00-8:30 PM at Kaia Yoga, 1200 Post Road East in Westport, behind Crate & Barrel.


Give     Westport    
Tuesday, December 21, 2010 • Permalink

Children’s Toy Drives

Toy Drive

I threw out a pile of donation solicitations the other day. Depleted, I reasoned, were my charity and finances. Then I fired up the internet and bought myself a new pair of earrings. 

And so the cycle of guilt continues.

For the price of the pair of earrings I now plan to return, you can buy several lovely Christmas gifts for children in need. Below are many wonderful organizations eager to help out those less fortunate this holiday season:

Please hurry!

They all accept unwrapped toys or gift cards.

Holiday Toy Drive, Westport
Drop off new unwrapped toys and donations in the parking lot of Athletic Shoe Factory, 1560 Post Road East, Westport, on Dec. 18 & 19 between 9 AM and 3 PM. Toys are given to underprivileged children in Fairfield County. Or drop off toys any time at the Westport Police Department, 50 Jesup Road, until Dec. 19 at 3 PM. Toy Drive is sponsored by WPD Local Union #2080 and Police Benevolent Assoc.

The Child and Family Guidance Center*, Bridgeport
(203) 394-6529
Founded in 1925 to address the emotional and psychological wellbeing of children and their families, the Center offers a wide range of outpatient mental health and substance abuse counseling services for children under the age of 18 as well as a variety of in-home supportive services to their families.

Click to read the rest ... "Children’s Toy Drives"

Give     Darien     Fairfield     Greenwich     New Canaan     Norwalk     Stamford     Weston     Westport     Wilton    
Friday, December 17, 2010 • Permalink

Fairfield Women’s Exchange

Fairfield Women's Exchange, Southport

332 Pequot Avenue, Southport

I had heard of this place and avoided it, as “Women’s Exchange,” for me, conjured up images of crocheted toilet paper covers, second-hand throw pillows that read “I Love My Grandchildren,” and Christmas ornaments made of googly eyes and dried starfish. In short, I assumed I wasn’t their target market.

But assuming makes an ass out of u and me, which is something I read on a plaque in a Women’s Exchange.

So I was very, very surprised to note the chic tableware and sophisticated linens I’d see at any upscale boutique. Their great selection of baby and toddler clothes are darling and unique, including name sweaters and rain gear. Further, the back room boasts an impressive selection of antiques, prestige china and sterling serving pieces. The FWE routinely holds trunk shows for high-end accessories and tableware and scouts NYC shows for artisans and consignors.

A not-for-profit store, FWE donates all of its profits to women’s and children’s charities, making it the perfect storm of retail and charity. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, the prices are very reasonable.

Robin’s note: They sell a brand-name handbag, spotted on numerous well-heeled FC residents, for about $45 less than a neighboring shop.

Who you’ll see shopping here: Women ages 30-75 years old.

Their specialty: Beautiful hand-knit baby wear, consigned from all over the country.

What you should buy: A stack of 11 dinner plates of Rosenthal Eminence-Cobalt blue china* for $395. These retail for about $175 a plate.

What you may not know but should:
  1. The 30 year-old store is run entirely by women volunteers.
  2. Currently, they sell embroidered items made in Haiti, to benefit women and children in Haiti.
*I’m not a dinnerware expert, but I’m 99% sure I’m right about the pattern.

Consignment     Home + Garden     Give     Fairfield    
Friday, December 03, 2010 • Permalink

Children’s Connection


One Park Street, Norwalk

In my mind, the holiday season is one of the most significant times in a child’s life. Whether it’s remembering my own childhood (hearing a symphony of shattering glass ornaments when the cat knocked over the Christmas tree, singeing our eyelashes as we throw armfuls of wrapping paper and plastic covers into the fireplace inferno), or experiencing it far more cautiously through my own children.

It’s almost impossible, and tragic, to imagine a child not having joyful memories of December, especially in Fairfield County. But it happens. It happens every year, all year, all around us. There are children who suffer neglect and abuse in every conceivable way and they need our help. 

Children’s Connection, part of the Human Service Council, reaches out to these children and their families, trying to make their lives and their holidays a little bit merrier.

Who they are: “The Children’s Connection, one of seven fully accredited child advocacy centers in Connecticut, is a member of the National Children’s Alliance. Organized in 1974, the Children’s Connection grew out of the community’s desire to improve the existing system’s response to child abuse.”

Abuses include neglect, sexual, and physical abuse.

What they do: “The formation of the Children’s Connection’s premise is that in order to effectively serve abused children and their families, various private and public organizations must share knowledge, resources and skills. This collaboration ensures that the needs of all children and families served are being met and works towards providing permanent solutions to the serious community problem of child abuse.”

Their goals are to decrease incidence of abuse, support families and children in crisis, and to increase awareness of abuse services.

Click to read the rest ... "Children’s Connection"

Give     Norwalk    
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 • Permalink

Westport Playhouse

25 Powers Court,  Westport

Historically, Westport is an artists’ community. It’s where Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Marlo Thomas and, yes, the Michael Bolton found domestic bliss. Countless cartoonists, actors, writers, and fashion executives still call this seaside enclave home. You can strike up a playdate conversation with the creative director of Barneys (rather, his wife), trip over the barbell of a TV actress at the gym, and follow a Weinstein brother, in a healthy and respectful manner, through Barnes & Noble.

Art begets art, and one of the reason such creative powerhouses are attracted to this town is the Westport Playhouse, where talent is harnessed and entertained, producing New York-caliber performances.

Who they are: Started in 1930 in a tannery, the playhouse stage was built to the exact specs of a Broadway stage to facilitate the moving of productions to the Great White Way. It hosted and nurtured such luminaries as Eugene O’Neil, Jessica Tandy, Jane Fonda, and Steven Sondheim.

In 2005, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman and friends renovated the theatre to the tune of $30 million, making it a comfortable year-round theatre.

What they do: Today, as in 1930, the Playhouse offers apprenticeships, internships, and education to thespians, writers, and aspiring directors of all ages.

Most important, the Playhouse presents critically- acclaimed plays and musicals throughout the year for adults and children.

What you may not know but should:
  - Graduates of the intern program include Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard), Sally Jesse Raphael, Christina Crawford (“No wire hangers!!”) and sundry offspring of successful writers.
  - The Playhouse offers many other events, such as artist talkbacks, new play readings, play-reading clubs, backstage tours, post-performance symposia, pre-performance social events and fabulous birthday parties for children.

How you can contribute: Buy tickets to the shows and donate!


Give     Westport    
Thursday, November 11, 2010 • Permalink

Cuf Cakes

The Zuckerbergs (Click to enlarge)


In the early days of the Tom Ford/Gucci love-fest, his feather-cuffed jeans made me froth at the mouth with desire. Those were the heady days of the dot.com era and I, not being of dot.com employment or paycheck, was a ready and willing victim of DIY fashion. So I hacked off the bottom of my Wal-Mart jeans and tricked them out with strings of red feathers and embroidered ribbon. Then I stepped out for a night on the town looking like an idiot.

But when someone else makes cuffs from a cut-up Burberry trench coat she gets compliments. Granted, they look a lot better than did my molting knee-sheaths and she makes them for a far more noble reason: to help eradicate childhood disease.

Who she is: Courtney Zuckerberg is a Westport mother of two whose son has juvenile diabetes. After his diagnosis in 2005, Courtney decided she needed to do more than take care of her son: she needed to take care of every boy and girl whose childhood is marred by disease or ailment.

Click to read the rest ... "Cuf Cakes"

Fashion     Give     Westport    
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 • Permalink

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