Have You Heard Of Dabblesack? It’s A Wonderful, Labor Of Love

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Dec 242020

This program is so good, it’s worth a second look. 

My friend Carl is a devout Christian. Ten years ago, at a church service, he met an Army veteran named Amy and was immediately smitten. It was on this very date a decade ago, that Amy asked Carl if he’d like to go out for a cup of coffee, and so began a love story for the ages.

Amy’s pre-teen daughter, Julie, gave her mom’s new beau her stamp of approval, and they did everything together, movies, skating, sleigh rides, it was a Hallmark movie come to life.

After a long courtship, Carl asked Amy to marry him, and she didn’t hesitate. To anyone who knew them, they were a match made in heaven. They supported one another’s dreams and ambitions and as a family, couldn’t be happier.

Just before COVID-19 took its grip on the nation and Julie headed off to college, Amy began acting differently. She had a few uncharacteristic outbursts and for the first time since they met, Carl felt a little tense around his bride.

After some testing, Carl learned that Amy was in the beginning stages of dementia. Sadly, living with a combat-trained soldier, who was experiencing more frequent outbursts of aggression became too dangerous for Amy and the mild-mannered Carl. In February he reluctantly signed her into a nursing home where she could be under 24/7 observation, and he was optimistic that she would be back in his arms again soon.

Then the virus forced lockdowns across the country, and it was particularly dangerous in Carl’s state. It’s been 10 months since he’s been able to touch the love of his life, but he is still madly in love with her, and grateful that she still recognizes his face, even if she doesn’t know his name.

No matter what the weather, he hasn’t missed one of the past 300 days to drive 30 miles from their home to visit her and have a chat through her first-floor window. He’s claimed a block of land outside that window to build a garden for her with potted plants, windchimes, and seasonal decorations that he knows will make her smile. He brings her chocolate (her favorite), stuffed animals, and handmade cards, and signs declaring his love.

That is what caregivers do. find ways to keep their loved ones engaged, happy, and present.

Update: Last week Amy tested positive for Covid. She is in isolation and naturally, Carl still cannot get close to her, but, through the closed window, she told him, “You’re handsome.” It made his day. 


If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or who has suffered a stroke or other debilitating event, you don’t have to figure things out by yourself.

Help is just a click away at dabblesack.com

A new business brought to you with love by local residents Robyn Martin and Rebecca Strichman, two occupational therapists with more than 65 years of combined experience caring for seniors.

The two have dedicated their lives to the specific needs of the elderly patients under their care and learned many valuable lessons on how to best meet those needs. Both have the uncanny ability to walk into the toy expo at the Javits Convention Center in New York and see the endless possibilities in an item that the casual visitor may only see as a fun little board game.

According to the website, “Dabblesack’s mission is to provide a curated collection of engaging and purposeful activities for seniors, including those living with dementia/Alzheimer’s. We have witnessed their victories and challenges, and, through it all, we have seen how purposeful activity can be a valuable tool for wellness.”
Over the years they took the time to listen to their patients as they shared their interests, hobbies, and life stories with them. This caring is the key to running a successful business that has helped so many family members and caregivers engage with their loved ones during what can prove to be a heartbreaking, frustrating time.
For more than 25 years, the women have worked in home-care settings (including visiting patients in private homes, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing facilities). In addition, they also have many years of experience working in hospitals and out-patient facilities. So, who better to help you figure out how to interact with your Gramma now that she sometimes can’t remember your name, than Robyn and Rebecca?
What is Dabblesack?
From the website: We have often been asked about resources for senior activities, and this has also contributed to the creation of Dabblesack. We know the importance of staying active, whether you are working on a puzzle or participating in small or large group activities. The benefits are far-reaching! Sitting down to work on an art or craft project can be very relaxing. (We know why adult coloring books have become so popular!) Getting involved in a fun group game is energizing. Learning something new and challenging your mind is stimulating. Receiving a gentle hand massage with a calming scented lotion is soothing. Working on a community service project is heartwarming. We also know that visits from friends, caregivers, and family (including younger members) can be more enjoyable when activities are involved.
Instead of you running off to the store trying to find something that may, or may not engage your Aunt Carolyn after her stroke, you can confer with one or both of these two caring professionals and they will choose, package, and send the perfect games, puzzles, activity books, etc. for you.
With many responsible seniors staying home to avoid being infected with COVID, this is the perfect time for such a service, and the holidays, too, who could ask for a more perfect partnership?
On the site, you will find individual items or complete packages perfect for homebound seniors looking for something to do or anyone with mild dementia, or someone suffering from the residual effects of a stroke and feeling the need to keep their minds sharp.
Dabblesack has attracted the attention of several local homes and senior facilities, it even found a place on CT Magazine’s gift guide.
A recent relaunch of the website is designed to include a much larger audience. After listening to their clients, and hearing over and over again how “useless” some of them felt since they couldn’t go to work anymore and had nothing to do.
“We didn’t want them to feel that way, so we reached out and found Community Service Projects that were easy and could be done at home,” Rebecca said.

The women have copartnered with Enchanted Makeovers, a group out of Michigan that provides capes to children in shelters. You can make two capes and send them to the organization which distributes them to the children. Kids put them on and they feel empowered.

Operation Gratitude covers a myriad of projects. It collects letters that go into packages for those in the armed forces, frontline workers, and veterans.

If you are an animal lover, perhaps helping a shelter pet find a forever home a little faster is your passion. The ladies will hook you up with bandanas and fabric markers so you can decorate the neckerchief that attracts someone’s attention.

What’s Current?

There’s something for everyone on the Dabblesack site, virtual party kits with props and games that you can play on Zoom. What better way to enhance your socially distanced holiday celebration than by engaging everyone in a game?

Robyn and Rebecca put together packages for customers in the US and Canada to help create special moments for everyone involved.

Customers write thank you notes saying that they are thankful because Dabblesack helped create better moments with their family.

One woman said it was a gift to have her mother, afflicted with dementia, smile, and have a good time again.

A customer in Arizona said she feels guilty because she can’t be with her parents while they are on lockdown in a facility. But she ordered a package and after they received it in the mail it boosted their spirits and helps them get through the isolation.

A Dabblesack box sent to a facility in Mississippi that has been in lockdown for a long time was very well-received and helped brighten everyone’s day.

Well Worth The Cost

Visit the Dabblesack website today. The prices vary from $8 – $10 to $20, or $25 or more. Your gift will help your loved one stay engaged, be active, alert, and involved, and connected with caregivers and grandchildren.

No matter what you need or want, the ladies have your back.

If you have questions about how to play games or what would be best for your parent or loved one, just sent an e-mail and ask. 

NOTE: This is, by far the best feel-good story I’ve had the pleasure to have written this year. I think that the work Robyn and Rebecca are doing is amazing. I should have written it two weeks ago, but my own residual stroke afflictions have had me in a state of confusion and forgetfulness since we spoke. I apologize for this. Please check out their site and do some holiday shopping for your loved ones right away, and keep them in mind in the future. It is a wonderful resource. You will love working with them.



Don’t Wait For the Holidays: Anytime Is The Time To Donate To The Town Food Bank

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Oct 302013

IMG_0221This week while at the High Plains Community Center, I stopped in on the Community Services Department and checked out the Food Bank. