Archive | February, 2014


“Talking Books” Finds A Voice at Hartford Public Library

HARTFORD — Hartford Public Library will soon welcome another critical literacy service for the region: The Greater Hartford Unit of Connecticut’s Talking Books Program.

This program is a service under the Library of Congress and Connecticut State Library.

The Greater Hartford Unit of Talking Books is one of five in the state, and is run by Connecticut Volunteer Services for the Blind and Handicapped, Inc.  The CVSBH, which distributes the recorded materials and provides necessary playback equipment at no cost to the user, will take up residency in the Downtown Hartford Library this spring. 

The new partnership will allow the all-volunteer program to continue to provide audio books and other recorded materials for free distribution to anyone who cannot read a traditional book due to visual or physical impairments.

Library officials said that the core mission “is to provide free resources for unlimited learning to all, regardless of background, language, economic status or physical ability,”

Early in 2013, the Greater Hartford Talking Books Unit learned that it would no longer have a space in the facility where it was housed for 35 years because of a major renovation. 

Since its founding in 1979, the Greater Hartford Unit of Talking Books has recorded over 1,000 books. The Talking Books studio will be located on the Downtown Library’s second floor, along with YOUmedia Hartford, a new digital learning lab for teens slated to open in fall 2014.




In 2013, The Connecticut State Library distributed 180,680 talking books.  For more information or for volunteer

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FUNdraising Good Times: Blacks Give Back

By Mel and Peal Shaw

If you want to challenge your thinking on the relationship between African Americans and philanthropy, you need to follow Founded by Tracey Webb in 2007, takes the stereotype of African Americans as the recipients of others’ philanthropy and illustrates – with images and words – that African Americans are busy giving to diverse causes.

We met with Webb this past fall, and followed up with her recently, asking about the driving force behind BlackGivesBack. “I grew tired of not seeing the rich stories of African American giving in the media. We’re often stereotyped as recipients of philanthropy when in fact we give away 25% more of our income than whites. This has been documented by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Cultures of Giving report published in 2012. Black giving is what created many churches and institutions still in existence today.”

Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw

An active donor, Webb is also the founder of Black Benefactors, a giving circle in Washington, DC. She gives and encourages others to join together and increase the impact of their giving. “I have learned that while we want to give back, we may not have the knowledge on where to start or how to do it effectively to create desired change. By joining a giving circle, you can learn more in depth about needs in your community and how to give more strategically. I have observed in the past few years that this type of collaborative giving model is on the rise, especially among millennials.”

“One event that I have found inspiring is the annual Community Investment Network (CIN) conference. CIN is an organization that provides support and resources to giving circles in communities of color. As the founder of a giving circle, there’s something powerful about being surrounded by grassroots givers – everyday people committed to giving back in their communities. They are celebrating their 10th anniversary this October in Raleigh, North Carolina.”

Webb was inspired at an early age. “Philanthropists that are the most inspiring to me are my parents and family. I grew up in a family of givers and I was never told to give back. I learned it from watching them. I’m about to embark on researching my family history and I’m excited to learn more about the giving of my ancestors. I’ve heard some amazing stories!”

Webb is busy growing BlackGivesBack. “My hope and vision for is to revamp the site with new features and expanded content. I want it to serve as a hub for learning about issues impacting our community and the organizations and individuals committed to addressing them. And as our buying power continues to increase, I hope that readers will include giving in their family budget to support non-profit organizations in addition to their place of worship.

Learn more at and

Copyright 2014 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your campaign visit or call (901) 522-8727.


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City Libraries, Schools Team up to Maximize Services

HARTFORD — The city’s public schools and libraries have formed a partnership aimed at allowing students to take fuller advantage of library resources, such as online books  and enrichment activities, through programs tailored to the families served by each  school.

The Hartford Public Schools and Hartford Public Library on Wednesday kicked off this cooperative venture seeking to maximize their services for students and their parents, while improving literacy skills, a joint press release said.

The plan divides the city into ten zones, each anchored by a library branch that will collaborate with every school in its zone to create the targeted programs.

