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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Police Bowled Over by Support for New K-9 Unit

Police Bowled Over by 
Support for New K-9 Unit:
Fundraiser at Nutmeg Bowl draws crowd
(Posted to 1/22)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – As he sent a neon-colored ball hurtling down the alley, Fairfield Police Lt. Jim Perez hoped no one was paying much mind to how his bowling shoes clashed with his uniform. It was a trivial concern in contrast to the important mission he and fellow department members were undertaking early Saturday.

Set up at Nutmeg Bowl at 802 Villa Avenue, the Fairfield Police Department was conducting a fundraising event for its new K-9 unit. The event was sponsored in large part by Bearingstar Insurance, which helped with coordination, secured merchandise for an onsite raffle and recruited bowlers.

Sgt. Sue Lussier, a spokesperson for the department, said events like these are critical to bringing the unit to fruition. “We not only have to purchase the dog, but we have to train the handler, buy equipment, outfit a vehicle with a transport cage that’s safe for the canine, sustain training for the handler for five years and pay a daily handling fee.”

That isn’t even the full extent of expenses, said Lussier. “There are also expenses for vaccinations, grooming, medical care, permits, licensing fees and handler membership fees. There’s so much involved with the K-9 program – it’s not just the initial purchase but sustaining the operation for five years, the normal life of a working dog.”

With regard to the schedule for rollout, Lussier added, “Our goal is to purchase the dog by March 1, train it with the handler in April and May, and put the dog into service June 1.”

Lussier said there’s a pressing need for the K-9 unit. “Every single week we’re calling for a canine from another town or agency to supplement our routine patrol work. We just made an arrest this week at a burglary in progress in which we used a dog, to track a suspect. The dog would also be used for building searches, area searches and missing person cases. Hopefully we’ll have a dual purpose dog that can also provide narcotics detection.”

Kathy Piro, an Insurance Consultant with sponsor Bearingstar, had put all of her energies toward the event and supplied such raffle items as a Vera Bradley handbag, wine basket, auto safety kits, Sound Tigers tickets, a Molto restaurant card and teeth whitening services. “This is an important need for the town that’s probably overdue, and I’m going to stay committed to the cause.”

Attendees Jen Corbin from Shelton and Mike Lindberg, a Fairfield Letter Carrier from Stratford, were equally committed and were purchasing raffle tickets. “I’m friends with a couple of Fairfield cops and want to help support the effort behind the K-9 fundraising,” said Lindberg.

Lussier noted that the department is currently at 40% of its fundraising goal and she hoped that today’s event would help them reach their target. 

“Guys Night Out” Fills a Program Void

“Guys Night Out” Fills a Program Void:
Men gather to meet, eat and take in a flick
(Posted to 1/22)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Pizza. Beverages. Intimidating electronics. A top-rated guy’s film. The evening had all the makings of a good time for a bunch of local men looking for an evening activity.

“Guys Night Out”, a new program offered by Fairfield Public Library geared to men only, got its kickoff early Friday night in the Rotary Room at the main branch, 1080 Old Post Road. The main focus of the social event was a showing of the 1999 cult classic Fight Club on the library’s 120” hi-definition projection system complete with surround sound. Colony Grill supplied pizza pies, and snacks and beverages were also available. About 20 people attended.

Coordinator Jim Swift, the library’s Systems Administrator, said the library’s director approached him about what it could do specifically for men. Swift said, “I suggested movies and food, which makes great use of our hi-def system.”

Swift’s colleague, Valerie Fredericks, a reference librarian, indicated that Swift was a highly appropriate person to be offering the event. “Jim watches a tremendous amount of movies and is very knowledgeable about them. I think he’s put together a great series. Next month’s movie will be ‘The Hangover’. These are real guy movies.”

Besides The Hangover, the series will offer other action-packed films like The Godfather, Full Metal Jacket, Snatch and The Matrix. Films will be shown every third Friday of the month going forward.

Attendee Bernard “Bert” Leskovsky, 60, thought it would be a good diversion and fills a void in area programs. “I’m a Fairfield resident and have been laid off for the second time in four years. This is a good distraction. Usually, events are dedicated to children, women or seniors and not for guys specifically. It’s a nice alternative.”

