WESTPORT, Conn. — Once every two weeks until the end of October, you can meander around Westport’s Luciano Park to look through antiques and support the homeless.
After a year of negotiations with the town, organizer Deborah Press and local shelter Homes with Hope have opened the Westport Antique & Vintage Market. It’s a unique partnership that benefits all involved.
“It’s a great way to get the shelter residents jobs,” said Jeff Wieser, president of Homes with Hope — and that’s one of the reasons Wieser said the shelter agreed to partner with Press.
The market is staffed by shelter residents, who act as porters for those purchasing items and runners for the vendors, getting food and drinks.
Alan Unger has been living at the shelter for the past two months, and was instrumental in getting other residents motivated to sign up to work at the market, Wieser said.
“It’s a culmination of the jobs I’ve had in the past,” Unger said. “Organizing is one thing I’m really good at.” He’d been in the management businesses for 25 years before the economy dropped, and had to move into the shelter after his unemployment ran out.
Working at the market not only benefits the shelter, Unger said, but the residents. “It puts money in your pocket and it makes you feel better. When I’m working, it’s just better.” Jobs give the residents a sense of pride, and any little bit helps, he said.
The market is unique in many ways. Rocky Muzzillo and his wife, Sheryl, attend these types of markets all over Connecticut, but one of the biggest reasons they came to Westport was to help the homeless shelter.
“We’re excited about it, and we want it to succeed,” Rocky Muzzillo said.
Antiques dealer Matt Sturtevant said this is one of the smaller markets he goes to. “It’s a way to move product,” he said, adding that the concept of helping the homeless is a great thing.
Press found a little more than 30 vendors to strike tents in the opening weekend of the market, but there will probably be more on the next date.
The market will be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Luciano Park by the Westport Train Station on Sept. 2, 16 and 30, and Oct. 14 and 21.