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By Gretchen Althoff Snyder

Now in its third year, 5 Steps to Five, a parenting program that helps level the playing field for low-income, underserved families in Port Chester, is in full swing and growing exponentially. Co-founded by Rye residents Kent and Mary Alice Warner and Allen Clark, the program, which now serves 180 families, runs every Saturday morning at 17 Spring Street. Trained early childhood professionals teach parents to stimulate their babies’ (newborn to age 3) minds through reading, speaking, singing, and playing.

When the program was in its infancy, the co-founders quickly recognized that most, if not all, parents were unable to attend the program without someone to watch their older children. Enter the Sibling Room, a place where parents can drop their older children off while they attend the parenting classes with their babies just down the hall. What began as “glorified babysitting” has blossomed into a program where the siblings can benefit from group activities as well as a newly initiated reading program. The Sibling Room averages ten students per week, although there have been days when as many as twenty kids show up. As the older children range in age from 4 to 12, it’s a challenge to keep all of them occupied and engaged at the same time.

“There is a tremendous learning curve to implementing a reading component in the Sibling Room – it is a work-in-progress,” says Kent. The biggest hurdle by far has been getting the older children to actually want to read on a Saturday morning. There is a concern, he continues, that some of the children in the Sibling Room are not reading at grade level. To that end, 5 Steps to Five will coordinate with and receive guidance from the Carver Center, which already has an established reading program in place for older children during their summer camp.

5 Steps to Five also has loyal student volunteers who work tirelessly to engage these older children and get them more excited about reading. Rye High School freshman Alberto Laveron, a native of Spain, says he wanted to do something for the Port Chester community after he saw the drastic difference in opportunities between the two towns. “When I realized that I could help Spanish speakers, that I could make a difference, I joined 5 Steps to Five.” While Alberto says it can be difficult to keep all the kids happy, he finds his work very rewarding. “The parents are so nice and polite, and the kids are well-behaved. I enjoy being a part of this community and have made strong connections with many of the kids.”

Virginia Field, also a Rye High freshman, got involved after her mother, Lisa Field, became Director in the spring of 2016. Virginia volunteered her time because she “genuinely loves being around kids.” While each Saturday is a little different, her mornings always begin by setting up the room and the supplies, so everything is ready when the siblings arrive. Each child then chooses a book and reads independently, or a volunteer reads to them, depending on their age and abilities. Afterwards, there is usually an art project or other group activity, such as a scavenger hunt.

While Virginia acknowledges that it can be a struggle to get the older children to read, and that there aren’t enough age-appropriate books to go around, she’s glad to have been able to build solid, meaningful relationships with some of the siblings. “And it is so great that these kids have something to look forward to on Saturday mornings.”

The spirit of giving back abounds at 5 Steps to Five thanks to its dedicated, hard-working staff and volunteers. To get more information about the program, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Student volunteers Nina Hauswirth, Alberto Laveron, Lucia Niveas Molina, and Virginia Field

 

By Janice Llanes Fabry

As Carver Center’s first Chief Learning Officer, Leanne Tormey is committed to helping shift the longtime program-focused organization into a more client-focused learning center. “We believe that learning is the most powerful lever to pull,” said Tormey, the former Superintendent of Schools of Stonington, Connecticut.

“Being the first person in a role is a gift,” she added, because it allows you to craft the position and tailor it to the organization’s immediate needs and to capture the spirit of what we hope to become.”

From the minute Tormey stepped into the new role in June, she felt she’d come to the right place. “Everything happening here was in some way connected to experiences I'd had or ones I’d wanted to explore. Carver is explicitly saying, ‘We want to evolve and build a vision.’”

The lifelong educators preoccupation with learning was ignited early on. “I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “In elementary school, I was fascinated by the way my teachers taught, whether it was how they presented information or how, at times, they broke the class into groups. Early on, I knew what worked for me as a learner and what didn’t. School became a learning lab for me that helped me make sense of my world.”

She cut her professional teeth as an elementary and middle school teacher over 25 years ago. “I ultimately fell in love with middle school. It was an amazing opportunity to work with young people who wanted to figure out who they wanted to be when they grew up, much like myself,” she quipped. 

Her professional trajectory took her from teacher to dean of students to principal and director of curriculum. “I always wanted to remain a teacher,” said Tormey, who accepted administrative roles as long as they involved teaching. “As a director of curriculum, I felt I was teaching teachers how to develop and craft curriculum and testing it in the classroom. My scope of influence increased.”

