International Women’s Day Can Be Any Day

March brings many events to our attention. Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day (IWD), St. Patrick’s Day, and March Madness are just a few well-known commemorative dates. According to the National Day Calendar, there’s more where that came from and it’s hard not to relate to these initiatives. They all share a common base, to recognize actions to be made aware of and/or to celebrate those who have made an impact.

Zumba instructors Jen Gilmore, left, and Felice Merzel Danielson, Zumba Fitness Instructor & PoundFit Instructor at ZING Fitness Zumba studio are putting the fun into fitness for residents of The Summit of Plantsville, CT.

IWD is both a shout out to all women achievers and those that make the world a better place. In Southington, two individuals have been doing just that. Zumba instructors Jen Gilmore and Felice Merzel Danielson, Zumba Fitness Instructor & PoundFit Instructor at ZING Fitness Zumba studio provide exercise for inbound patient/residents of The Summit in Plantsville.

The idea came about as a way to bring variety of exercise to folks that typically have a routine in place. “The residents are waiting for us, the dancing ladies, at the door,” Gilmore said. “We wanted to bring Zumba to patients at The Summit, because exercise can help in many more ways than just physical,” added Danielson. “It’s about connecting with people and being social, that can really help improve the quality of someone’s day. We call it ‘Zingfit Zumba through the ages’ at The Summit because it’s something everyone can do!” Classes held at The Summit take place Friday mornings at 9:30 am.

The Summit At Plantsville is short-term rehabilitation, long-term, respite, hospice and dementia care facility. The Zumba classes add fun to physical activity, with lively music and movements. Safety is well accounted for, says Danielson, with Occupational Therapists present during sessions. “We modify the sets according to ability of each participant.”

Gilmore and Danielson share their story here: https://youtu.be/MQZF-T-eJLo. Their actions are a reminder that putting your best intentions into the world can be something that happens everyday, if you want it to. The theme for IWD is #BeBoldForChange. The next time you see something you’d like to change, remember it only takes one step, one action to affect change. Why not start there?

For ZING Fitness Zumba class schedules and costs use email:  jointhecircle@sbcglobal.net or visit their Facebook page for more information.

 

 

 

 

Photography exhibit ‘Powerful yet Fragile: Connecticut Waterways’ On View

A new exhibit titled ‘Powerful yet Fragile: Connecticut Waterways’ features works by the group, Women Photographers of Connecticut, and is on view at Stamford Museum & Nature Center, (SM&NC), in Stamford, CT from Feb. 18 – May 29, 2017.

The call for works only specified water, and the resulting exhibit shows the subject in various conditions from drought to beauty. In  Kirsten J. Reinhardt, Curator of Collections & Exhibitions, asks “Since Colonial times, humans have been altering the waterways of Connecticut.  Dams were built to power mills and generate energy. Roads were built beside and across the major rivers and streams. How has human activity impacted the riparian, wetland and coastal habitats?”

Exhibit text, ‘Powerful yet Fragile: Connecticut Waterways’ ©2017 by Kirsten J. Reinhardt, RPA
Curator of Collections & Exhibitions.

It’s a question worth asking, particularly if you contextualize that perspective alongside current events of floods in California, to places where access to potable water remains a challenge.

The Facebook group Women Photographers of Connecticut was created by Geneva Renegar with the purpose of creating a supportive photographic community. There are no hard and fast rules to the group. While themes are provided, members don’t necessarily have to post to the running theme. The page is an open forum for photography ideas, questions and discoveries.

The SM&NC is a great resource in Connecticut that offers education, arts and science programming for children and adults. The grounds are beautiful for nature walks and the facilities offer a perfect setting for family and business events.

The Stamford Observatory is a research facility used by members of the Fairfield County Astronomical Society and is situated on the museum grounds. For hours and more info on the observatory visit:

http://www.stamfordmuseum.org/observatory.html

For general information on SM&NC programming and venue rentals visit:  http://www.stamfordmuseum.org/index.html

Canines Strut for Southington Bark For Life

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (MSABC) hosted by the American Cancer Society, held several walks in the tri-state area, all for a good cause: to combat breast cancer and show support for those fighting the disease. Both MSABC and summertime Relay For Life events have grown in popularity and that’s good. However, a third annual show of support called Bark For Life allows pet owners to contribute to the cause.

