Category Archives: Community

‘Muse Squad’ on the Rise in Ridgefield

A Ridgefield mom and business owner tells the story of how her unique writing program helps youth in the community to hone their craft.

RIDGEFIELD, CT — Our Small Business Spotlight shines a light on local businesses that we may not know that well. This feature highlights Ridgefield Mompreneur Brittney Richardson who is the founder of the newly launched Muse Squad, a youth writing program.

To a beginning writer, finding a time and place to channel creativity is key. With that in mind, Brittney Richardson designed the online course for aspiring young writers. By the end of completing her unique program, Richardson said, students should have the start of a novel, a short story, or several standalone pieces to put in their writing portfolio.

How did you come up with the name?

Coming up with a name was a bit of a process. I wanted it to appeal to kids without being childish, and it was very important to draw in all genders. My incredibly talented husband did the logo.

Why start a business in this town?

We moved to Ridgefield five years ago, and obviously, fell in love with the town. I was researching creative writing for kids and couldn’t find much in our area. That’s when I got the idea for the program. I’ve always loved kids, and I’ve always loved writing. I knew that if something like this was offered when I was a teen, I definitely would’ve been a part of it!

What business are you in?

I think of Muse Squad as more of a writing club than a business. That being said, I intend to pass on and make accessible, the literary techniques and wisdom of outstanding teachers. I also plan to demonstrate several of my own unique strategies for generating inspiration. I can say firsthand, that the people I met in workshops during grad school, were some of the most gifted individuals I’ve ever come across, and I found mentors in my instructors. So why not offer this experience sooner than college?

What’s the most difficult moment or challenge you’ve faced as a business owner?

Writing is kind of a niche hobby for middle schoolers, because it doesn’t really become mainstream until they get older. But that doesn’t mean kids this age aren’t just as talented or creative as students in MFA programs. The most difficult challenge is having to do this online, rather than in person like I was intending. There is a certain energy when a group of creative people are in a room together, and I will do my best to achieve this same experience in a virtual world.

Were there any challenges that made you second guess your decision to be an entrepreneur?

I consider myself more of a tireless writer, and an advocate of kids. So no, I never second guessed it. Once I came up with the idea, I had to follow through.

What’s been your proudest achievement since opening?

The overwhelmingly positive feedback I have received, and the anticipation of our winter launch, which begins January 27th, 2022.

How does your business give back or get involved in the community?

I hope Muse Squad can be the start of a local community for young writers. This innovative class is not about graded assignments; it’s about honing your craft. My goal is to run meetings where kids can tune into their creativity and bounce ideas off their peers. This program will give
anyone who joins a chance to showcase their ability and express their point of view, and supply them with the space, tools, and confidence to explore their artistry.

Photo: Brittney Richardson.

Muse Squad business logo by Brian Richardson.

CT Veteran Owned Company Carries on in Marine Father’s Mission

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.” ― Ronald Reagan

BROOKFIELD, CT—A local Marine who served in Afghanistan is following in his late father’s footsteps and honoring him not only in serving the country but also keeping the “mission-first mentality” that he learned while on active duty. Brookfield resident and business owner David Alger said that today and every Veterans Day is special to him because it gives him time to reflect on what his father’s service meant to him and how he is working diligently to keep his spirit alive.

“My father Jack Alger was in the Marines and passed away when I was just 17-years-old,” Alger said. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps and always thought of the Marines as the ‘elite’ branch of the military who would be pushed the hardest. “

The late Mr. Alger was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in the Vietnam era. He retired after 35 years as a licensed plumber and was an active member of his community. He was a member of St. Francis Xavier Church Men’s Society; the Knights of Columbus, Housatonic Council 40; the Catholic War Veterans Giuseppe Leto Post 61; the Brookfield Lions Club and the Concordia of Danbury. Like his father, David Alger values giving back to his community and supports many local charities through his business, including Brookfield Football & Cheer, the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Foundation, and more.

“Ultimately it’s all about being mission minded, going above and beyond, and being honest. I want to set a good example for my children just like my father did for me,” said Alger.

For more information, visit eliteegroup.com.

Westport Writers Workshop to Host In-Person Fall Classes in Brand New Space as Well as Online

WESTPORT, CT—Westport Writers Workshop (WWW) is pleased to offer an interesting range of both in-person and online classes this fall for aspiring to established writers. After operating online-only classes and workshops since COVID-19 halted operations, the organization is glad to have a safe, welcoming, place for writers to learn, grow, and network in a brand new, gallery-like space located at 25 Sylvan Lane, Unit J, Westport, CT just down the road from their former location. Westport Writers Workshop welcomes the community to an open house reception on Thursday, September 9th 6 from 6 to 8 pm. The reception is free and open to the public.

Executive Director Liz Matthews said, “After 17 months of offering our creative writing workshops remotely, we are reopening in a new space that we’re really excited about. This new location features a gallery-like space with a large workshop/community space where we hope to collaborate with other local arts organizations in this new space. Along with our workshops, we’ll be offering free readings and publishing events.in our new space.”

Board Chairman Anne Lonergan said, “We are thrilled to be honoring our roots as an in-person workshop that thrives on the energy created by writers around a table.”

Ellyn Gelman is excited to offer the first in-person class at Westport Writers Workshop’s new location, 25 Sylvan Lane, Unit J, Westport, CT. Inventing The Truth – The Craft of Memoir and Personal Essay will explore theme, dialogue, action, structure, scene, character, voice, style and timeline. The instructor will provide prompts based on-topic discussions. Once per term each writer will have the opportunity to submit ten pages for written feedback. This workshop is for all levels. The class will be held on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning on September 10 and running through October 22, 2021.

Intermediate Fiction instructor Jessie McEntee, who will be teaching in-person workshops on Monday mornings shares, “It’s an exciting opportunity for rebuilding community in a new space.”

For those who wish to stick with online classes this fall, author Libby Waterford will teach Intro to Fiction in a nurturing, positive environment.

“Each week we’ll talk about an aspect of fiction and then workshop our writing,” Waterford said.

Writers are asked to bring a story idea to the first class, or work on their in-progress fiction manuscript. Topics explored will include plot, character arcs, conflict, point of view, beginnings, and endings. This class is ideal for writers just dipping their toe into fiction, coming from the world of memoir, or who are having trouble finishing their manuscript.

The class will be online via ZOOM on Monday evenings from 7 – 9 p.m. beginning on August 30 and running through October 18, 2021.

For those who love words in the form of poetry, instructor Shanna Melton is offering a safe haven to gather online in her class, Poetry: Writing from the Inside Out.

“We will surface and honor the internal thoughts and perspectives that we have about life through the powerful medium that is poetry. The mission is to use prompts and other creative tools to motivate the creative process. It also creates a space to share and get a reaction from other writers who can advise us on how to enhance our work. This is a place to develop our writing,” Melton stated.

This class is held online on Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 12 noon beginning on September 1 and running through October 13, 2021.

Adele Annesi’s class, Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Find and Write the Story Under the Surface, teaches writers how to provide readers with their own satisfying emotional journey.

“We also look at how to craft the story’s emotional landscape, its emotional arc and meaning, the plot, and the reader and writer’s emotional journey. Each writer can email up to five pages weekly to the instructor and the group for detailed feedback. Discover the deeper connection with your story, your characters, your audience, and yourself. The workshop is suitable for writers who took the first Emotional Craft of Fiction workshop and those new to the concept,” Annesi shared.

This class is being held online in ZOOM on Thursdays, from 1 – 3 p.m. beginning on September 2 and running through October 21, 2021.

To register for any of these classes, visit Westportwriters.org.

Westport Writers Workshop will be hosting an open house at their new location, 25 Sylvan Lane, Unit J, Westport, CT, on Thursday, September 9th from 6 – 8 p.m. Executive Director Liz Matthews said, “We hope you’ll stop by to check out our new space, meet our instructors & other writers, and have a drink to toast the re-emergence of our in-person workshops and events! This event is free and open to our community. Come around back to our entrance – there’s plenty of parking. Bring a friend who is interested in learning more about Westport Writers! Music by Dustin Lowman and photography by Jim Waterbury.”

For more information, visit Westporwriters.org.

About Westport Writers Workshop:

Since 2003, the Westport Writers’ Workshop has been offering workshops for every level of writer, from novice to published! Our instructors offer friendly, supportive writing workshops designed to encourage, inspire, and spark your imagination.
With over 100 workshops a year to choose from, we welcome writers of all skill levels and genres. Our workshops are designed to suit your schedule, with options in the morning, afternoons, and evenings. We also host several Saturday-only workshops and one-week writing-intensive programs throughout the year. You can learn more about our workshops by visiting our WORKSHOP page. Let Westport Writers’ Workshop help you discover and develop your own unique writing talent and voice.

Our Philosophy: You can expect a supportive group led by an experienced instructor. You’ll write, read, and learn from each other. Focus is always on the quality of the writing – not on the subject matter. Writing begets writing. The more you commit to your writing, to showing up for your writing group, the more you will write. By joining a community of writers, you will become a stronger writer and influence others to refine their craft. Our philosophy and practices are inspired by Amherst Writers & Artists and Pat Schneider’s book, Writing Alone and With Others.

Our Mission: The Westport Writers’ Workshop is an independent literary arts center offering enriching, supportive creative writing classes, as well as literary readings to the local public. Our organization also provides free writing workshops to underserved populations in their own communities.

