Friday, July 31, 2020

Middlesex Community College Virtual Q&A

If you are thinking about the fall semester and don’t want to spend the full price for an online four-year university experience, get ahead with a degree or certificate from Middlesex Community College. In these uncertain times, MxCC’s affordable and flexible programs not only prepare students for transfer to four-year degrees or transition into the workforce, but 97% of students graduate debt-free.

Join our online Q&A chat on Saturday, August 1 starting at 10 a.m. and find out more about enrolling at MxCC. Guests can log on to ask any questions about the college and how to take classes during the fall semester. This event is hosted by members of the Enrollment Services, Admissions, and Financial Aid offices. Classes begin August 26.

To RSVP for the chat or to get the direct meeting link for the event, click here.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Children's Circus Final Week Schedule is LIVE!

Next week is the fifth and final week of the first-ever Virtual Children's Circus of Middletown!
Registration is done on a week-by-week basis, so it is not too late for any young person ages 5 - 15 (you do not need to live in Middletown) to join the final week, which will include a special Performance Block that will culminate in a big virtual show on Friday, August 7 at 2 pm.
This has been an amazing experience for the scores of kids who have been participating, and the final week continues the magic and artistry of the first four. Amazing Artists are teaching from around the country and even from Colombia, South America! Classes this week include opportunities to dance, draw, build and perform with puppets, juggle, clown, make music, do theater improv, learn some fancy hula hooping, and sooo much more. 
And if you don't have the equipment, we will loan it to you for the week. 
Thanks to support from the Middletown Commission on the Arts,  the Middlesex United Way, and Oddfellows Playhouse, all these programs are completely FREE (including equipment rental). Students can take a full day of classes, or just one. This Circus is designed to help meet your needs and make your summer amazing, fun, and full of skills, friends and inspiration.
If you have not experienced the Children's Circus this summer, this is your last chance to get on board, and you will not regret it. 
If you have been involved over the past four weeks, then you have probably already signed up because you don't want your favorite class to fill up. 
For more info, contact or call (860) 930-8695. 
To register for classes, go to

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

How They Voted: Police Accountability Bill

The Connecticut General Assembly and Senate voted to enact legislation that makes towns and cities more accountable for police actions. Our city's delegation to the Capitol was unanimous in its support:

Senator Matt Lesser (D)  YES
Senator Mary Abrams (D)  YES

Representative Joe Serra (D)  YES
Representative Quentin Phipps (D)  YES

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Middletown Common Council To Consider Declaration Of Climate Emergency

As you may have noticed, our national government has utterly failed to provide leadership in the face of the global climate crisis. Once we get through the Covid-19 pandemic — another area of failed leadership — we will still face this even more threatening, though slower moving, crisis. Regardless of what you hear on the evening news lately, climate change has not been put on pause. What are concerned, climate-conscious citizens to do? In addition to reducing our own carbon footprint, we need to take action at the local level.

Middletown’s Sustainability Team and Clean Energy Task Force are proposing a resolution to Mayor Florsheim and to the Common Council, declaring a climate emergency and resolving to take local action to reduce carbon emissions and to pressure state and federal leaders to face this crisis. A copy of the draft resolution will be posted on the Jonah Center website once it is released and appears on a City agenda.

To illustrate the magnitude of the climate crisis, consider this. For the past 800,000 years, the concentration of atmospheric CO2 varied between 180 and 280 parts per million (ppm) as the earth’s climate fluctuated between ice ages and warm spells. In the last 170 years, since 1850, when the industrial revolution accelerated the burning of fossil fuels, atmospheric CO2 has increased from 280 to over 410 ppm. Is that serious? The last time the earth’s atmosphere had 410 ppm was in the Pliocene era, approximately 4 million years ago. In the Pliocene, sea level varied 10-25 meters higher than at present, and the coastline of Virginia was 90 miles inland from its present location. (See photo.) If we stay at 410 ppm, eventually the delayed warming will catch up to the CO2 level and the eastern seaboard of the United States will be completely underwater. (Green dots show location of shoreline in the Pliocene era.)