Southington Bark For Life held its 5th annual event Sunday Oct. 16th at Southington Drive In. Cancer survivors came out to share their stories, and help fortify this unique event. Getting a cancer diagnoses is a day no one wants to face, and yet if it happens, support is greatly needed during treatment. Pets can be a great source of comfort for those dealing with cancer. Dogs aren’t allowed attendance during Relay For Life events and thus Bark For Life was born. Bark For Life allows furry friends to strut their stuff.

Several dogs were entered in a pageant and the following images show the love between owner and pet. Remember you can choose where you’d like to participate. Whether it’s a cool Autumn walk or a summer Relay event, show up for the fun. Remember, ultimately donations are appreciated whether you attend any fundraiser or not. To learn more about Southington Bark For Life visit: http://tinyurl.com/zydjxau

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Doing Community: What It Means To Me

We live hard and fast every day, rising each morning to the job, home life and the in-between. Where did we ever find the time to be on the computer as much as we are? Yet here we are scrolling away!

Recently we sold our Southington home of twelve years and wanted to give kudos to a few Southington people and organizations that helped us transition. First and foremost, Facebook’s Southington Talks (ST) group  has become a valuable resource to anyone living there. I found a post that asked for donations for The Southington Historical Society‘s part in a Town Wide Tag Sale scheduled Sept. 24 – 25 from 9am – 2pm at Old South End Schoolhouse.

Two angels named Morgan and Lisa, removed furniture, personal treasures, and cleaning supplies from our home with willingness and a smile. This came at a stressful time trying when we were preparing to downsize a 5 bedroom house into a 2 bedroom rental. We simply had too much stuff and were unwilling to store stuff we hadn’t used in years.

Morgan, a volunteer, picked up furniture and supplies for Southington Historical Society tag sale.

Morgan, a volunteer, picked up furniture and supplies for Southington Historical Society tag sale.

Morgan ties a wrought iron bench I purchased in Maine and loved dearly, was now a 'move' casualty.

Morgan ties a wrought iron bench I purchased in Maine and loved dearly, was now a ‘move’ casualty.

The Southington Magazine, a Facebook page I manage, also helped big time. Roger Dietz, publisher, works hard at getting small business advertisers into the magazine.

Dee's Cleaning Service

Dee’s Cleaning Service

I hired one such business, Dee’s Cleaning Service, where Denise Buttie, (owner) and Kelly Krajewski provided a super one-time/moving cleaning service I’d highly recommend.

Being part of a town where people help people, thank you Southington for your assist. To those who are reading this: hire local businesses and donate when you can, whether it’s your time, food from your pantry or your smile. That’s what doing community means…. be where you are and look for the good that is around you. It will come back to you ten times more in love and good feelings!

Automobile Events Score High Points in Popularity

Summer is the perfect season for exploring goodies in your own backyard. That journey can encompass hobbies like gardening, photography, flea market treks, trying new foods, and the list goes on.

This past weekend brought thousands of auto lovers to Mohegan Sun‘s inaugural 3-day event, Barrett-Jackson’s Northeast Auction. The collector car market is unique in that it combines several interests: investing, Automobilia and history. The event exceeded expectations with attendance reaching 90,000, a record for any event in the 20-year history of Mohegan Sun.

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Additionally, monies were raised for charity from six cars that sold during the auction. “A total of $605,000 with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting charitable organizations,” according to Barrett-Jackson reports.  “On Friday, the 2016 Shelby GT-H concept/prototype sold for $150,000 to benefit the Carroll Shelby Foundation. Aaron Shelby, grandson of the late Carroll Shelby and longtime Barrett-Jackson supporter and fan drove the rare vehicle onto the block.”

To see the top ten car sales by make, model and price, click Business Wire for report.

The Barnes Museum in Southington, CT hosted ‘Wheels of The Past’ on its grounds Saturday June 25th, and for $5 admission, visitors could admire equally impressive historic automobiles. The Wheels of the Past Classic Car Show is the second event of its kind for Barnes Museum, and according to curator Marie Secondo, Bradley Barnes was the second person in Southington to own an automobile.

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Charging admission for the the event allows Barnes Museum the opportunity to fulfill the restoration of Barnes’ 100-year-old player piano.