Our History: In 2003, Jessica Bram founded Westport Writers’ Workshop. In 2010, Jessica moved the workshops into the second floor of the historic building on 3 Sylvan Rd. South in Westport. In 2013, Valerie Leff bought WWW and became the Director. In 2014, Valerie created a Board of Directors and transformed the business into a nonprofit with a mission to offer enriching, supportive creative writing classes, as well as literary readings to the local public, and free writing workshops to underserved populations in their own communities. In 2018, Michelle Bradley came on board as the Executive Director, and in summer 2019 when Michelle’s family was transferred to Chicago, Liz Matthews took over as the Director. In March of 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, the workshops transitioned to the Zoom platform and were offered remotely. The organization grew to include writers and instructors outside of our immediate community.
westportwriters.org

Local Marine, General Contractor Offers ‘Mission-First’ Mentality to Homeowners

BROOKFIELD, CT—As a Marine who served in Afghanistan, Brookfield resident and business owner David Alger is committed to working diligently to render an outstanding work product. As the owner and general contractor of Elite Construction Group, Alger’s work ethic is strong because he has a “mission first mentality” when it comes to handling his clients’ requests and needs.

According to the Veteran’s Mental Health website, a “mission first mentality” is one that is task-focused, sets defined goals, and achieves them.

“Whether the mission is completing the obstacle course in record time, getting through tank gunnery, or getting a college degree, a goal-focused mindset is a huge benefit. Things had to get done when we were in the military, no questions asked. From getting to morning formation to start physical training to completing our part of an annual training exercise, you did the best you could as part of the team with the resources you had,” said Duane K. L. France, combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and mental health counselor.

Alger agrees with France’s explanation.

“Veteran-Owned makes me feel like I am providing a top-tier service and product. I want our clients to know that we are different from others and feel it’s obvious from the first time we speak,” Alger shared from his newly opened Brookfield office.

Supporting local charities, sports teams, and the schools are also important to Alger as a local business owner and parent.

Alger served in the Marine Corps in Operation Enduring Freedom, a mission created in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. He specialized as a field radio operator and surveillance sensor operator and received several medals and recognitions as a result of his service.

After completing his tour of duty, Alger said he wanted to open Elite Construction Group business after hearing from family and friends about their need for an honest, quality construction enterprise in the area. He attributes his skill in leadership that he learned in the Marine Corps as a major contributing factor to his success.

“I started Elite Construction Group in 2013 because I wanted the opportunity to bring integrity into the remodeling industry while providing a great customer experience and Grade A product,” he noted.

Alger, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Information Technology from Southern New Hampshire University, utilizes technology for projects and said that coupled with stellar customer experience has helped his business grow.

“The transparency and communication our clients receive from start to finish is what keeps them coming back and referring us to their friends and family,” Alger said.

Despite the challenges of this past year due to COVID, Alger said that his business is growing by leaps and bounds due to the current boom of the real estate market. In addition, many of his clients are working from home and requesting additions and renovations for office space.

“At first there was an immediate pause [due to COVID], as people were leery of us coming into their homes,” he said, continuing, “the lack of workers, supply chain demand, and the drastic increase to materials that went up over 200 percent were also a challenge but we overcame that and are carrying on full steam ahead.”

Alger said that Elite Construction Group is “growing every day, and continuing to expand our teams.”

For more information, visit eliteegroup.com.

Candlewood Lake Authority Shares Important Water Safety Tips

BROOKFIELD, CT—Marine Patrol is Ready for the Season!

Memorial Day weekend marked the official opening of the summer season. The Candlewood Lake Authority Marine Patrol are the first responders on the entire lake measuring 11 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 65 miles of shoreline spanning five towns. The Patrol strives to ensure all boaters share a safe recreational experience on the lake.

Assistant Chief of Marine Patrol Henry Dyson encourages all boaters to take extra time to do a safety check before they head out on the water. Many boaters have a checklist for opening and closing the boat. Create a personal checklist for essential safety gear.

  1. Make sure your drain plugs are in prior to launch.
  2. If you aren’t a mechanic, it is a good idea to have a certified boat maintenance professional give your vessel a once-over before you put the boat in the water to make sure it is seaworthy.
  3. Be sure you add fresh fuel.
  4. 4. Check the expiration date for appropriate safety equipment including your fire extinguisher. If you shake your fire extinguisher you should feel powder moving around inside the device. If the powder is not moving inside have the extinguisher checked by a fire professional or replace it. Instrumentation must be in the green. Check your vessel horn, and if you use one, your air horn.
  5. If safety gear is still in its original packaging, open it so you can quickly access it in case of emergency.
  6. Check the condition of your life vests, moldy or torn PFD should be replaced. Make sure all PFDs are the appropriate size for each passenger. Add an extra life vest if you pick up a passenger or two – or if you need to be a good citizen for someone in distress.
  7. Put a map of the lake in an easily accessible compartment.
  8. Make sure you have a charged cell phone and if you have one, an extra battery pack for longer days on the water.

Chief Nick Mellas urges boaters to use caution on the water this early in the season.

  1. Seasonal storms can cause large debris to be moved from the islands or personal property into the lake. Be on the lookout for natural obstacles and floating docks or vessels which may come loose around the lake.
  2. Water levels are variable, pay careful attention to hidden hazards.
  3. Be sure you read and understand what buoy markers are in your line of sight, give hazard buoys a wide berth. Never tie your vessel to a marker buoy.
  4. Before May 31, you must wear a life jacket on a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. Beginning June 1 and through October 31, you must have a life jacket with you, and you should always make sure you wear it.
  5. Lake temperatures at this time of year can be in the 55 to 60-degree range. Did you know that there is no difference between lake temperatures of 30 vs 60 degrees Fahrenheit? Hypothermia or cold shock can affect you in a matter of minutes and without a life vest, you may not survive. 50 -60 is the danger zone.