While earning a doctorate in Educational Leadership, she initiated a strategic plan in Stonington designed to increase student achievement by incorporating every aspect of the education process, from academics to community partnerships.

“It really opened my eyes to working with systems and organizational structures. I introduced equity audits that not only looked at test scores, graduation rates, and college acceptances, but analyzed how the data played out for different segments of the population,” explained Tormey.

Tormey went on to serve as the National Chief Academic Officer of Family Urban Schools of Excellence and as the Director of Educator Development at LEARN, Southeast Connecticut’s regional education service center. Before landing at Carver, she established The Advantage to help children and their families navigate the educational landscape.

Currently, she is instrumental in spearheading the Carver Learning Continuum, which reflects the Center’s commitment to excellent programming for all stages of life. In addition to empowering families through programs that meet their nutritional, emotional, and social service needs, Carver is endorsing the view that we are lifelong learners and focusing on five developmental learning benchmarks: infants and toddlers, school-aged children, tweens and teens, adults, and seniors.

As a result, planning for a far-reaching needs assessment is underway that incorporates feedback from Carver families as well as the Port Chester community-at-large. “We must engage in collaborative inquiry and embrace our membership in the larger global community,” noted Tormey.

All programming will be guided by research and, subsequently, exemplary facilitators that will design appropriate learning experiences for each stage of development.

“In keeping with our commitment to honor client voice, there will be a continuous feedback loop. We have to take the time to embrace feedback, so the work that follows responds to the community's wants and needs,” said Tormey. “At this point in the assessment process, Carver is developing the tools through which we will gather this feedback. We seek rich, deep information.” 

There’s already a plethora of new and exciting programming in motion, such as a partnership agreement with 5 Steps to Five to increase support for growing families and lay the groundwork for infants and toddlers so they’re better prepared for school.

Along with the afterschool programs and the mindfulness lessons already being provided to Port Chester elementary school children, there are initiatives for learning events that will bring children from across the school district together. For tweens and teens, a Maker Space is in the works. For adults, resume development workshops and stress management offerings are being explored. In addition, intergenerational learning forums for seniors are in motion.

“I’m learning and teaching every day here,” said Tormey. My goal is that through this work, I might be a steward for the mission of Carver, and part of a team that collectively builds and actualizes a new vision for a community learning center.”

 

Leanne Tormey, Carver Center’s Chief Learning Officer

 

 

By Georgetta L. Morque

New eateries seem to be popping up all over in our area, giving us more options for healthy and tasty food. The most recent addition is CAVA, the Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant, which opened November 16 in the Rye Ridge Shopping Center.

Founded by three first-generation Greek-American childhood friends, CAVA aims to bring authentic Mediterranean flavors to a wider audience in a modern accessible format. The Rye Brook location is the D.C.-based company’s 41st in the country.

I was one of the first diners to try out CAVA’s signature custom greens and grain bowls, handcrafted dips and spreads, and house-made juices and teas. As I traveled down the aisle, the welcoming staff was very helpful in explaining the many choices.

You start out with a large bowl with a base – a choice of greens and grains – upon which to build your meal. Then, there’s a selection of up to three dips and spreads, followed by a protein, and as many as 14 toppings. At this point, your bowl is rather full, but top it off with a choice of dressings and a piece of pita bread and you have a flavorful, fresh, and filling meal.

For my base, I chose a mix of organic arugula, romaine, and spinach, and brown basmati rice. I then went for the crazy feta, roasted red pepper hummus, and eggplant and red pepper spreads — the latter being a bit spicy yet very tasty — cubes of grilled chicken seasoned with lemon and oregano, and a sampling of roasted cauliflower, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts. My dining companion was impressed with her combo of black lentils and braised lamb seasoned with turmeric, cayenne, garlic, and coriander, over her greens.

We enjoyed toppings such as cauliflower quinoa tabbouleh, pita crisps, Kalamata olives, and diced cucumbers. Dressings, including lemon herb tahini and sriracha Greek yogurt, can be ordered on the side. As we watched our bowls grow, we caught a glimpse of two chefs making fresh falafel behind the glass. Of the selection of teas and juices, we found the rosemary limeade a refreshing accompaniment.