To avoid the worst climate catastrophe, we need to look beyond the pandemic and the November elections that are consuming the public’s attention. Since state and federal governments have proved themselves incapable of an adequate response, action needs to come from the grassroots and local governments. To register your support of local climate action, sign the petition which will be forwarded to city officials. You will be informed when further support for climate action is needed.

Petition Text: "In light of our national government's failure to address climate change adequately, I support the City of Middletown's Declaration of a Climate Emergency, directing our city government--both elected leaders and municipal departments--to lead our community in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to advocate for urgent climate action at the state, federal, and international levels."

Sign The Petition on the Jonah Center website here.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Buttonwood Tree Online Summer Programs

The Buttonwood Tree Online Summer Programs

It’s that time of the year again, when the days grow longer and the nights get shorter. The season of warm weather, sun tans, popsicles, and a ton of fun. It's SUMMERTIME.

Here at The Buttonwood Tree, we are dedicated to fostering self expression, creativity and unity through music and the arts. Despite current restrictions and limitations on in-person interactions, The Buttonwood Tree will continue to utilize its platform to connect members of the community.

The Buttonwood Tree, while its doors are closed, is offering an array of online programs and virtual shows. Start your week off right by attending Anything Goes Open Mic, happening every Monday from 7-10pm. You're welcome to simply listen in, or perform a poem, song or dance or whatever you like.

Sit back, relax, and crack open a smile on Tuesdays from 6-7pm  at Laughter Yoga with Mylène. Come with an open mind, and open heart and leave your ego behind!

Acoustic Open Mic with Bob Gotta will take place Thursdays from 6-9pm

Ease into the weekend with Annaita Gandhy during a session of Align with Source – A Spiritual Empowerment Workshop, on Saturdays from 10:30-12pm. This workshop gives the participants a broader view of our humanity's current situation and encourages a sense of peace and empowerment, not readily found elsewhere these days.

Immerse yourself with true stories of struggle, hope, and the search for expression during these difficult times. Colin Haskins interviews officer Matthew Bloom from Middletown CT, Police Department along with K-9 Koda. Catch an episode of The Listening Tree talk show on Facebook or Youtube.

For additional information head over to, or check us out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube @ButtonwoodTree

Yoga at the Mansion's Rose Garden

Classes Begin This Saturday
Pre-Register Now!
A Benefit for The Rockfall Foundation

Every Saturday in August at 10:30 a.m.
Wadsworth Mansion

Saturdays in August, Starr Mill Yoga will be offering yoga classes at Wadsworth Mansion’s rose garden. Enjoy the healthy benefits of breath, movement and being outdoors. Classes begin at 10:30 a.m. and will be held Saturdays from August 1 to 29. All levels welcome. Capacity is limited to allow 6 feet spacing. Pre-registration is required at $20 donation. Profits benefit The Rockfall Foundation, a Middletown-based non-profit organization supporting environmental education and conservation in the Lower Connecticut River Valley. After class, enjoy the mansion’s expansive grounds, walking trails, notable trees and exotic plants.

To register, go to and find the date(s) you’d like to book. Classes will be held August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29. A different instructor will be leading the class each week. If you’d like to book multiple dates or multiple attendees at once, contact

Bring your own yoga mat and/or blanket, face covering, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and water. The garden has both shaded and sunny areas. Masks are not required during the yoga practice, as we will all be spaced 6 feet apart. Rain cancels. Contact 860.740.4939 for more information. Wadsworth Mansion is located at 421 Wadsworth Street, Middletown.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Children's Circus Week 4 is Free and Awesome.

Every week keeps getting better at the 32nd Annual Children's Circus of Middletown: From the Big Top to the Lap Top!

