(Appeared online 10/5/10 at Westport.Patch.com)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Westport, CT – Ann Lloyd was glad for the exposure, not only from Black Bear Wine & Spirits’ October 2 grand reopening event, but also from the sun that shone down on her literature table outside the retailer’s front entrance and helped counteract the chilly afternoon.
The chairperson of The Susan Fund, a Westport-based scholarship fund that awards scholarships to Fairfield County college-bound students who have been diagnosed with cancer, Lloyd commented, “We appreciate the exposure. Getting awareness is often a challenge for us. We want to get out the word about the scholarships that are available.”
Off to her right, store mascot Bentley the Bear waved to passersby. He encouraged them inside where they could enjoy a series of tastings of top wines and spirits and take advantage of special discounts. Most importantly, for every $40 wine purchase made, Black Bear pledged to donate $2 to the charity.
The Susan Fund was established in 1982 to honor the memory of Ann’s daughter Susan Davis Lloyd, a teenager who was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma at the beginning of her senior year at Staples High School. Since its inception, more than 500 scholarships have been awarded, totaling over $1 million. The Fund is the inaugural beneficiary of the wine retailer’s “Black Bear Gives Back” program.
This year, the Fund had 30 scholarship recipients that shared a $73,000 distribution. Individually awarded amounts are determined based on need, merit, scholastic achievement and external activities. Recipients must also be attending an accredited school, can be any age and have battled cancer at some point in their life.
“Our recipients have been fabulous, and do a lot of work in their communities,” said Lloyd. One 2010 recipient is Fairfield resident Brandon Held, 21, a senior at the University of Connecticut. His past activities included organizing a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament to benefit the American Cancer Society.
Another recipient is Trumbull resident Donna Proudfoot, who is in her late 30s and the mother of one child. She has returned to school to study to be a dental hygienist. Her husband is a Westport police officer.
When Lloyd’s daughter passed in Fall 1980, she sought contributions in her memory in lieu of flowers. Surprisingly, she received over $12,000, part of which benefited Staples High School. But then she began thinking of how she could do even greater good and approached various cancer research organizations. “They were happy to take our money but wouldn’t let us have any say in how the funds would be used. Then Lloyd discovered Candlelighters, a national organization for parents with children battling cancer. Given that her daughter had been accepted early to Colgate University and was so excited about going to college, Lloyd though she would do something around scholarships.
In 1982, the Fund was organized under the auspices of Candlelighters and functioned that way until 1991. At that point, the Fund was granted the ability to accept tax-deductible contributions.
Lloyd produces a quarterly newsletter, which is primarily directed to Fairfield County based residents. It includes contribution information and is a key source of the group’s funding. Now the Fund can also accept contributions online through its website www.thesusanfund.org
Joining Lloyd out in front of Black Bear and seated at a second table was Kerry Beard, 20. She was offering Black Bear Wine Club memberships and was excited about the store’s new redesign, which the Grand Reopening event celebrated. “People think the new look is great… cozy… like a boutique. The format allowed us to add more products within the same footprint and is better organized. I think it will make our customers happier.”
One happy customer was Lisa Harris from Weston, who was buying several bottles of wine with her daughters Lindsey and Lauren in tow. “I was interested in seeing the changes. These guys (her daughters) do ballet down the street. It looks nice! And the association with The Susan Fund is a terrific idea!”
In a back corner of the store, Robert Cordisco, a sales representative for Stratford-based wholesalers Hartley & Parker, was conducting the first of five planned tastings. Store owner Gerard Iulo said of the sampling, “These will help customers familiarize themselves with Old World vs. New World brands and distinguish the difference between the vines.” Added his wife Denise, “When you’re shopping for wines, the tastings allow you to narrow what you like and make purchase decisions. There’s a whole lot more to wine than Cab, Chardonnay and Merlot.”
Similarly, there’s a lot more to Black Bear than just wines and spirits. Raise a glass to this Westport business’ charity outreach efforts.