Nature Center appoints a new leader, travel talk focuses the Istria peninsula, and other Darien events

New leader joins nature center

Angela Whitford has been named the new executive director of the Darien Nature Center. 

She takes over from interim executive director Maija Judelson, who has served in that capacity since September.

Over her career, Whitford has served as a chief operating officer, executive director, team builder and program manager. She has more than 20 years of experience in fundraising and 17 years in leading nonprofit organizations. Most recently, she was executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County and a board member at the Connecticut Arts Alliance. She lives in Stamford.

“The Darien Nature Center is a valuable resource to our community, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead this outstanding organization,” Whitford said. “I am inspired by the accomplishments of the dedicated staff and board, and I will work enthusiastically to honor and increase their efforts. I look forward to connecting with our constituents, increasing our visibility, and building partnerships with other organizations.”

The New York native and longtime Connecticut resident holds a bachelor of arts degree from CUNY/Lehman College and holds a diversity and inclusion certificate and executive leadership certificate from Cornell University.

“We are truly excited to have Angela Whitford join us at the Darien Nature Center,” said Alicia Sable, chair of the nonprofit's board. “She has a track record of successful team and institutional leadership that really suits our organization.

"Her experience and vision will help us carry out our mission to inspire passion and respect for the natural world through nature education, hands-on experiences with nature, and environmental action and stewardship.”

Museum of Darien receives grant

The Museum of Darien was recently awarded a $9,900 state cultural grant, one of 725 organizations in the state to receive funds in the most recent round of awards.

The Connecticut Cultural Fund Operating Support Grant from CT Humanities, with funding provided by the state Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts from the state legislature, is part of a two-year, $30.7 million investment in arts, humanities and cultural nonprofits. The Darien Museum's grant was among grants totaling more than $8.5 million awarded this session.

The grant will be used "to grow and maintain its ability to serve the community and the public," according to the Darien Museum.

High school sophomore wins essay contest

Darien High School sophomore Paloma Dudas took first place in the essay contest sponsored by the William F. Buckley Jr. Program. 

The award was presented at the program's 12th annual conference hosted at Yale University, Buckley's alma mater.

Dudas received a $1,000 cash prize for her essay, which addressed policies to increase choice in public school education. Dudas had the opportunity to meet the keynote speaker, Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, along with the other award winners. 

Free radon tests available

January is National Radon Action Month, and the Darien Health Department is advising residents to test their homes for radon gas especially now that many families are spending more time indoors.

Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that is found throughout the U.S. Most of the time, it is harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air, but it can reach harmful levels when trapped in buildings and homes. Exposure to elevated levels of radon has been shown to cause lung damage and cancer.

Inexpensive radon test kits can be purchased at home improvement stores for under $25. They can be obtained for free at the Darien Health Department by calling 203-656-7320 and making arrangements to pick up a test kit. For more information, visit the state Department of Public Health's Radon Program at https://portal.ct.gov/dph/Environmental-Health/Radon/Radon-Program

Taking a virtual walk through Istria

Author and historian Tony Perrottet will be the guest speaker at an illustrated virtual talk about his latest voyage to Istria, a Croatian peninsula only a few miles east of Venice, set for 7 p.m. Jan. 24, courtesy of the Darien Library.

Perrottet has traveled the world as a correspondent and writer for numerous publication. His trip to Istria was for Smithsonian Magazine.

He has written six books on travel, is a regular guest on The History Channel and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Esquire and Outside.

Register for the program on Darien Library's website at darienlibrary.org/event/unique-destinations-tony-perrottet-importance-being-istria

An inside look of the NYT Book Review

New York Times senior book editor Gregory Cowles will be in conversation with deputy editor Tina Jordan about how the “best of” books for the New York Times Book Review are chosen and revealed, the selection process, and how long it takes to determine who makes the cut.

The conversation is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Darien Library’s Conference Room. To attend, register on Darien Library’s website at darienlibrary.org/event/whats-hot-and-whats-not-all-about-new-york-times-book-review-gregory-cowles-and-tina-jordan

Creating a bully-free culture

Darien’s Thriving Youth Task Force and the YWCA Parent Awareness are presenting a workshop on “Creating a Bully-Free Culture: Modeling Kindness and Inclusivity for our Children” at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Darien Community Association, 274 Middlesex Road.

The guest speaker is executive coach and corporate trainer Melissa Schulz, who will discuss the cultural basis for bullying and how to become an "upstander" instead of a bystander while creating a more inclusive culture/community.

The workshop is designed for parents, guardians, caretakers, grandparents, educators, and anyone else who interacts with young people. Registration is required at www.communityfunddarien.org/tytf-programs-and-events.

Update book group leader skills

The Darien Library, 1441 Post Road, is hosting a meeting on the best tips and tricks for running a book group, featuring Page Berger of Barrett Bookstore at 10 a.m. Jan. 25 in the library's conference room.

Berger will lead an informal discussion on the best techniques for leading a book group. Participants will learn how to stay on track, ask the right questions, change the subject and make sure that everyone has had a chance to speak.

To attend, register on Darien Library’s website at darienlibrary.org/event/best-book-group-tips-and-tricks-coffee-and-conversation-barrett-bookstores-page-berger