Do as much or as little as you like. Open to ages 5 - 15 living anywhere.
There are some classes that are 11 and older only.
And some sessions just for the 5 - 7 year olds.
There is acting, drawing, dance, circus and so much more. Check out the schedule at
and you will probably find something that you like.
Questions? Email
The Children's Circus of Middletown is a program of Oddfellows Playhouse, made possible by the Middletown Commission on the Arts and the Middlesex United Way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Regional Council of Governments Seeks Input on the Future

The Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments (RiverCog) will be at Wednesday's meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission. RiverCog represents the towns and city along the River from Cromwell to the Sound. 

RiverCog is in the final stages of writing the regional Plan of Conservation and Development, and is seeking input from Middletown.

The meeting will be held online at 7PM, Wednesday, the Agenda is HERE. Members of the public may view/listen to the meeting as follows:
  1. Going to and joining the meeting using the appropriate meeting number and password
  2. Launching the WebEx application and joining the meeting using the appropriate meeting number and password
  3. Via telephone at 1-408-418-9388 and the appropriate access code
Meeting Number/Access Code: 1294694189
Event Password: Planning 

RiverCog has specifically asked P&Z Commissioners and members of the public to comment on the following:
  1. What is your vision for the Lower Connecticut River Valley?
  2. What do you see as your town’s role in the region?
  3. What are the challenges your town is facing that would be easier to address working regionally or with neighboring owns?
  4. What do we do well in our region? What don’t we do well?
  5. How could a Regional Plan of Conservation and Development support your town?​
​The RiverCOG region is comprised of the seventeen member municipalities of Chester, Clinton, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Middlefield, Middletown, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

A Turnabout on SIngle-Payer Health Care

From Christian Science Monitor
By Staff writer

He used to say Canada’s health care was risky. Now he says it’s the future.

 Wendell Potter, prime lobbyist, tweets about his change of heart. Given the diverging trajectories of the United States and Canada during the pandemic, their different health care models are getting renewed attention – especially from a man who says he once lied about the dangers one of them posed.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Children's Circus Week Three is amazing!

The first-ever Virtual Children's Circus of Middletown ("From the Big top to the Lap Top") is now registering for week three, which runs July 20 - 24. The program is free and available to all young people ages 5 - 15. 
Registration is on a week-by-week basis for this year's five-week program, and students can sign up for as much or as little as they want. Some classes are specifically for ages 11 to 15, and each morning there are two hours of programming aimed exclusively at kids ages 5 - 7.
Classes this week include Hip Hop Dance, Music, Juggling, Drawing, Capoiera, Mask-Making, Mime, Diabolo, Journalism, Ballet, Contortion, Puzzles and more. Go to for details and to register. All classes are free, but registration is required and some classes have an enrollment limit.
There will be a special event on Friday, July 24 at 2 pm about the "Birth of the Children's Circus". The Journalism class will interview circus founders Dic Wheeler, Elsa Menendez, JJ Crashbang and Dirck Westervelt about the first Children's Circus in 1988 at Powder Ridge Ski Area in Middlefield. Any early circus staff or participants are welcome to join the conversation, which will be open to the public. Contact for more info.
The Children's Circus is run by Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown, with support provided by the Middletown Commission on the Arts and the Middlesex United Way. For more information, contact or go to

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Middletown Farmers Market Starts Friday, July 17 at New Location

Come get your veggies!! The Middletown Farmers Market starts this Friday, July 17, 10am-2pm. This year the market will be at Union Green, sometimes called South Green, to make space for physical distancing. Face covering is required to shop at the market. SNAP, WIC and Senior coupons accepted and doubled.

See you there, and please help spread the word!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

What Could Public Banking do for Connecticut?

Long story short:  there is currently a push to bring public banking to Connecticut, and you can become informed by joining a virtual town hall on the subject Wednesday, July 15 at 6:00 p.m.  From the press release:

Can Public Banks Rescue Connecticut?

CT State Public Officials and Community Leaders join an all-star cast of experts from the Public Banking Institute in a Virtual Town Hall to examine how public banks can restart the Main Street economy post COVID-19 while addressing the state’s racial and social equity issues at their deepest roots. 