The announcement was made at the Goodwin Public Library Branch on New Britain Avenue which will pilot the program, allied with the Breakthrough Magnet School, the Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary Hooker, the Expeditionary Learning at Moylan School, the Montessori Magnet at Moylan, Kennelly School  and Batchelder Elementary School.

Plans call for all 10 library branches to have working relationships with their zone schools within two years with the Godwin setup serving as a template.

The school district and the library will also form a citywide leadership team, consisting of a branch manager, a library media specialist and a technology expert to oversee and facilitate expansion of the plan.

Among the features that are expected to be added are new after-school and summer enrichment programs that focus on love of reading and learning, tutoring services, the use of library facilities to display student art exhibits and the development of a special website that grants students and teachers access to the library’s storehouse of online books.

According to the public library’s chief executive officer, Matthew K. Poland,  “Sharing collections, technology and staff expertise in both organizations will facilitate the development of literacy skills that are key to successful and productive careers”

Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto said, “I expect that our collaboration with Hartford Public Library will have very positive implications for our efforts to have every child reading at grade level by third grade and for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.”

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Hartford Healthcare Workers Honored

HARTFORD –Two Hartford HealthCare social workers were recently honored for their work on behalf of cancer patients at Hartford Hospital.

The Connecticut Sports Foundation presented its first-ever Advocacy Award to Charmain Ali and Hillary Keller at its annual celebrity dinner at Mohegan Sun on Feb. 7.

The foundation, which provides financial support to cancer patients across the state, praised the social workers for their “tireless dedication on behalf of cancer patients” at HHC, which includes the hospital and its cancer institute. The Advocacy Award is intended for those who have a long history of partnering with the Foundation to make sure cancer patients in the greatest need are being assisted, a press release noted.

“It has been my great pleasure to have worked with Hillary and Charmain for many years; they are perfect examples of what an oncology social worker should be,” said Jane G. Ellis, the foundation’s president and executive director. “They have set the bar extremely high for the award selection process in the future.”

Donna Handley, vice president of operations for the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, also praised the award recipients.

“We are extremely proud of Charmain and Hillary and the exemplary work they do every day on behalf of our patients,” Handley said. “They are richly deserving of this recognition.”

Both women are residents of the greater Hartford area, Ali is from South Windsor and Keller is from West Hartford.

 Photo: Rebecca Lobo© poses with Charmain Ali (l) and Hillary Keller (r)

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Yale Film Festival: “Powered By Dreams”

NEW HAVEN — It’s a concept often overlooked and certainly underestimated, the difference between existing and actually living. And if you haven’t grasped it yet, you may not have experienced the power of your dreams.

On Feb. 15,  The Yale African American Affinity Group (YAAA) is debuting “Powered By Dreams” in their 2014 film festival. The journey of Dream Chaser no. 1 reflects the road every dream chaser endures when they are powered by dreams.

The hours for the 2014 Yale African American Film Festival screenings are from 6 p.m.  to 8 p.m. at the Whitney Humanities Center in New Haven, CT. Admission is free. It runs until Feb. 16.

 This showing is a part of a four-day event is dedicated to highlighting the contributions of African Americans in films through the Yale African American Film Festival.

This film documents the founder of the Dream Support Network (DSN), Abdul R-I. Muhammad’s steps to recovery after a near-death experience, which leads to self-discovery and the conscious decision to live life without fear or limitations. He uses his gift of life and to inspire others through the development of his foundation. His commitment to “12 for 12”, a challenge in which you accomplish twelve dreams in twelve months is shown in his travels around the world. From sky diving, to sumo wrestling and then purchasing an ice cream truck for the inception of a first of its kind campaign, he continues to make dreams come true. 

To learn more about “Powered By Dreams” and The Dream Support Network, please visit www.




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Two Attractions Slated for Hartford

HARTFORD — State economic development officials expect two new attractions in the Capital City – a music hall/bistro debuting this summer on Front Street and a trampoline park on Brainard Road – to help drive forward the state’s tourism industry.

Both The Infinity Music Hall and Launch Trampoline Park were spotlighted during the kick off of the 2014 Connecticut tourism season Tuesday along with several other new destinations and festivals being counted on to help increase visitors and tourist spending.