Boat traffic on Candlewood Lake can be particularly busy on the weekends. Boaters are encouraged to be courteous of fellow boaters and to be good citizens of the lake. Marine Patrol will be actively present on the water this summer. Don’t hesitate to stop and ask a question or just to say hello. We will see you on the lake!

What you need to know about operating a vessel on Candlewood Lake
Licensing and Safe Boating Certificates (SBC) –

CLA encourages all boaters to take a Boating Safety course and earn a state of CT Safe Boating Certificate (SBC) to keep you – and others – safe on the waters.

  1. An SBC is required for Connecticut residents, owners of real estate in Connecticut, and anyone using Connecticut waters more than 60 days a year.
  2. Connecticut recognizes certificates from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island for use on our waters.
  3. All personal watercraft (PWC) operators on Connecticut waters must possess a Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation (CPWO) from DEEP.

Water Skiing Endorsement

Emily’s Law was passed in 2015 in Connecticut for operators of a vessel engaged in water skiing, tubing, or any passengers riding in the wake. Operators:

  1. must be at least 16 years old.
  2. must hold the appropriate license and/or certificate (see above)
  3. must hold a Connecticut DEEP-issued Safe Water Skiing Endorsement.

Anyone who held a valid license and/or certification before October 1, 2015, is grandfathered from the endorsement requirement. If you received an SBC after October 1, 2015, and your SBC doesn’t already include the endorsement, you need to take the two-hour towing endorsement available free of charge through the online sportsman licensing system.Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Surfing and Tubing Safety Reminders

  1. By law, water skiing is towing anyone behind a vessel under power. This includes surfing, wakeboarding, and tubing.
  2. Operators must comply with the DEEP Safe Water Skiing Endorsement regulations.
  3. There must be a responsible person at least 12 years of age on board to assist the operator and observe the progress of the person being towed.
  4. Towing a passenger behind a vessel is not permitted from one half-hour past sunset to sunrise and when weather conditions limit visibility to less than 10 yards.

#CTWriters Can Relieve Stress Through Westport Writers Workshop Online Classes

WESTPORT, CT—Feeling tired, anxious, stressed, and/or overwhelmed all at the same time? You’re not alone. Many have been feeling the effects of the quarantine and the associated stressors. Recent studies have shown there’s a pill-free way to cope.

Several studies have shown a high prevalence of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic symptoms in health care workers, according to an article by Frontiers in Psychology, and that what research has shown that “expressive writing” can work as a form of therapy for people undergoing these feelings.

“Over the past 25 years, several researchers have examined the effects of writing about traumatic life events. Pennebaker’s Expressive Writing task involves writing about a traumatic experience for a controlled period of time, on consecutive days….. several studies have shown the benefits of writing across different sessions about personal experiences with stressful life events. This procedure has been associated with the reduction of physical and mental symptoms both in clinical and normal simples.” (Procaccia, 2021).

So where can you find some writing relief? At the Westport Writers Workshop! Since the shutdown, WWW has been offering interactive writing workshops, classes, and events online for experienced and aspiring writers alike in a supportive, welcoming environment. Taught by experienced, professional, published authors, these classes have served as an outlet for the community to craft and develop their work while offering a release of stress through a positive, therapeutic tool. Since last spring’s launch of an online-only learning environment, they have even more classes and workshops to cater to the needs of their attendees.

In addition to writing about personal experiences in several classes, writers can also try their hand at writing children’s picture books, poetry, memoir, and much more. For a full list of offerings, visit the Westport Writers Workshop‘s website.

Executive Director Liz Matthews was happy to announce that “we will bring back in-person workshops this fall, along with continuing to offer our remote workshops.”

Students of the classes shared how much they have helped them in their writing journey.

“I love everything about it. The instructor provides a safe and inspiring atmosphere and the level of positive feedback when we workshop our writing is unparalleled. I feel honored to be a part of this talented and courageous group of writers and to hear and share writing. I am left awestruck after each class,” Amy Egbert stated.

“I’m grateful that Westport Writers’ Workshop only allows students to listen during their critiques and not speak. It allows us to let go and be okay with what we’ve written as we grow. I’ve made tremendous writing progress, I’m getting positive feedback, and I’m preparing to solicit agents,” said R.J. Grand.

Since its inception in 2003, the Westport Writers Workshop has developed into one of the most highly respected programs in the area for writers of fiction, memoir, romance, playwriting, children’s literature, and much more. Through leadership and training from a stellar team of published, award-winning authors, students gain a deep understanding of the elements of writing and many go on to be published authors as well.