Darin Mann, 40, agreed that the event met a need. “It’s unique to see a Guys Night Out posting. I thought it would be interesting and it’s nice to see something fun.”

The social aspect of the activity appealed to Joe Whyte, 66, who was attending with his friend Rudy Costello, 64. “I come to the library frequently. It seemed like a good time. You get a little camaraderie and meet some new people.”

For Chuck (declined to give last name), a self-described “library rat” who had just relocated to Fairfield, it was a chance to reconnect. “I just recently moved back here and this seemed like a good way to meet some local people. I haven’t seen the film, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Like Leskovsky, Allen Cassatt, 60, was down on his luck and appreciated the night out. “I’m not currently working and never get a chance to visit the library. I thought this would be a good opportunity and to fraternize with my town. It gives you peace of mind.”

Rich Rizzardi, 59, was very enthusiastic about the program. “I think the concept is fantastic. I take advantage of most of the library’s amenities. When this came up, I said ‘wow!’ I don’t think you even need the food – the movies are current and the event is very social.”

For Shashi Chaddha, 71, the event was an opportunity to experience library offerings. “I’ve not used the library very much and noticed this program. I thought this would be interesting to see.”

John Quintiliano, 52, probably couched things best, noting, “You come out here and they have food and a real good movie. It’s very comfortable and social. You can’t ask for more.”  

For more information about upcoming films and scheduling, contact or call 203-256-3160.

Rally Kicks Off 2011 Relay for Life Planning

Rally Kicks Off 2011 Relay for Life Planning:
Attendees share inspiration and hopes
(Posted on 1/21)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Such a united, positive vibe reigned over the gathering that one imagined, if harnessed, it could cure any ill. Sadly, everyone in the room would need to remain vigilant to eradicate one of man’s most pervasive diseases – cancer.

To kick off the fight in 2011, coordinators of the Fairfield hub of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life cancer research fundraiser hosted a rally Thursday night at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. Over 60 people attended – including team captains, local cancer survivors and family members -- to celebrate the previous year’s achievements and to hear about plans for this year’s program.

According to Michelle Cole, Planning Committee Co-Chair, last year’s event was the fifth highest fundraising event for cancer in all of New England out of 235 distinct events. “We were number one out of all the events for funds raised online,” added Cole. In all, almost $350,000 was raised.

Cole oversees a planning committee of 40 who, themselves, are on 12 subcommittees. The groups coordinate logistics, plan the June 4-5 Relay for Life event (to be held at Fairfield Ludlowe High School), and organize the teams and pre-race Survivor reception.

Two honorary chairs, Kevin Cotellese and Ryan Brennan, will serve as spokespeople for the 2011 event, bringing a face to the effort. “Both are very upbeat and inspire not only close family and friends, but the general community as well,” said event co-chair Cheryl Grabiec.

Cotellese is the Fairfield Ludlowe High School Director of Choral Activities who, in Nov. 2009, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As he began chemotherapy in Jan. 2010, his students formed the Relay team Close Harmony in his honor. Cotellese completed treatments as of October 2010 and initial tests indicate he is cancer-free.

Brennan is a 17-year-old student at Fairfield Preparatory who is currently battling Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumors, following a Sept. 2009 diagnosis. His friends and family rallied with Ryan to form the Relay team Just Beat It.

The captain of the Just Beat It team, Sean Keane, 17, said, “It has been amazing being involved with the community, raising funds and helping my friend Ryan.”

Brennan has been propelled by the outpouring of support. “When I was first diagnosed, it was very scary, but within days a powerful team of people came together to form Just Beat It. A dedicated Facebook page was also created which has gained over 2,000 members in a relatively short time. I can’t describe how meaningful this has been and the strength it gave me to go forward day by day.”

As an additional fundraising effort, Keane’s group printed, and has been selling, Just Beat It t-shirts and bracelets. “They’ve been really popular – six hundred shirts sold within a month and have been distributed across the country. We’ve raised several thousand dollars for the cause,” said Brennan.

Prominently displayed at the rally was a Fight Back banner used to encourage people to make a pledge for a way they can fight back against cancer. Pledges may include a vow to stop smoking, wear sunscreen, eat more vegetables or go for cancer screening tests. Those that pledge autograph the banner to inspire others.