The menu has a handy chart indicating the items that are gluten-, dairy- and soy-free, vegan and vegetarian. The popular dips and spreads, which contain no artificial additives or preservatives, are also sold at Whole Foods and specialty markets.

Although CAVA looks small, it extends in the back, providing seating for 66 patrons. Prices for the bowls start at $9.37 and a child’s meal is $6.25. The CAVA App enables you to order ahead and earn loyalty rewards.

CAVA is the answer to busy families seeking fresh, healthy food on the go, an athlete’s post- workout fueling, and the robust flavors of Mediterranean cuisine.

Captions:

#2 A sampling of the build-your-own meals at CAVA

#3 The friendly staff at CAVA in the Rye Ridge Shopping Center is ready to serve you.

Photos courtesy of CAVA

 

By Robin Jovanovich

Jack Martin honed his knife-sharpening skills as an eighth grader in Shop class, but the first time anyone asked him to carve a turkey was after he returned home from military service. “I was attached to a squadron and served on the <<SS Saratoga>> during the bombing of Libya in 1986,” said the hale and hearty 47-year-old veteran. After that experience, he said, “my parents thought I could handle a turkey.”

 

In the Westchester Libraries’ Battle of the Books competition at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose this fall, The Rye Free Reading Room Grades 4-6 team fought valiantly for 2nd place. They were edged out by Bronxville in the final, 10-9. 

Rye’s Grades 6-10 team made it to the semifinal and lost by one point to Peekskill, which went on to win the group.

Both teams will be battle-ready for next year’s competition.

Pictured from left: Lisa Dettling, coach for the older team, Sophia Cai, Leyla Murati, Connelly Boyle, Gabrielle Diaz-Alcantara, Gina Sage, Bob Chen, Mark O’Brien, and Alaina Pimbley, coach of the younger team.

 

By Bill Lawyer

According to their “elevator speech,” Home For Zen is a boutique green home renovation and eco-healthy interior design company, with a unique focus on the wellness of children. It’s also the passion of founders Annalise Stack and Ania Dunlop.

The company was established recently to help clients in Westchester and environs create beautiful, non-toxic, and eco-friendly homes that are an extension of their healthy lifestyle.

While Zen is associated with contemplation, there is an active side to it, too — providing tools to build a better life.

Stack asks potential clients to “Think of your house as a living body. Our goal is to make your home green, healthy, and sustainable, through careful selection of materials, thoughtful use of space, and respect for the needs of the people living in them.”

According to Dunlop and Stack, “A green home is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity to protect the health of our children and families.”

Their business also includes providing help to parents in selecting healthy choices in the foods they eat and the ways they are prepared.

Stack has been involved in Rye environmental causes and businesses for many years. She has an MBA in Sustainability & LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects and an expert in creating home environments that support and encourage wellness.

Dunlop has an MBA and years of experience as a certified Holistic Health Coach. She is well known as the founder of the “Rye Moms” Facebook site.

The two women met at a yoga class, and soon discovered that their daughters were in the same grade at school. “As parents of children with chronic asthma and allergies, we linked their health issues with environmental toxins. And before long we started talking about starting a business to address those issues.”

While the green homes movement has been around for over 20 years, many people planning to renovate an existing home or build a new one may still not be aware of how easy it is to buy and use safe products and construction materials, note the dynamic duo.

“People often don’t realize that their houses are making them sick or that they can take action to make their home environment healthier and greener,” proclaims their website.

Stack and Dunlop use the analogy of their products and services to be an umbrella that protects people from being rained on by seemingly harmless toxic products. That includes chemicals found in kitty litter.

A typical day for the Home For Zen partners finds them going to a client’s home to collect air quality samples, mailing them to a testing laboratory, going to a product supplier to select samples, and then meeting with clients to go over their samples. Near the end of the day, they might work on the six-page report that they present to the client, with the results of the testing and a list of recommendations.

Another service they provide is public presentations regarding the principles and practices of using wellness concepts for healthy homes. They recently presented a program to a financial corporation in New York City.

Dunlop and Stack admit that they are already working eight-hour days, thanks to the help of afterschool babysitters.

Within five years, Stack projects that they will have ten to 15 employees, an office in Greenwich or Rye, a franchise operation, and a book covering all the aspects of their company’s mission. As far as she can see, they have cornered the local market on their services.

For further information, visit http://homeforzen.com.

Annalise Stack and Ania Dunlop, founders of Home for Zen