Whatever the scale of event, large or local, historic automobiles prove to be a big draw for those who enjoy a summer day trip. What are your favorite summer pass times?

Giving Thanks To Volunteers

May 24th, 2016 the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford honored companies and individuals for their continued volunteerism at 2015-2016 Campaign Award and Recognition Program ceremony hosted and sponsored by MidState Medical Center in Meriden.

The first Corporate and Employee donations described as Diamond, Platinum and Gold levels were recognized followed by Silver and Bronze level donations, Loyal Community Partners, Exceptional Agency Partners, Outstanding Community Partners, Outstanding Campaign Leadership and Outstanding Campaign Coordinators and lastly, Shining Star and Rising Star volunteers.

Imagine how wide a net volunteerism expands for each category, as each company participated in specific campaigns whose efforts impacted many needing assistance.

While many who volunteer don’t do so for recognition, it was great to see the faces behind the companies that sponsor workplace volunteer programs. Participants give of their time and efforts truly do so for the needs exist.

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Diana Reilly, Associate Director of United Way of Meriden and Wallingford, confirmed there’s been steady growth in company involvement as seen in Week of Action, Day of Caring and holiday programs. Some companies such as The Marlin Company (TMC), did something different for Week of Action June’15 campaign. TMC breakfast cereal fundraiser collected healthy cereals that had limited amounts of sugar. This concept both addressed the need to come up with donations, and considered the health benefits of the collections raised.

The 2016 United Way NFL Player’s Weekend is another unique giving opportunity that incorporates tons of excitement for sports enthusiasts of all ages. Families meet players and participate in silent and live auctions of signed and authenticated jerseys of favorite teams in addition to youth sports clinics.

To learn about the different ways you can give and which organizations benefit from campaigns, visit United Way of Meriden and Wallingford at https://www.unitedwaymw.org/default.asp.

If you are an individual who’d like to volunteer, or a Wallingford/Meriden company that would like to participate in a campaign, contact: Diana Reilly at (203) 235-4403.

 

New Haven Residents Contribute Ideas For Health Improvements

Resident feedback was in high demand from six New Haven neighborhoods. The Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE), part of Yale School of Public Health, held a Community Forum Sat. May 7th., at Connecticut Center for Art and Technology at Science Park when the 2015 New Haven Health Survey was released.

The fall 2015 survey followed two previous surveys conducted in 2009 and 2012, for the purpose of tracking neighborhood health. CARE randomly selected 1,189 residents from New Haven’s low-income towns of Dixwell, Fair Haven, Hill North, NewHallville, West River/Dwight, and West Rock/West Hills. Local residents were hired and trained to collect the surveys of which included questions about health, diet, smoking habits, exercise and neighborhood safety. A 70% participation rate from all three surveys indicate the willingness of residents wanting improvements.

Deputy Director Alycia Santilli, MSW, of CARE discusses the work of CARE. The presentation served as fuel for residents to submit additional ideas neighborhood improvements.

Deputy Director Alycia Santilli, MSW, of CARE, discusses the work of CARE. The presentation served as fuel for residents to submit additional ideas neighborhood improvements.

CARE took their findings and compared them to DataHaven’s Community Wellbeing Survey in the report. DataHaven conducted phone surveys with nearly 17,000 randomly selected adults throughout Connecticut, including 800 in the City of New Haven, between April and October 2015. The combined results provide a wider perspective of local communities versus statewide feedback from Connecticut residents on their well-being.

Following the presentation of CARE survey, participants were divided into groups according to where they lived and volunteer facilitators recruited by Community Mediation Inc., of Hamden, worked with each community group. Residents were asked for ideas to make their neighborhoods healthier. Everyone was provided with key findings of their neighborhood for reference and to help facilitate consensus. Residents were then asked if they were or weren’t surprised by the findings and what specific issues would they be willing to work on, by making a commitment for improvement.

Dixwell and Newhallville residents give ideas.

(Pictured above: Dixwell and Newhallville residents contributed ideas during forum.)

It’s no secret residents living in underserved areas face challenges such as choosing between paying a bill or buying food. That decision is compounded by the fact that low-income areas lack access to fresh foods. Sometimes food pantries don’t have the healthiest food, but because of dependence on it for sustenance, there isn’t a choice.

Dixwell and Newhallville residents give ideas.

(Pictured above: Dixwell and Newhallville residents contributed ideas during forum.)

