This is the second in a series of featured profiles on this year's honorees at the third annual Westport First Awards and Lincoln Day Dinner will take place Sunday, Feb. 28, at the Inn at Longshore and will honor local individuals and organizations that go above and beyond the ordinary to serve and improve the Greater Westport Community.

The Westport First Awards, a non-partisan event sponsored by the Westport Republican Town Committee, recognizes the selfless work of individuals who support our town and whose noble efforts to make Westport a better place for us all to live. This year's honorees are: Al Diguido, president of Al's Angels; The Westport Woman's Club; Rick and Totney Benson; and the Kowalsky Brothers.

Westport Woman's Club

In 1907, a small group of Westport Women organized for the purpose of cleaning the town streets, caring for and planting trees and laying sidewalks. They called themselves The Women's Town Improvement Association. Later the name was changed to the Westport Woman's Club.

The programs the Woman's Club has initiated to the town are numerous. The "greening of the Post Road" and Canal Park are but two firsts. The Visiting Nurse Service was started in 1925 and funded by the club for 35 years when it was turned over to the town in 1960. Free dental clinics, vaccination clinics, well-child clinics, tuberculosis campaigns, free milk distribution, polio saliva tests, a lending service of sickroom equipment -- all these were inaugurated by the club.

The Westport Woman's Club pioneered classes for children with learning disabilities by conducting experimental classes with a trained teacher and volunteer for three years until the program was integrated into the local schools. The club has worked closely with the schools on many projects from the earliest years and presently awards academic scholarships to deserving students. It was the club that introduced the idea of "visiting teacher" to consult with parents, the counterpart of today's guidance counselor. It also gave Westport its first school nurse, dental hygienist and district nurse.

In 1975, the club started an Emergency Food Distribution Program for the local needy under the leadership of Westport Department of Human Services. It is now known as the Food Closet and continues to this day.

In sum, the Westport Woman's Club has a successful history of answering calls for "help where needed" and in recognizing areas of need before calls for help go out. Annually, through direct grants and services, the Woman's Club provides $200,000 to community causes and donates more than1,000 hours in volunteer support.

The Westport Republican Town Committee is the sponsor of the Westport First Awards which complements the RTC's mission to honor Westport's historic, educational, and artistic legacies. The RTC welcomes and encourages the participation of all citizens in town government and believes an informed, committed, and involved citizenry are necessary for our community's proper functioning.

Tickets to the 2010 Westport First Awards and Lincoln Day Dinner may be purchased by contacting Desiree Soli at (203) 400-2773 or dessoli16@aol.com. Tickets for the event cost $100 per person. A portion of the net proceeds will be donated to Al's Angels and the Westport Woman's Club.