July 15th, 6 PM EST via Facebook Live

Now, I think I hear you saying, "banking is boring, and anyhow, money and finance are not my thing."  But before you decide this is not for you and move on, grant me a few minutes of your time to explain why public banking is an idea whose time may have come and that could have a positive impact on you and me, along with our city and state.

We all understand that money confers power and that power can be employed in constructive or destructive ways.  And we are all too familiar with some of the spectacular damage wrought by the unprincipled deployment of financial power.  "The Great American Bubble Machine", Matt Taibbi's memorable Rolling Stone article about Goldman Sachs or Dark Towers, David Enrich's recent book about Deutsche Bank and its unprincipled enabling of bad actors should make your hair stand on end.  Settling litigation surrounding its string of mortgage and insurance abuses has recently cost Wells Fargo billions of dollars and resulted in a four-hour grilling of its CEO in congress last year -- for which the bank rewarded him with a two million-dollar bonus.

Of course these banks are of different types, with differing charters.  Goldman Sachs is an investment bank, while Wells Fargo is a commercial bank, for example.  But with the blurring of this distinction following the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932, the range of "financial services" offered by these differing types of institution overlaps significantly.

And while not all banks are as thoroughly antisocial as the banks mentioned above, banks are not required to make their investments with the public good in mind.  Even mutual savings banks like Middletown's Liberty Bank, whose profits are returned to their customers, sometimes fail the public interest shamefully.

One way to deploy the power of banks in the public interest would be to be for them to be publicly owned and operated, with charters reflecting the needs of the depositors.  The Public Bank of North Dakota is the single public bank operating in the United States; it has been in business for 101 years and coexists peacefully with private banks in its state. It works mostly with business and government; its only direct loans are to student loan borrowers, who as a result enjoy some of the lowest student loan interest rates in the country.

Last year, California passed enabling legislation to make public banking possible there, and this year AB-310 has been introduced there, aiming to make a California public bank a reality.  It is hoped there that state and local governments can use it to deposit their funds and secure their loans, with lower fees and at more favorable rates than are available from private banks.  The savings would be directly passed on to taxpayers.

Why not in Connecticut?  That is the question being asked by Public Bank Connecticut, a group promoting public banking in the state, and by the Public Banking Institute.  Its co-founder and tireless promoter Ellen Brown, whose 2013 book The Public Bank Solution makes the case for public banking, has spoken and written widely on the benefits to the public that would come from the creation of public banks.

Ellen Brown will be the featured speaker at Wednesday's virtual town hall; other participants and sponsors include

  • The Connecticut Council of Municipalities;
  • Representatives from many of CT's 169 towns and cities including Selectwoman Lauren Gister and Selectwoman Theresa Govert;
  • State representatives and other officials, including Representatives Susan Johnson, Christine Palm and Josh Elliot.

Why should you tune in?  As in all political matters, if public banking is to become a reality in Connecticut, it will require efforts from many sides, including awareness and lobbying by citizens.  I encourage you to join on Facebook using the link provided above and decide for yourself whether the case for public banking in Connecticut is strong enough to warrant the effort to bring it about.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Registration is LIVE for Children's Circus, Week Two!

The second amazing week of the Virtual Children's Circus of Middletown is now live at Circus and so much more for ages 5 - 15, provided by an international cast of artists from Oddfellows Playhouse, and it is all FREE thanks to support from the Middletown Commission on the Arts and Middlesex United Way. Borrow all the equipment you need, from drawing pads to unicycles, with curbside pickup at the Playhouse. Join the scores of kids who are having an inspiring summer with classes in dance, music, visual arts, poetry, puppetry, animation and more. Contact for more info, or just sashay over to and register right now.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Yoga at the Mansion

Saturdays in August, Starr Mill Yoga will be offering yoga classes at Wadsworth Mansion’s rose garden. Enjoy the healthy benefits of breath, movement and being outdoors. Classes begin at 10:30 a.m. and will be held Saturdays from August 1 to 29. All levels welcome. Capacity is limited to allow 6 feet spacing. Pre-registration is required at $20 donation. Profits benefit The Rockfall Foundation, a Middletown-based non-profit organization supporting environmental education and conservation in the Lower Connecticut River Valley. After class, enjoy the mansion’s expansive grounds, walking trails, notable trees and exotic plants.

