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:

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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 to downsize a 5 bedroom house into a 2 bedroom rental.

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

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:

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

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:

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.


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.

Creative Generosity Builds Communities

Help-Portrait, an annual photography event, commemorated their eighth year December 5th, 2015. Though not an official Help-Portrait event, New Haven’s Mothers For Justice group members were invited to participate in a holiday portrait event the same day, organized by photojournalist volunteer, Margaret Wage, with the idea of giving back.

Help-Portrait was founded by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart and Kyle Chowning in 2008. Their mission is to empower photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists to use their skills, tools and expertise to give back to their local community.

The Mothers For Justice (MFJ) is a grass-roots women’s advocacy group that seeks to support one another and empower themselves and their families to improve their lives and their communities. MFJ was founded in 1933 and is dedicated to using their collective voice to change the systems that perpetuate poverty and injustice. Our issues and concerns are Welfare Reform, Prison Re-entry, Housing, Healthcare & Domestic Violence among many other things. A similarity MFJ shares with the Help-Portrait community is they both recognize giving back to the local community is one way to effect positive change.

There are great folks working with organizations year-round to make things better for those in need. Ginger Grant, a.k.a. Ginger Lee Originals, is a Connecticut art photographer and sees art as a way to enrich those living in Bristol, CT. Grant recently opened  The Studio, an art studio space where she hosts painting, stitching, stamping and numerous craft project classes. What’s the connection between creativity and hunger, you might ask. For Grant, the connection lies in building up an underserved community where residents might not have even considered taking a pencil or brush to paper to express feelings or life perspective. Grant advocates any growth must first come from willingness to try. It’s only then that a person can see possibility and from that, change can occur.

In October The Studio hosted a ‘Photo Feel Good’ event, inviting the public at large to have a photograph made, free of charge, and like Help-Portrait, a print was made and given to each participant. Nearby business neighbor Marisela Severino of Joamar Hair Salon volunteered her salon and services for the all day event. A photo session included  make-up by Dori Green and contributed to making each person ‘Feel Good’ for the occasion. Grant collected (business attire) clothing  donations and  in turn, participants selected  whatever they needed for a job interview. Sweaters, blouses, dresses, slacks, jackets and winter coats were made available free to take home. That generosity of spirit is what creativity is about.

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Many who attended were inspired as conversations began and people opened up about their situations. Some attendees were in transitional housing and the access to free clothing was appreciated as they took the time visit each table-full of gently used garments and racks of formal wear that were placed on hangers throughout The Studio. The clothing that remained was donated to Christian Fellowship Center on Prospect St. in Bristol.

Merryl Eaton, of MFJ, was gracious and allowed the use of the building space to do portraits. Eaton organizes monthly MFJ meetings and keeps members aware of legislative events for MFJ to attend and speak to issues they wish to impact.

Surprisingly, half the people who signed up didn’t come due to lack of transportation. The following images are of the members that came, some with their family. With hope and the strength that comes from support networks such as these, changes for the better can be made.

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Wanderlust Travel Observations

During a road trip I discovered places to consider for relocation. Drawn to the southeast, I visited North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina, all of which offered a different point of view for best semi-retired possibilities. I’m most interested in moderate temperatures, cultural offerings and tax friendly municipalities.

Lexington, Statesville and Mooresville in NC, all had great small town charm. Nice shops and restaurants lined each historic Main Streets. Also noticeable stood empty store fronts interspersed between businesses. Their vacancies were reminiscent of healthier economic times, but simultaneously represented future opportunities. Whenever my husband and I travel we, or should I say, I, become susceptible to daydreaming about what it would be like to live in a particular place.  Since location scouting was our purpose it seemed ok to entertain possibilities. Empty storefronts enticed dreams of opening a small gallery space where we could build an arts/ culinary community venue of sorts.

Spartanburg, South Carolina looked promising. Several side streets were lined with cobblestones with outdoor cafes and bicycle stands.  A jazz nightclub looked like the place to be for drinks and vibes. The main avenue was wide and large. I’m not sure if retail will recover in this area as online shopping has replaced what large department stores have to offer. What is large square footage best use? DQ headquarters is located in Spartanburg and has a high rise office space. A ground floor garden equipped with pagodas looked perfect for a portrait photography backdrop. I noticed a local photography business in town and I’m sure it does well for location shoots. As we approached a vine covered walkway, we spotted a homeless man sitting in the shade. He got up to move when he saw us. The encounter was a simple reminder that no matter how serene a place looks, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Perhaps those empty building might be well suited for housing usage.

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There isn’t a ‘perfect’ place. Relocating at any point in life presents a mixed bag. So much is contingent on what you have and what you have to look forward to. Finding as near to perfect a place as possible takes a lot more than locale. It’s more about striking a balance between a good working environment and that oh-so-important ratio of income to living expenses. Strive for reasonable goals and then work towards making them happen – that’s the plan! What goals are you striving for?