Following the breakout sessions, each group reported back to the forum to share findings. Issues raised from the Dixwell/NewHallville group were accountability of municipal leaders and how best to have your voice be heard, personal accountability and how to raise the bar of caring in the neighborhood for better cleanliness conditions, absentee landlords and safer streets: speed limit enforcement and sidewalk repair.

To help neighborhoods address health issues identified through this process, CARE is awarding $1,500 to each of the six participating neighborhoods. CARE seeks project proposals that, “Aim to improve health and that relate in some way to major risks for chronic disease by impacting access to healthy foods and healthy eating and physical activity. Projects may create a framework for a variety of activities, meaning projects do not need to be restricted to a single activity or focus solely on diet and exercise.”

CARE specifies this criteria for Neighborhood Health Projects:

  • The project focus must be related directly or indirectly to nutrition and/or physical activity.
  • There must be demonstration of community support for the program.
  • Ideally, the project should be led by neighborhood residents.
  • The project and its participants must take place in and benefit one of the six neighborhoods where CARE works: Dixwell, Fair Haven, the Hill, Newhallville, Dwight/West River, West Rock/West Hills.
  • The project must have the potential to be sustainable beyond support from CARE.

The grant application deadline is Friday May 27th, no later than 5 pm. Friday June 30th funding decisions will be finalized. To learn more about the grant and apply visit: http://tinyurl.com/jtpe27t.

Nurturing Volunteerism in Wallingford

Do you notice every day is a commemoration of some sort? Noteworthy days make for great social media posts, but more importantly, they raise awareness of a cause. The entire month of April serves to recognize volunteers and is referred to as National Volunteer Appreciation Month.

The tradition began in 1974 when President Richard Nixon established National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, through an executive order. The purpose was to prompt people to give their  time to community outreach organizations.

Giving time and resources to needy causes is something everyone should do when they’re able. CT Food Bank in Wallingford welcomes help from individuals and companies to assist them in the fight against hunger. According to CT Food Bank, one in seven people struggle with hunger in Connecticut.

There are several ways to give and many do through donations. However, on site volunteerism is also needed, as it defrays operating costs.

The Marlin Company, PPI Benefit Solutions, Arbella Insurance CT, and Edible Arrangements are just a few neighboring Wallingford companies that have stepped up to helping The Connecticut Food Bank.

Marlin employees recently gave their time and muscle for a morning shift that consisted of labelling frozen fish patties with ingredient stickers and repacking boxes for distribution to food pantries and programs throughout the state.

To learn how you can help year-round, visit http://www.ctfoodbank.org/ways-to-give/

Witnesses to Hunger CT Project Seeks Policy-Level Changes

The  exhibit ‘Witnesses To Hunger CT‘ opened Feb. 1, 2016 in the lower concourse of CT Legislative Office Building. The project is the second exhibit of its kind in the state, and follows after a 2014 New Haven exhibit Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro supported called Witness to Hungeran art and education project produced by the Drexel University Center for Hunger-Free Communities at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health.

Fifteen individuals from Connecticut’s cities, suburbs and rural communities documented their firsthand experiences of trying to feed themselves and their families on limited resources. The communities represented include: Amston, Bridgeport, Hartford, Hebron, Manchester, New Haven, New London, Westport and Woodbridge.

Lucy Nolan, Executive Director of End Hunger CT! is hopeful moving into the next legislation session, that the exhibit and testimony of  15 participants will, “Serve as a reminder that many among us, often hidden, need the state’s support. The Witnesses recruited for this project have faced choices that are hard to fathom – whether to eat low cost foods that could be harmful to their medical conditions or not eat at all, whether to pay for prescriptions or put food on the table.” Hunger in Connecticut is a growing problem. While youngsters may be eligible for free or reduced price meals during the school year, not every town offers a breakfast or summer meal program.

Senator Marilyn Moore, Bridgeport, spoke of her appreciation for those who were brave enough to shine a light on their personal and difficult challenges. “The Witnesses to Hunger CT project shows daunting struggles to survive, from day-to-day.While programs such as Connecticut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides some relief, it simply isn’t enough to sustain individuals and families who don’t earn a livable wage.

CT Senator Marilyn Moore recognized four prevailing themes that emerged from project: health & wellness, food & nutrition, transportation and shelter.