To register, go to and find the date(s) you’d like to book. Classes will be held August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29. A different instructor will be leading the class each week.

Bring your own yoga mat and/or blanket, face covering, hand sanitizer, and water. Face covering should be worn when arriving and departing, and any other times you may come within 6 feet of another person. Masks are not required during the yoga practice, as we will all be spaced 6 feet apart. Rain cancels. Contact 860.740.4939 for more information. Wadsworth Mansion is located at 421 Wadsworth Street, Middletown.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Anthony P. Marino Receives Middletown Garden Club Award

At its Annual Meeting in June, 2020, the Middletown Garden Club presented Anthony P. Marino with its Club Conservation Commendation for his lifelong dedication to the environment and to the community in which he lives. (In the photo, Awards Chairman Melanie Giamei announces Tony Marino as the award recipient. Photo courtesy of Hetti Motoc.)

Appointed Executive Director of the Rockfall Foundation in 2017, Tony had previously served for well over 20 years as Board Member and Board President before joining the staff in 2011 as Operations Manager.  During his tenure, he has played a major role in Rockfall's growth, including expansion of the area covered for environmental grant applications, meticulous maintenance of the historic 18th century deKoven House, Rockfall's headquarters, and providing continuing management with exceptional dedication and selflessness.

The Rockfall Foundation promotes and supports environmental education and conservation in The Lower Connecticut River Valley. Now celebrating its 85th anniversary, it is one of Connecticut's oldest environmental organizations and a catalyst, bringing people together and supporting organizations to conserve and enhance the region's natural environment. Rockfall awards grants each year to nonprofits, schools, and municipalities, and preserves and operates the historic 18th century deKoven House, which provides below market office space to environmental groups based and working in the Lower Connecticut River Valley, and meeting rooms for community organizations.

The Middletown Garden Club, which draws its membership from Middlesex County and beyond, was established in 1915. The club is a member of the Garden Club of America and of the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Opinion: Democrats Call on Town Republicans to Demand Giuliano Resignation

The following is an open Letter to the Middletown Republican Town Committee from the Executive Board of the Middletown Democrat Town Committee, submitted for publication in The Eye by Amy Albert.
In response to South Fire Commissioner Seb Giuliano's insensitive and inappropriate remarks regarding the Ghanian minister’s invitation to African-Americans to come to her country, we ask that you hold him responsible for his comments. When he wrote “who would want these malcontents?” He refers to people who have been moved to act by witnessing George Floyd’s murder. This has become a nation- and world-wide uprising against police brutality and racism in the United States. When he wrote, “Why would they want that in their country?” he misses the point - these are human beings who are suffering under racism here. They wouldn’t suffer the same in Ghana.  He then defends his comments as a “pretty much private conversation” which indicates he does not understand that social media is the most public of forums. 

As a publicly elected official, his racist comments are offensive to the people he was elected to represent. The Union has fielded complaints, the South Fire District has fielded complaints and he has been asked to apologize or resign which he has failed to do.

We call on the Republican Town Committee to demand he resign. Anything short of his resignation will communicate to Middletown that the Republican Town Committee agrees with his comments, condones them and are proud to have him represent their organization.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Children's Circus Week One Registration is LIVE!

Oddfellows Playhouse is excited to announce its first ever, completely digital circus! “From the BIG TOP to the LAPTOP”, the 32nd annual Children's Circus of Middletown will offer young people ages 5 to 15 opportunities to explore not only circus arts, but also dance, capoeira, fitness, digital animation, visual art, and more.