Summer 2021 Westport Writers Workshop’s class offerings are as follows:

Intermediate Fiction: A Generative, Craft-based Class with Jessica McEntee

  • Online via ZOOM
  • 6 Mondays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • June 21, 29, July 6, 13, 20, 27

Memories Real and Imagined with Rahla Xenopoulos

  • Online via ZOOM
  • 6 Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
  • June 22, 29, July 6, 13, 20, 27

Intro to Fiction with Libby Waterford

  • Online via ZOOM
  • 6 Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • June 24, July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

Picture Book Writing 201 with Valerie Bolling

  • Online via ZOOM
  • 6 Tuesdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • June 22, 29, July 6, 13, 20, 27

Summer Intensive: Poetry & Prose with Jessie McEntee

  • Online via ZOOM
  • 10 a.m. to 12 noon
  • Monday to Thursday
  • July 6, 7, 8, 9

All of the Westport Writers Workshop workshops offered on Zoom are open to writers of all skill levels. Visit their Zoom tutorial pages to learn more about how to use the platform or contact Liz Matthews Executive Director, Westport Writers’ Workshop at exec@westportwriters.org or (203) 227-3250.

About Westport Writers Workshop:Since 2003, the Westport Writers’ Workshop has been offering workshops for every level of writer, from novice to published! Our instructors offer friendly, supportive writing workshops designed to encourage, inspire, and spark your imagination.With over 100 workshops a year to choose from, we welcome writers of all skill levels and genres. Our workshops are designed to suit your schedule, with options in the morning, afternoons, and evenings. We also host several Saturday-only workshops and one-week writing-intensive programs throughout the year. You can learn more about our workshops by visiting our WORKSHOP page. Let Westport Writers’ Workshop help you discover and develop your own unique writing talent and voice.

Our Philosophy: You can expect a supportive group led by an experienced instructor. You’ll write, read, and learn from each other. Focus is always on the quality of the writing – not on the subject matter. Writing begets writing. The more you commit to your writing, to showing up for your writing group, the more you will write. By joining a community of writers, you will become a stronger writer and influence others to refine their craft. Our philosophy and practices are inspired by Amherst Writers & Artists and Pat Schneider’s book, Writing Alone and With Others.

Our Mission: The Westport Writers’ Workshop is an independent literary arts center offering enriching, supportive creative writing classes, as well as literary readings to the local public. Our organization also provides free writing workshops to underserved populations in their own communities.

Our History: In 2003, Jessica Bram founded Westport Writers’ Workshop. In 2010, Jessica moved the workshops into the second floor of the historic building on 3 Sylvan Rd. South in Westport. In 2013, Valerie Leff bought WWW and became the Director. In 2014, Valerie created a Board of Directors and transformed the business into a nonprofit with a mission to offer enriching, supportive creative writing classes, as well as literary readings to the local public, and free writing workshops to underserved populations in their own communities. In 2018, Michelle Bradley came on board as the Executive Director, and in summer 2019 when Michelle’s family was transferred to Chicago, Liz Matthews took over as the Director. In March of 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, the workshops transitioned to the Zoom platform and were offered remotely. The organization grew to include writers and instructors outside of our immediate community.

westportwriters.org

Photo credit: Westport Writers Workshop

Danbury, Local Price Rite Stores Raise Close to $75K for CT & Area Food Banks

DANBURY, CT—– Price Rite Marketplace today announced its annual Check-Out Hunger fundraising campaign has raised nearly $75,000 for area food banks. From November through December 2020, Price Rite Marketplace stores in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island collected donations at checkout for local food banks to support the fight against hunger during a year where help was needed more than ever. Since the start of the Check-Out Hunger initiative in 2002, Price Rite Marketplace has raised nearly $2 million to fight hunger in the communities its stores serve.

Price Rite Marketplace of Warwick, located at 945 Bald Hill Rd, Warwick, RI 02886, was the top fundraising store, raising more than $8,000 during the campaign. In total, Rhode Island based Price Rite Marketplace stores raised more than $28,300 for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.  

“I want to thank our customers, team members and stores for once again stepping up in the fight against hunger,”

said Jim Dorey, president of Price Rite Marketplace. “We live in very uncertain times and our donations are making a difference in the lives of countless individuals and families who may be struggling to put food on the table.”

Food banks receiving funds from the campaign include: in Connecticut: Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare; in Maryland: Capital Area Food Bank and Maryland Food Bank; in Massachusetts: Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, The Greater Boston Food Bank and Worcester County Food Bank; in New Hampshire: New Hampshire Food Bank; in New Jersey: Community FoodBank of New Jersey and Food Bank of South Jersey; in New York: FeedMore WNY, Food Bank of Central New York, Foodlink and Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York; in Pennsylvania: Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Helping Harvest, Philabundance, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania and Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank; and in Rhode Island: Rhode Island Community Food Bank.  

Price Rite Marketplace is a committed member of its local community, and fighting hunger is at the heart of Price Rite Marketplace’s charitable giving. The supermarket brand fights food insecurity through its support of local food banks, the annual Check-Out Hunger fundraising campaign and partnership with Feed The Children. Price Rite Marketplace contributes approximately $500,000 annually to local food banks and food pantries to benefit local families in need within the communities its stores serve.