CT Senator Marilyn Moore recognized prevailing themes that emerged from project: health & wellness, food & nutrition, transportation and shelter.

Anyone can become vulnerable to the challenge of making ends meet especially when health issues arise coupled with unemployment.

The photographs show compelling stories ranging from working hard to balance disease with basic necessity, empty refrigerator by month’s end, learning how to cook for healthier food choices, collecting cans and bottles for any extra income, rental living conditions in dire need of repairs, seeing eye dog with owner who forgoes breakfast when weather is too inclement for dog to walk, long lines at the food pantry, starting a garden and growing enough food to donate to local pantry, and choices between eating and not eating.

To see a town-by town percentage of those living in poverty perspective and what the available resources are for each respective area visit: http://www.endhungerct.org/#featured-page-4.

To have your voice be heard on the importance of funding programs that support CT’s neediest plan to attend ‘Talk Poverty’ Tuesday, February 9th at 9 a.m. to 11 a..m. at the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave, 2nd Floor Atrium, Hartford, CT.:

Talk Poverty Feb. 9th, 2016 Event

Talk Poverty Feb. 9th, 2016 Event

 

For Many Veterans Wounds Still Hurt

On Veterans Day it’s hard to miss the recognition many deserving troops and individuals received. Social media played its part with Walmart’s Green Light A Vet campaign. A simple idea: replace a front porch light bulb with a green one, to signify support. Walmart provided what the symbolism represents: to “Greenlight” is to forward movement, and by showing with the first sign of a home, a lit green porch light, is (hopefully), ‘greenlighting’  and signifying veterans forward, as valued members of every community.

Every other week I anticipate seeing Dana (first name), a sergeant who served in the Vietnam War, (due to HIPPA last name is omitted). Dana, age 65, lives in a skilled nursing facility where he gets help for ongoing PTSD, COPD and other physical limitations.

The nursing facility planned special festivities for Veterans Day, as Dana wasn’t the only resident veteran. This was to be their day, beginning with a celebratory special breakfast followed by activities planned throughout the day. I envisioned Dana enjoying the commemorations, after all it is a day of thanks for those who served.

Dana shares his experiences of fighting and rescuing fellow soldiers during his service in the Vietnam War.

Dana shares his experiences of fighting in doing rescue missions during his service in the Vietnam War.

I’d become accustomed to hearing animated stories where I learned much about Dana. Besides sharing his terrific sense of humor, Dana shared war stories, some of which were quite gruesome. Sgt. Dana was part of  a specialized training group, called The Studies and Observations Group, or (SOG) and fought on Hamburger Hill. He’s one of the lucky few who lived to tell his story.

Dana enjoyed breakfast but insisted on steering clear from the music and socializing activities at The Summit. I asked why he preferred not to be recognized and he replied, “I don’t want to remember the bad things that happened.” Not meaning to be different, Dana’s response is one of self-preservation.

Reflecting back on being in the jungle, carrying out fallen soldiers while escaping the enemy is as fresh a memory as yesterday for Dana. He is proud of his service but broadcasting those tough times isn’t his style.

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Dana shares war stories and shows me a framed collection of medals he earned from serving in the Vietnam War.

While companies such as Walmart bring attention to veterans, some prefer to choose when and where to talk, not on any particular day or place. The results of the Green Light A Vet campaign recorded 3,433,638 clicks as of December 15th at 11:20 a.m., EST. According to the Walmart campaign site “Every click counts as a social act of support in honor of our veterans, and will be displayed on The Greenlight Beacon, a glowing installation symbolizing our united support for veterans.”

The American Legion Kiltonic Post 72 in Southington, CT promoted Green Light A Vet although I didn’t see too many home porch lights go from yellow to green, albeit one, who kept it up past November and into December where it can easily be mistaken as a Christmas decoration.

Dana's service cap from the Vietnam War.

Dana’s service cap from the Vietnam War.

I couldn’t be more thankful for Dana’s service and for meeting him through the Adopt-A-Veteran program at The Summit At Plantsville. Conversation, story sharing and spending time are ways to show others we care.

If you would like volunteer for this program, please call 860 628-0364. If Southington, CT isn’t convenient, reach out to a nursing home where you live. The experience is something you’ll wind up cherishing. What you give comes back bigger in heart and spirit.