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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Children of the American Revolution Holds 85th State Conference

Children of the American Revolution Holds 85th State Conference:
Burr Mansion hosts young patriots, honors Freedom Fighters
By Mike Lauterborn
(posted to 3/6)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Dressed in conservative attire or costumes that recalled Colonial times, scores of children from all over Connecticut gathered midday Sunday to celebrate their roots and support the cause of freedom.

The draw was the 85th State Conference of the Connecticut Society Children of the American Revolution, hosted by the organization’s local chapter, the Thaddeus Burr Society, at the Burr Mansion on Old Post Road. In addition to conducting standard business such as electing next year’s officers and reporting on operations, the group memorialized relatives and military servicemen that died over the past year. An additional highlight included a wreath dedication honoring Hungarian Freedom Fighters.

Founded in 1895 by Harriett Lothrop, the C.A.R., a branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution, is the nation’s oldest and largest patriotic youth organization, offering membership to anyone under the age of 22 lineally descended from someone who served in the Continental Army or gave material aid to the cause of freedom in the American Revolution. Members pledge to carry on their descendants’ work and use their influence to create a deeper love of country, a loyal respect for the Constitution and a reverence for its flag, among young people. In Connecticut, the C.A.R. includes 365 members.

In the fall of 1956, Hungarians, led by students, revolted against the People’s Republic of Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies. Over a two-week period, protesters and State Security Police clashed countrywide until Soviet troops crushed the uprising and installed a Soviet-led government. In the process, 2,500 Hungarians were killed and 200,000 fled the country. A monument dedicated to the freedom fighters stands in the Burr Mansion’s gardens.

“Their cause parallels our country’s own fight for freedom, and the grandmother of our state chaplain, Taylor Fischer, was one of the protesters that fled the country and was lucky enough to be relocated to America,” said Teri Fischer, the Senior State President of the C.A.R. “We really recognize any freedom causes while building leaders and citizens and asking what we can do today.”

Each annual conference is themed. This year’s had a pirate correlation to convey the message of “treasuring the past”. It was conceived by Lauren Bacon, 16, State President of the C.A.R. and a descendant of Mayflower passenger William Bradford, who said, “I wanted to get younger members involved in a fun, kid-friendly way, that makes a meeting like this more appealing.” To this regard, a “Camp C.A.R.” room was set up where young children could don pirate hats and enjoy crafts and coloring.

Helping organize the pirate-themed activities was C.A.R. Senior State Chaplain Stephanie Pruitt, 30, who has been a member since she was 10. “My relevant descendant is John Carroll Adams who fought in the American Revolution,” she said. “It’s nice to feel that your family was part of something special and I’m glad that C.A.R. reinforces that importance and connection.”

The registrar of the Fairfield-based host chapter, Betty Oderwald, said her group supports the mission of respecting veterans and instilling patriotism, through a host of outreach efforts. “In the past year, we made Valentines for Homes of the Brave veterans homeless shelter in Bridgeport, hosted a scavenger hunt in the Burr gardens and handed out favors at the town Christmas tree lighting.”

C.A.R. has had a definite impact in the life of 16-year-old Taylor Fischer, who affixed a white rose to the Freedom Fighters’ wreath in honor of her grandmother. “It has made me more interested in my past and what I can do for my country. It’s also good for developing leadership qualities, as we all need to give speeches. And you get to meet people from all over the country and learn everyone’s connections to the past.”

Fellow member Alex Kimble, 11, had a particularly relevant connection to the proceedings, as a descendant of Thaddeus Burr, who established Burr Mansion. “It’s kind of interesting to learn about my own history and meet other people with histories like mine. I have a good time at these meetings.”

Carol Bauby, State Registrar for the Daughters of the American Revolution, stressed the importance of groups like the C.A.R. “It’s a great start for children to learn love of country and good citizenship. My relevant ancestors include Christian Stauffer, who served under General Anthony Wayne and fought at the decisive Battle of Yorktown 250 years ago. It’s important to honor these key ancestors who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.”

Garden Expo Staked for March 19-20 at FLHS

Garden Expo Staked for March 19-20 at FLHS:
Event supports 44-year-old River-Lab environmental 
study program
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to 3/6)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – The passionate stand of a concerned environmentalist and subsequent formation of a river basin study program 44 years ago inspired the creation of The Garden Expo, which will mark its 13th year this March.

Presented by the Mill River Wetland Committee, the Expo will be held March 19th and 20th at Fairfield Ludlowe Middle School at 785 Unquowa Road. Saturday hours are 10am-5pm; Sunday 10am-4pm. Over 90 home and garden related exhibitors will present their wares and services.

The event is a major fundraiser for the Committee’s River-Lab program of environmental study for grades 3-6 in all public schools in Fairfield. Funding provides for classroom materials and activities for students, study-trips to the Mill River and town estuaries, extensive training for study-trip guides and professional development for teachers. Each year, more than 160 volunteers guide over 3,500 children through more than 650 study-trips.

Joy Shaw is the founder of the Mill River Wetland Committee and author of the River-Lab program. A Vassar College graduate with a rudimentary science education, she moved to Fairfield in 1956 and began renting historic Perry’s Mill, which had just been converted to a residence. The original grist mill was built in the 1640s by Richard Ogden but burned to the ground 50 years later. The Perry family, who were living in what is now known as Ogden House, had the ability to reconstruct the building and carry on the business and was invited to trade properties with Ogden.

In 1966, ten years after Shaw settled in the Mill, two local conservation groups arranged for Mill Hollow, a six-acre parcel of land below Sturges Road Bridge and along the Mill River (adjacent to the Mill), to be deeded to the town as open space and a plan for wildlife improvement to be pursued. Little did they know that a town ordinance called for removal of trees along the river’s banks 150 feet out from the center of the river to either side. The removal was called for based on a fear that jam-ups would cause flooding to properties for which the town would be liable.

“Destruction was in process when I returned from a meeting and I ran and stood in front of the bulldozer,” said Shaw. “The operator thought I was crazy and was quite annoyed.”

Shaw managed to get the work suspended, founded the Committee and began studying all the ecology of the land – plants, animals and the history of its use. She decided to create a program for children that would help teach the value of the flood plain in its natural state. She initially approached Mill Hill School, got the principal’s endorsement and trained nine volunteers from the Sasco and Fairfield Garden Clubs to provide study-trips. The River-Lab program launched in Fall 1967.  

Shaw wrote all the initial education materials and, for the first 15 years of the program, trained guides at the Mill while study-trips were conducted in open space across the river. In the late 90s and early 00’s, guides Alex Moran and Anne Weinrod took the lead in revising the materials and program to formally adapt it to the Fairfield Public Schools system and meet No Child Left Behind guidelines.

Meanwhile, guide Gay Gasser conceived of the Garden Expo as a way to raise funds for program operation and curriculum development. “Gardens are usually very absorbent areas, allowing any precipitation to be readily absorbed into the watershed,” said Shaw. “It was suitable for us to encourage gardening to align with our program.”

Now the Expo is a town fixture. As Gasser best described it, “This is a huge group effort – a happy dance for spring. It’s very visual and sensual with food and demos. It’s not like a trade show in a box. We keep it moving and exciting.”

Garden Expo admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. Parking, lectures and demos are free.