The program’s goal is to provide children with a variety of arts-based activities that will keep them active and independently engaged and connected to others in the community through project-based fun and dynamic, virtual instruction from our international team of incredible teaching artists.

The program will run from July 6th to August 7th, with unique online content and instruction available from 9:00am – 3:00pm Monday through Friday. Children ages 5-15 will be able to choose up to 4 classes a day from an exciting list of choices. The program is free, but registration is required.

The Children’s Circus of Middletown is run in partnership with the City of Middletown’s Kids Arts program, but this year’s virtual programming is available for free to all young people anywhere. Funding to support the Children’s Circus is provided by the Middletown Commission on the Arts, the Middlesex United Way, Oddfellows Playhouse, and the Evan Boyd Knoll Memorial Circus Fund.

Each day there will be 4 blocks of classes available, and young people can sign up for as much or as little as they want. Each class will meet at the same time every day for an entire week.  Class registration will happen on a week-by-week basis, and every class session will feature an option for the “Teeny Tiny Troupe” of kids ages 5 - 7.

The 9:30 – 10:30 am block will focus on MOVEMENT, including dance, capoeira, fitness training and flexibility. The theme for the 10:45 – 11:45 am block is MUSIC AND MEDIA, featuring classes in drumming, body rhythms, singing and stop-motion animation. After “Lunch with Friends” (an option to eat lunch together online), MANIPULATION is the theme for the 1:00 – 1:50 pm session, which will include juggling, balancing, plate spinning and other eccentric arts. The final daily session, MAKING AND MANIA, runs 2:00 – 2:50 pm and will include drawing, painting, costume creation, storytelling, clowning, puppetry, games and more zany and unpredictable activities.

Every day, in keeping with long-held traditions of the “live” Children’s Circus, will also include an “Opening Circle” at 9 am, and a “Closing Circle” at 3 pm. Class offerings will change from week to week, and each Wednesday registration will open for the next week’s classes.

Registration for the first week is live at 

For more information, or to register for the 32nd Annual Children’s Circus of Middletown, go to or email

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Middlesex Community College Virtual Info Day

Join Middlesex Community College on Saturday, June 20, at 10 a.m. for a unique online experience and learn more about the college, the registration process, payment options, and more. Open to students and parents,  guests are invited to stay for the entire event, or just log on to the Webex for a specific session. The virtual event will start with an overview of the college and the admissions process, and then move into half-hour sessions focusing on financial aid, the business office, PACT (Connecticut's free community college program), followed by an open Q&A.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Nominations Sought for Environmental Champion Awards

The Rockfall Foundation Opens its Annual Call for Nominees

The Rockfall Foundation is currently seeking nominations for the 2020 Environmental Champion Awards. Nominations are being accepted from now until July 29. The awards recognize individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses for environmental efforts that contribute to the quality of life in the Lower Connecticut River Valley. Areas recognized include preservation , conservation, ecosystem restoration, and environmental and sustainability education. The Tom ODell Distinguished Service Award will be awarded for outstanding ongoing or long-term accomplishments. Certificates of Appreciation are awarded, as appropriate, to recognize significant programs or projects. Awardees will be recognized at The Rockfall Foundation’s Annual Meeting, Grants and Awards celebration on October 8th.

The nominee’s contributions must impact the Lower Connecticut River Valley, which includes the following towns: Chester, Clinton, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Middlefield, Middletown, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook. Impacts to the Connecticut River corridor or Long Island Sound are also eligible as long as there is a benefit to at least one of the listed towns.

Nomination forms must be received by noon on July 29 at or at The Rockfall Foundation, deKoven House Community Center, 27 Washington St., Middletown, CT 06457. Nomination forms can be downloaded at or one can be requested by calling 860-347-0340.