About Price Rite Marketplace

Price Rite Marketplace is a registered trademark of Wakefern Food Corp., a retailer owned cooperative based in Keasbey, NJ and the largest supermarket cooperative in the United States. Price Rite Marketplace opened its first store in 1995 under the name Price Rite Supermarkets, and currently operates over 62 grocery stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Maryland. Committed to providing the best value for customers, Price Rite Marketplace delivers a simplified shopping experience with top name brand foods and products and expanded fresh produce and organic offerings at exceptional prices. Price Rite Marketplace is also dedicated to fighting hunger through its annual Check-Out Hunger fundraising campaign and partnerships with Feed The Children and local food banks. For more information, please visit www.priceritemarketplace.com.


Photo 1: (From left to right) Andrew Schiff, CEO, Rhode Island Community Food Bank, and Bill Devin, Vice President of Operations, Price Rite Marketplace.

Photo 2: Executives and team members from Price Rite Marketplace, on May 17,  present a check for more than $28,300 to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank from the grocer’s annual Check Out Hunger campaign.

# # #

Bethel, M.I.T. Grad Invents Revolutionary Product to Remove Insects from Homes & #SavetheBees

BETHEL, CT—An M.I.T. and Bethel High School graduate now living in Ohio has created a revolutionary new product that solves a problem many have in their homes—bugs—while also saving the bees and other important insects.

Mark Ortiz, an MIT graduate and Bethel native is the engineer of the Keyachi Bug Remover™ (patent pending), an easy to use device that attaches to a vacuum to allow users to safely catch and release bugs from their homes. Inventor of more than 200+ patented products, Mark’s motto is, “Simplicity always wins.” And simplicity can clearly be seen I the Keyachi’s design.

The clear plastic vacuum hose shows how the Keyachi stops bugs from being sucked into your vacuum cannister and crawling back out later. The bugs stay trapped inside the chamber and allows the user to release pollinators and other beneficial insects back into their natural habitats to help our environment without using any harmful chemicals or sprays. Keyachi also enables users to safely trap bugs from a distance and release them without having to touch them.

Mark describes his creation as “a weapon for good in the perilous plight of pollinators.” His cousin, organic landscape designer Dennis Leahy, co-founder of Light Wing Labs stated:

“When I saw this device that my cousin Mark was working on, I immediately saw it as a way to save pollinators and beneficial bugs.  A safe, easy, effective way to catch them live and return them outside.  That’s why I got involved and encouraged Mark to let me help him bring this important product to market. As an owner of an organic landscaping company for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen the harmful results of people using chemicals on their lawns to control weeds and insects, chemicals on flowers to control bugs, chemical sprays in their homes.”

Dennis continued, “I’ve also seen good results when a client trusted me enough to convert their property to an organic haven:  no chemicals, no non-native invasive plants, but an abundance of pollinator attracting plants.  Healthier lawns.  More vibrant flowers.  Their children can roll around on the grass without fear.  Their dogs that had skin issues often cleared up. One person using Keyachi to free pollinators will not save the world.  But many of us, together, choosing to catch and release bugs rather than spray them, can improve our home and yard’s environment.  We will use less toxic chemical sprays.  We will return more pollinators and beneficial bugs outside.”

The duo is seeking backers on a Kickstarter campaign they’ve created to fund the project.

“We have Keyachi Bug Remover nearly ready for release,” Mark said. “We’ve designed and tested it extensively over the past two years. Now we need your help to get us up over this last hill:  scaling and product release. Your backing will help us automate the manufacturing process and scale production by purchasing tooling, a commercial grade manufacturing equipment, and component molds.”

The product is made in the U.S. and all manufacturing and assembly will be done in the Cincinnati, Ohio metropolitan area.

To learn more and back their campaign, visit Keyachi’s Kickstarter campaign.

Danbury Couple Finds Healing in the Embrace of Furry Friend

DANBURY, CT—

DANBURY, CT—A Danbury couple who recently lost their special needs son has found healing in the warm embrace of a furry friend. Stephanie Lyons-Keeley and her husband, Wayne Keeley, are mourning the loss of Wayne’s 23-year-old son, Wyatt, who passed away from complications due to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) just three days before Christmas last year. With the help of a special furry feline friend they named Luke, they’ve been able to find some comfort and joy.

“We adopted Luke in great part to help mitigate my grief after losing Wyatt,” Wayne said. “And also because we knew we had the love, time, and attention to give to a special needs cat,” Stephanie added.

Luke is a “Minskin”—1/4 Sphynx, 1/4 Devon Rex, 1/4 Munchkin, and 1/4 Burmese—a breed which is currently the process of being fully accepted into The International Cat Association (TICA). Paul McSorley began crossbreeding the four cats in Boston in 1998 with plans to develop a cat with the finest traits in all of them, Stephanie explained. “In Luke, he definitely succeeded,” she said.