Past chair Anne Farkas was delighted to again be part of this exuberant pack. “Relay for Life has been about inspiration, the community and, really, our youth. I was invited to get involved by my daughter. We have all sorts of cancer in our family and I wanted to do something uplifting to make a difference. I got to see the positive vibe and spirit of the event – that healing that takes place. The Fairfield community really takes up the fight. The year I chaired, we had a grandfather throw away his cane to walk the opening lap.”

American Cancer Society Staff Partner Shannon Murnane gave Fairfield much credit for its efforts as well. “Fairfield is such a great contributor for us as one of the largest events in the state, now in its 14th year of participation. The town is very energetic – people donate their time at the drop of a hat. And they have such a great network of friends and family to provide support.”

Man About Town: The Pantry… Just Perfect

Man About Town: The Pantry… Just Perfect
By Mike Lauterborn
(Appeared in the Fairfield Citizen News 1/21)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

It was the Friday preceding Martin Luther King Day and Fairfield schools were closed. It was just as well as it would keep some traffic off the road and allow town equipment to continue to whittle down and remove mountainous snowbanks that had piled up everywhere. Temps were frigid this particular morning and a cozy windowside table at The Pantry was calling.

Nestled beside Domino’s in a retail plaza at 1580 Post Road in downtown, the market, with its bakery and deli counter, has been serving the area since March 2003. While a destination for convenient pick-up of needed items, purveyor of delectable prepared foods and provider of specialty cakes and pastries, The Pantry has also become a social gathering place. Retirees visit to enjoy a light breakfast, moms and their children will meet up to take five during a busy day of errands and couples will relax and read the paper on weekends.

Manning one of three registers at the front of the market, Jenisha Shrestha, 24, remarked, “People really like how we treat them, the food of course and the friendly, intimate atmosphere. Visitors from out-of-state even ask if we can open a sister market in their area, as they like it so much.”

General Manager Paul Zawadski said there’s a certain formula to the success of the market: quality food without skimping, talented staff and a fair, reasonable price.

“The center of Fairfield is certainly a viable location, too,” Zawadski added. “Our parking lot could be a little bigger but people seem to make it work. Commuters really rely on us – nobody seems to cook in Fairfield anymore.”

Regarding inventory, Zawadski said, “We run the gamut from hard-to-find items like aged balsamic vinegars to everyday staples.”

As to store traffic, he said the deli counters are popular with people who work in town. “The salad bar is a favorite destination and we make pizzas to go. Now we’re adding a rotisserie, which we expect to be popular.”

One of the owners, Thierry LeMeur, had worked for the old Mercurio’s Market, which had been adjacent and served Fairfield for half a century. LeMeur teamed up with Andrew Rolleri, The Pantry’s baker and pastry chef, with the idea to provide gourmet products to the local area. It filled a void left by Mercurio’s.

“Originally, the store was meant to be a place where a chef or cook could come to buy all their needed ingredients,” said Rolleri. “It has evolved beyond that to be a provider of already prepared or ready-to-bake foods.”

At one end of the store, housing the bakery, a long glass display case showed fresh-made bagels, Danish, croissants and a wide array of cookies, tarts and cakes. Opposite, decks of prepared meals and a walk-in refrigerator housing vegetables.

Mid-store, there’s a meats section and then shelf after shelf of canned and packaged food items.

Capping the other end of the store, the salad bar and deli counter.

“This place has stolen my heart,” said Fairfielder Sunnie Chapell. “This is the best fresh food, bakery, etc. Everything is just top quality and the people that work here are so nice. They will deliver when there’s an emergency. I just love coming here.”

Another regular, Fairfielder Kerri Gibbons, said, “I love their butternut squash soup and cinnamon spice tea. I start my day here. It gets me going.”

Mayra Cancho, bakery supervisor, said, “What we make here is always fresh and quality. The same people often come in two or three times a day, they love us so much. But we get new faces and out-of-towners in here too who have heard about us. They like our daily specials. We’re always offering something new.”

On that note, I gathered myself up, stepped back out into the icy environs and planned my next Fairfield foray.