The Rockfall Foundation supports environmental education, conservation and planning initiatives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley through public programs and grants. Founded in 1935, the Foundation is celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2020. As one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations, it continues its mission set by founding philanthropist Colonel Clarence S. Wadsworth. The Rockfall Foundation also operates the historic deKoven House Community Center that offers meeting and event room rentals and office space for non-profit organizations.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Rockfall Foundation Named Outstanding Organization of the Year

The Connecticut Outdoor & Environmental Education Association (COEEA) has named The Rockfall Foundation as the 2020 recipient of the Outstanding Organization of the Year Award. The Rockfall Foundation, based in Middletown, has been serving the Lower Connecticut River Valley community for the past 85 years, since 1935. Amongst other contributions cited by COEEA, Rockfall was noted as supporting schools and outdoor education programs with its environmental grants programs. While the awards ceremony could not be held in person, click here to see COEEA's Board of Directors share the honor with Rockfall’s Executive Director, Tony Marino. Learn more about The Rockfall Foundation at or email

Monday, June 1, 2020

“Replace Our Trees” Raises $19,256

87 local residents and groups have stepped up to address the alarming loss of trees in recent years. Online gifts have been matched dollar for dollar by Sustainable CT, yielding $11,220 for Middletown and $8,036 for Portland. 

Site selection in coordination with each municipality will take place during the summer, so that planting can begin in September. More info hereThank you to everyone who contributed. 

There is still time to get your gift doubled if you contribute by June 7. Or send a check to The Jonah Center, PO Box 854, Middletown CT 06457. Contributions will be used for trees in the municipality of the donor.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Pandemic Preparedness: Let's find a way to vote wisely.

The Next Epidemic and ... the Next US President 

If you've not heard or read Bill Gates's 2015 TED Talk regarding Epidemic Preparedness, please do. Consider our choices in the upcoming national election, and think about your vote very carefully.

Mr. Gates's 2020 TED Talk is also worth hearing.

Let's find a way to vote wisely.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Democrats Unanimously Endorse Brandon Chafee to Replace Joe Serra

Submitted by Brandon Chafee.
Brandon Chafee received a unanimous endorsement from the Middletown Democratic Party Thursday evening to be their candidate for state representative in the 33rd District. Brandon was nominated by Mayor Ben Florsheim and seconded by Representative Joseph Serra who is not seeking re-election.

Mayor Florsheim said, “Brandon brings an incredibly unique background to this position, as an engineer, as a labor organizer, and as a lifelong resident. He is the type of person who will be looking forward and thinking forward. In all the time that I have known him, I have seen that he has a really strong moral compass and a really strong political backbone…I know that those qualities will serve him really well in the Legislature.”

Representative Joe Serra enthusiastically seconded the nomination stating, “It gives me great pleasure to second the nomination of Brandon Chafee, who I believe has the attributes, the dedication, and commitment to fulfill the obligations of the office of state representative and he has my wholehearted support.”

Brandon thanked them both for their service in his acceptance speech. “Mayor Florsheim has shown what real leadership looks like during this crisis. The level of information and support he has been providing to our community should be a model for all in elected office.” He continued, “Representative Serra, you have served our town and our party for decades, and we all owe you our gratitude for that.  Joe’s presence in the State House will be hard to replace, but I am confident that I possess the skills and background to serve our community well.”  Brandon also received endorsements from Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz and State Senator Matt Lesser at the virtual party convention.

Brandon said that he looks forward to using his experience as a civil engineer and his ability to solve problems to help our community. “The current crisis caused by the corona virus is highlighting many of the long standing, systemic problems in our economy and society. The need for affordable medication, the need to produce basic necessities domestically here at home, the need to expand voting rights, and the need for universal healthcare has never been greater than they are right now…Connecticut has a lot of structural problems, and I look forward to bringing new ideas and a proactive mindset to the Legislature to help solve them.”

Brandon is a Professional Engineer and a union steward with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He lives in the Westfield section of Middletown with his wife Meghan, dog Rocco, and cat Neville. Brandon promised that if elected, “I will be a strong voice for the working families of Middletown and will fight tirelessly to build a better future for us all.” 