Overall, the outlook was clearly upbeat Tuesday as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy praised the state’s recent success in promoting tourism.

Malloy said that the state Department of Economic and Community Development and its Office of Tourism have released tracking results that indicate the $22 million Statewide Tourism Marketing Fund investment over 18 months has generated gains in overall tourism spending and increased positive awareness of Connecticut as a place to visit.

“Tourism has always been a good investment for the state – it is a sector that generates billions in spending and represents more than 100,000 jobs for residents,” Malloy said.

Among the bright spots so far is that state lodging revenue is up 8.5 percent since the same time last year – outpacing U.S. averages and the New England states combined, according to a state press release.

Another positive cited at the kickoff was that the “Still Revolutionary” marketing campaign has reached target consumers in key markets with its message nearly 646 million times.

“For the past two years, we’ve been investing in tourism and it’s working – we’ve seen increases in jobs, tourism spending and a more positive reputation for the state,” said Randy Fiveash, director of tourism. “It’s critical that we continue to maximize this momentum and bring new visitors to the state. The exciting line-up of new offerings will help do just that.”

These new attractions include Infinity Music Hall & Bistro, which since 2008, has been a popular dining and concert destination in Norfolk, featuring a wide array of nationally known music artists in an intimate setting.

Infinity hopes to extend this experience in the capital city with a new and larger building that is partially funded with state aid. There hall will seat 400 in a traditional theater setup. Another 100 seats will be available in the mezzanine where drinks and the hall’s menu will be served bistro style.

Infinity in Hartford will start selling tickets in the spring for its shows, with four to seven performances a week likely depending on the availability of artists, said marketing director Mary Ann Clerkin.

The opening night act will depend on when the hall is ready, but performers who have appeared in Norfolk include Bare Naked Ladies, Taj Mahal, Tori Amos, Roy Clark, Kevin Costner and the Harlem Gospel Choirs.

Launch Trampoline Park was opened last fall by a partnership including former New England Patriots football player Ty Law. This indoor facility offers wall to wall trampolines, foam pit, basketball hoops and dodgeball.

Other attractions featured by the Office of Tourism are:

  • The revived Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield
  • The 4B Festival – curated beer, bourbon, barbecue and bacon –  to be held this March at The Old Trolley Barn in New Haven
  • The 1841 wooden whaleship, the  Charles W. Morgan, sailing from Mystic Seaport.
  • The Bear Creek Campground opening in June at Lake Compounce in Bristol/Southington
  • The Connecticut Antiques Trail,  a new statewide trail of antique shops and centers
  • An array of activities planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the state parks.

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City and State Workers Clean Up After Winter Storm Pax

By Bill Sarno, Associate Editor
HARTFORD — A lot of people had Thursday off and some even got an additional “snow day” on Valentine’s Day. However, the two days were no holiday for those called upon to keep Hartford area roads safe and to help stranded motorists.

Hartford police issued more than 600 tickets and had nearly 300 vehicles towed for violating the snow emergency parking ban which ran from Wednesday night to 4 p.m. Friday. This enforcement was aimed at getting vehicles off the streets to make it easier and safer for the besieged plow drivers

On the plus side, compliance to the parking strictures was “above average,” reported Lt. Brian Foley of the Hartford Police Department.

Thursday and Friday were just two more busy days in what has been an active winter for the AAA’s Roadside Rescue Team.

By late Friday afternoon, the emergency road service for greater Hartford and eastern Connecticut reported it had received 1,227 calls and there was no relief in sight.

“We expect the call volume to increase as the day progresses,” said AAA public affairs manager Aaron Kupec.

On Thursday, while the snow and ice storm was pummeling Connecticut, AAA responded to 779 calls. The top three call types were winch outs for vehicles off the road or stuck in the snow, tows and lock service.

Since the start of the winter, the area AAA has handled more than 51,000 calls locally.

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Movie Review: Endless Love

It’s Endless Love redux. But this time the movie released in theaters Friday fails with cliched themes about love. The first one, starring Brook Shields, Tom Cruise and James Spader, affected many movie-goers in 1981 because of its attempt at the kind of eros found in Shakespeare, like Romeo and Juliet. This movie, not so much.

