Woog's World: Coronavirus brings out the best and worst in Westport

Welcome to the new normal. Which, of course, is anything but.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the best and worst of Westport. The worst is the finger-pointing that emerged and continues in the wake of the now-infamous party that appears to be “ground zero” for the infection here.

Though that too is debatable. With our proximity to New York City, and at least a few Westporters involved with the synagogue in New Rochelle, it was probably here even before the party that has gotten all the attention.

Were there 50 people at the party? Two hundred? Somewhere in between? At this point, it does not matter. What matters is that the coronavirus is here. It’s spreading. And, like people all over the country, Westporters are stepping up and helping out.

That’s where the best of Westport comes through, and that’s where our focus should be.

One of the first responses came from an ad hoc group of residents. Concerned that local retailers, restaurants and service providers were closing, they created a list with links and phone numbers to purchase gift cards. It’s a brilliant idea: Provide much-needed cash now, for something you can use today, tomorrow, or in a month or three or six.

From sporting goods to sushi, furniture to flowers, paintings to pasta, it’s all there in one handy spot. It’s called OneWestport, and the website is the same: OneWestport.com.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce stepped into the breach too. They compiled two comprehensive lists, both of which should be go-tos for every resident. One is for restaurants; the other is markets. They show what’s open (and when); what’s offered (curbside service, delivery or both), and include clickable links and phone numbers. Go to WestportWestonChamber.com, then scroll down.

Other excellent resources include the Westport Downtown Merchants Association (www.WestportDMA.com) and FindingWestport.com. And CTBites.com has a good list of curbside-and-deliver restaurants around the state.

OurTownCrier.com usually touts new businesses, services and events. Publisher Betsy Pollak quickly pivoted, and posted a very comprehensive list of resources for kids and parents to do at home. It includes arts and crafts, games and puzzles, baking, online educational games, science experiments, singing, stories, safe and educational sites for teens, indoor games, trivia and more.

WestportMoms.com got into the act too. They updated their list of things to do with kids, along with resources and even a bit of humor.

Westporters got creative at every level. In the Gorham Avenue/Evergreen Avenue neighborhood, someone placed a note in mailboxes along with colored paper. The note urged residents to put the proper color in a window: Green for “everything is OK,” red means “need supplies,” and yellow is for “elderly/living alone or isolated/mobility issues.”

The note promises that neighbors will monitor the signs, and act as needed. It also offers a phone number to call or text if supplies are needed. Residents can also call that number if they want to help others. What a wonderful idea, and easily replicable in other neighborhoods around town too.

Teenagers Ty Chung, Jonathan Lorenz and Luke Lorenz offered to run errands for senior citizens, and anyone else having difficulty leaving the house during the pandemic.

Adhering strictly and smartly to the rules, they will do whatever they can. But they will not enter homes, and they avoid personal interactions. For details (including how to reimburse them for items purchased), email GuysHelping@gmail.com. Include your name, address and errand.

Westport mom Stacey Henske helps ease isolation, loneliness, fear and anxiety among seniors. Kids, teenagers, adults — anyone — can write poetry, letters, short stories, essays, cards, illustrations or anything else that can be slipped under a door.

They can be dropped in a bin by the front door at 10 Poplar Plains Road, off Wilton Road. If you can’t leave the house, email staceyhenske@gmail.com; she’ll arrange for pickup. Be careful though: Don’t lick any envelopes!

Those are only a few of the great things happening everywhere in town. Next door and across-the-street neighbors are pulling up lawn chairs and enjoying cocktails at the ends of their respective driveways - socially distanced, but also socially together.

On several streets in Westport, residents have formed virtual groups. They share news and information on Facebook, and chat via Zoom or Google Hangouts. It’s easy to do. In fact, the only stumbling block may be finding out who your neighbors actually are, if you haven’t known them before. We may not have been borrow-sugar-and-talk-over-the-back-fence friends before, but nowadays we’ve got plenty of time for all that.

COVID-19 is horrendous. It’s brought out some equally horrendous behavior in a few people, but many more are rising to the challenge. It’s almost enough to make you smile.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.