To learn more about Brandon, visit his Facebook page at Brandon Chafee for
Middletown and his website

Friday, May 22, 2020

Russell Library Provides Agile Services During Unprecedented Time

Submitted by Russell Library.
They don’t teach ‘Pandemics 101’ in library school.  When Russell Library Director Ramona Burkey
received her Master’s Degree in Library Science in the late 1990s, courses included Personnel Management, Cataloging, and Statistical Analysis.  “There was never any discussion of how to run a library in the midst of a global health crisis,” says Burkey.  Instead, she and thousands of librarians around Connecticut and the country have had to use their ingenuity, resourcefulness and compassion to navigate these times.

The Russell Library, despite being closed to the public since March 13, has stepped up by providing a rich array of virtual and digital resources.  Examples include online story hours, arts and crafts and activity sessions, book discussion groups, career counseling and resume reviews, financial seminars, and much more.  Library staff have been key to a city-wide, multi-week virtual Shakespeare production called “A Midsummer Night’s Stream”: Jennifer Billingsley, Russell’s Head of Youth and Family Learning, spearheaded this partnership between the Library, ARTFARM, and Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater.  The end result has been a gripping four-part series on the Zoom platform, featuring Middletown’s best young talent along with local music superstars such as Noah Baerman of Resonant Motion, State Troubadour and Middletown resident Nekita Waller, Anitra Brooks, and Bryan Titus.

The Russell Library’s website has been a crucial link between residents and resources during difficult times.  Updated daily, the site contains valuable information such as “How to Help,” “If You Need Help,” “Tips for Working at Home,” and Covid-19 fact sheets in English and Spanish.  Since residents need library cards to access the library’s downloadable e-books, audiobooks, magazines, music, and movies, the library quickly set up an online library card application portal.  “I’ve personally processed and mailed about 300 requests for new or renewed cards since March,” reports Burkey.  “It’s incredibly gratifying to be able to provide these services to our community members.”  Burkey also notes that the library quickly reallocated funding to ensure enough copies of high-demand digital materials to residents.  “It’s about being agile and responding swiftly and appropriately to our community’s needs.”

To that end, Russell Library staff recently participated in an online professional development session where they discussed Middletown residents’ current challenges and needs, how the library can and should respond, and what their next steps should be.  “It was amazing,” says Burkey.  “The staff came up with a fantastic set of initiatives to support our community, and we are pursuing those ideas now.  The main thrust of our conversation revolved around the fact that our community members are feeling scared, isolated, and uncertain.  So we asked ourselves how the library, which is normally a ‘convener,’ in a physical way through in-person programs and services can respond in new and creative ways while the library building is closed, and the staff really came through.”

Russell Library staff have been helping out wherever and whenever needed since the very beginning of the pandemic.  When they learned that Middletown Senior Center staff would be contacting nearly 1,000 members as part of its “Keep Connected” wellness calls, library staff jumped in to help, making thousands of connections with some of Middletown’s most vulnerable residents.  Library staff are also writing postcards to seniors and sewing and distributing cloth face masks.  In March, the library donated much of its stock of PPE to first responders, who at the time were in dire need of such supplies.  “We didn’t need it right away, but there were people who truly did,” says Burkey.

Looking forward, the library will follow guidelines from the City of Middletown as well as state and national officials with regard to resuming services.  “We have a phased reopening plan with different levels of staffing and services based on public health conditions, the availability of PPE and child care, and other factors,” says Burkey.  “Right now, we will be able to get some staff back into our building at the beginning of June, and we plan on starting curbside pickup of library books and materials shortly after that.  My primary concern is the health and safety of our staff and patrons, so we will be proceeding with our reopening plan in a deliberate and fact-based way.  We really miss our patrons and we can’t wait to see them again, though -- even from a distance and behind a mask.”

Updates on library services will go out through the library’s e-newsletter; users can sign up at  The Russell Library is also active on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.