Luke wears diapers and has limited use of his hind legs. He’s been diagnosed with spina bifida, but a veterinary specialist wants to rule out a mass, other spinal deformity, or a spinal infection. Lukee will need an MRI to confirm. The differently-abled designer kitty was previously named “Able” but is now named Luke, after Luke Skywalker.

“Wyatt was a fan of Star Wars,” Stephanie noted,”and one of his favorite shows in the months before his passing was The Mandalorian. We learned that Luke means ’bright, white, bringer of light’ and were amazed. That’s just what Wyatt was and what Luke is as well. They both brought an amazing light to our lives. Everywhere we’d go, when people met Wyatt, they were charmed by his vibrant smile and go-getter attitude. He was always up for anything. Now with Luke, it’s much the same! Perhaps Wyatt brought us to Luke. Wyatt is our guardian angel and Luke is our angel cat on Earth.”

The Danbury Animal Welfare Society (DAWS) has taken an interest in Luke.Dr. Brenner, the primary veterinarian, saw him free of charge for his initial vet care.

“All of the staff fell in love with him,” Stephanie said.

“It was our pleasure to be Luke’s first stop on the long medical journey ahead of him. Our mission at DAWS is dedicated to improving the lives of animals. Doctor Brenner and our veterinary team performed a complimentary exam for Luke as part of our “Paw It Forward” program. We do our best to support pet owners in our community facing challenges, such as the financial ones that are often associated with a special needs pet. We were touched by Luke’s story and are hopeful that he will continue to thrive with the love and care the Keeleys provide,” stated Alice Meenan, Director of Development and Marketing with DAWS.

The couple is embarking upon getting a definitive diagnosis for Luke as well as pursuing potential treatment which could include surgery and/or a wheelchair, among other things.

“We are seeing a highly respected veterinarian named Jason Berg at Guardian Veterinary Specialists in Brewster. We began a GoFundMe to help with those costs. The MRI alone with fees will be upwards of $4,000 and that’s without any treatment,” said Stephanie.

She is hoping to spread the word across her social media channels to help fund his treatment.

“Because of the attention he’s been getting, and due in part to the pandemic and being home so much, I also began pursuing my artistic side. I opened stores on Etsy, Threadless, and Amazonthat feature his photo prints and other merchandise which have been digitally and artistically enhanced. He’s so beautiful, easy going, a great cat model, and wears bow ties and other clothing, that people just can’t get enough of him!”

If you would like to contribute to Luke’s medical expenses, please visit the family’s GoFundMe page: https://gofund.me/fa2d8106

Follow Luke’s journey by visiting any of the social media profile pages below:

  • Instagram: @luke_able_minskin and @lightbringershop
  • Facebook: @lukeableminskin and @lukelightbringershop

Aspiring & Established Writers Are Invited To Westport Online Writing Workshops

WESTPORT, CT— While vaccines are rolling out to more age groups in Connecticut, many still find themselves quarantined and working from home. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted the way we live but has also changed the way we learn. Students and adults alike have learned the ins and outs of Zoom which has been an important tool for students, employers, and other organizations.

The Westport Writers Workshop found the Zoom online platform to be invaluable in enabling them to continue their online learning workshops not only in Connecticut but across the nation.

Liz Matthews, Executive Director of Westport Writers Workshop said, “Now that our workshops are being offered remotely, we have writers joining us from all over the country. The writers benefit from a broader range of feedback, and we preserve the closeness of each group with a max of seven participants.”

Matthews, a writer, and editor began her professional career in publishing at a literary agency and as an Editorial Assistant at Random House before teaching middle and high school English at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. A mom of two school-aged children, Matthews learned to adapt to juggling responsibilities of working from home, homeschooling her children, and running a nonprofit agency since the COVID-19 shutdown back in Mach of 2020.

Last spring Matthews shared that their swift decision to move to online classes and workshops was due to being located in a town with one of the highest numbers of Coronavirus cases in the state. She added that “rolling with the changes” was something they had to do for the sake of everyone’s health and sanity.

“Writing, like many, provides a creative escape in the crazy times we’re living in,” she said.

Since last spring’s launch of an online-only learning environment, they have added even more classes and workshops to cater to the needs of their current and soon-to-be attendees. Students range from beginning and aspiring writers to published authors. All are welcomed in a supportive environment that offers valuable feedback and positive critiques that have enabled their student to land literary agents, book deals, prestigious awards, and more.

“The class gave me material for further exploration! Also, my classmates were wonderful. It’s as though we all became friends through the class and it felt as though we were all in a non-virtual class together, fully participating.” -M.S. a student.

Since its inception in 2003, the Westport Writers Workshop has developed into one of the most highly respected programs in the area for writers of fiction, memoir, romance, playwriting, children’s literature, and much more. Through leadership and training from a stellar team of published, award-winning authors, students gain a deep understanding of the elements of writing and many go on to be published authors as well.