“Endless Love” is the story of David (Alex Pettyfer) and Jade (Gabriella Wilde), two teens who fall in love. But Jade’s dad wants to keep them apart.

But if you like to look at pretty people fall in love, this one’s for you. Directed by Shana Feste the film stars Alex Pettyfer as David Elliot and Gabriella Wilde as Jade Butterfield, the movie dishes up a smattering of cliched “tender moments” of when boy meets girl, falls in love, overcome obstacles in their way, and then live everily after.

The particulars of this movie is not exactly striking. But it does have a few comic relief scenes, played by  David’s friend played by Dayo Okeniyi,  that punctuate more than an hour of banality.

By Fran Wilson 

Endless Love

Opens on Friday.

Directed by Shana Feste; written by Ms. Feste and Joshua Safran, based on the book by Scott Spencer; director of photography, Andrew Dunn; edited by Maryann Brandon; music by Christophe Beck; production design by Clay Griffith; costumes by Stacey Battat; produced by Scott Stuber, Pamela Abdy, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage; released by Universal Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes.

Rate P.G.


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Hartford Extends Parking Ban for Friday

Updated February 14, 2014 at 9:15 a.m.

HARTFORD — You might have to spend Valentine’s Day indoors, thanks to the severe winter storm that has blanketed most of the Mid-Atlantic.

As the Greater Hartford area gets clobbered with snow and wind,  Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra late Thursday announced that he is extending the existing snow emergency parking ban until 4 p.m. on February 14th.

All Hartford Public Schools will be closed. All city offices, Board of Education Central Offices and City of Hartford Early Learning Centers will open at 10 a.m.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday also declared a State of Emergency  in an attempt for the state to pursue a request to the federal government to help some municipalities in Connecticut that are experiencing road salt shortages for the remainder of this winter season.

Today’s winter storm snow is the twelfth of the season.

According to reports, about 9-and-a-half inches of snow fell on Newark, New Jersey; and Bridgeport, Connecticut; with nearly 8 inches piling up at New York’s LaGuardia Airport by s of 3:30 p.m. on  Thursday.

The National Weather Service said the Storm Pax focused on New England in the early hours of Friday morning and was likely to push farther northeast with tapering snowfall.

Widespread heavy snowfall at a rate of one to two inches per hour (2.5-5 cms) and gusting winds reached across northern and central parts of New England, NWS meteorologists said.

“This storm is not over yet, more snow is expected tomorrow morning,” said Mayor Segarra. “Snow clean-up continues but I want to remind residents not to throw snow back into the streets. The parking ban will remain in effect until 4pm. I urge everyone who has used a school parking lot to make arrangements to move their cars as soon as possible after 4pm tomorrow.”

Since 12:01 a.m. Thursday, AAA’s Roadside Rescue Team has received 527 calls for emergency road service in Greater Hartford and eastern Connecticut (Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London Counties). Common calls so far today have included requests for towing service and winch outs (for vehicles off the road and/or stuck in the snow).

AAA advises drivers, if possible, to stay off the roads during the storm and until plow crews have done their work.

Mayor Segarra said he appreciate the residents who’ve moved their cars and kept off the road.

He said Hartford Police Traffic Division reported that in its  18 years’ experience, “the streets are as empty as they’ve ever seen for a snow storm.”

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Arizona Board Votes to Hire Kishimoto

HARTFORD — During what was reported in local media as a raucus, standing-room only meeting, the Gilbert, Ariz. school board early Wednesday morning selected a new superintendent of schools: Christina DeJesus-Kishimoto, the superintendent of Hartford public schools.

The position in the central Arizona community was expected to be offered to Kishimoto after the meeting according to the Arizona Republic Newspaper. Kishimoto, whose contract in Hartford ends in June, accepted the position according to reports. A search for Kishimoto’s  successor already is under way. The Hartford Board of Ed

The Gilbert vote was 3-2 at the end of a meeting in which parents and teachers accused conservative board members of political bias and driving out educators, the newspapers website, reported. The selection process also came under fire.

The 39,000-student district has been in an uproar with the five top administrators and the interim superintendent resigning.

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