Spring 2021 Westport Writers Zoom Workshops offerings are as follows:

Memories Real & Imagined with Rahla Xenopoulos

· This workshop is designed for experienced, published authors as well as for novices who have a hidden story to excavate and tell. It is designed for people who have a flickering feeling that they might have a book hidden within but need to discover what that book is about, for people who have been sitting on a book but haven’t managed to start and so too it is designed for people who enjoy the therapy of creative writing. But, above all it is designed for people who yearn for a place of kindness. Bring pen, paper and an open heart. All people who identify as women are welcome.

· 7 Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

· March 30, April 6, 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18

Workshop in Poetry, All Levels – Manuscript Course with Charles Rafferty

· This class is for students interested in learning about the genre from Charles Rafferty, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. Each week, participants will share a poem, and the instructor will lead a discussion of the manuscript, highlighting what is working well and suggesting ways to improve it. As time allows, there may also be general discussions of craft and perhaps some in-class writing. The manuscript component of this course will be the following: each student may submit one poem in advance of each class to the instructor, for classroom discussion.

· 7 Tuesdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

· March 30, April 6, 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18

Picture Book Writing 101 with Valerie Bolling

· Have you always wanted to write a picture book? Maybe you have a story idea but haven’t written it down yet. Perhaps you have a draft of a manuscript that you want to revise. No matter where you are in your writing journey, this course is specifically designed for you … if you want to WRITE A PICTURE BOOK! Plus… A special guest will visit one of our sessions! James McGowan, an agent at BookEnds Literary Agency, has generously offered to answer class participants’ questions about picture books and the publishing industry.

· 7 Tuesdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

· March 30, April 6, 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18

Creative Writing for Kids with Christina Pakkala

· Join Christina Pakkala for an hour of writing fun! Yes, you heard right. Writing CAN be fun when the only rule is to let your imagination FLY. We’ll play some writing games, write some stories, poems, and whatever we feel like. For grades 3 through 5. Christine Pakkala is the author of six books for children, including a picture book, Chasing Ricky.

· 7 Wednesdays, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

· March 31, April 7, 21, 28, May 5, 12, 19

Young Adult Fiction with Mike Belanger

· This workshop deals with the nuts-and-bolts of writing young adult fiction. Throughout the workshop, the focus will be on different aspects of craft, including voice, setting, plot, and dialogue. Examples from current popular YA novels will be provided along with exercises to help hone your work in progress or inspire your new novel. Students will share their writing and receive feedback from other students and the instructor. This class is for adults writing novels in any genre (i.e. realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction) for young adult readers, and is suitable for all levels of writers.

· 7 Thursdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

· April 1, 8, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20

Register for a class by clicking here. To check if a class is full, call (203) 227-3250 or email exec@westportwriters.org.

All of the Westport Writers Workshop spring workshops offered on Zoom are open to writers of all skill levels. Visit their Zoom tutorial pages to learn more about how to use the platform or contact Liz Matthews Executive Director, Westport Writers’ Workshop at exec@westportwriters.org or (203) 227-3250.

About Westport Writers Workshop:

Since 2003, the Westport Writers’ Workshop has been offering workshops for every level of writer, from novice to published! Our instructors offer friendly, supportive writing workshops designed to encourage, inspire, and spark your imagination.

With over 100 workshops a year to choose from, we welcome writers of all skill levels and genres. Our workshops are designed to suit your schedule, with options in the morning, afternoons, and evenings. We also host several Saturday-only workshops and one-week writing-intensive programs throughout the year. You can learn more about our workshops by visiting our WORKSHOP page. Let Westport Writers’ Workshop help you discover and develop your own unique writing talent and voice.

Our Philosophy: You can expect a supportive group led by an experienced instructor. You’ll write, read, and learn from each other. Focus is always on the quality of the writing – not on the subject matter. Writing begets writing. The more you commit to your writing, to showing up for your writing group, the more you will write. By joining a community of writers, you will become a stronger writer and influence others to refine their craft. Our philosophy and practices are inspired by Amherst Writers & Artists and Pat Schneider’s book, Writing Alone and With Others.

Our Mission: The Westport Writers’ Workshop is an independent literary arts center offering enriching, supportive creative writing classes, as well as literary readings to the local public. Our organization also provides free writing workshops to underserved populations in their own communities.

Our History: In 2003, Jessica Bram founded Westport Writers’ Workshop. In 2010, Jessica moved the workshops into the second floor of the historic building on 3 Sylvan Rd. South in Westport. In 2013, Valerie Leff bought WWW and became the Director. In 2014, Valerie created a Board of Directors and transformed the business into a nonprofit with a mission to offer enriching, supportive creative writing classes, as well as literary readings to the local public, and free writing workshops to underserved populations in their own communities. In 2018, Michelle Bradley came on board as the Executive Director, and in summer 2019 when Michelle’s family was transferred to Chicago, Liz Matthews took over as the Director. In March of 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, the workshops transitioned to the Zoom platform and were offered remotely. The organization grew to include writers and instructors outside of our immediate community.

westportwriters.org

Photo credit: Westport Writers Workshop

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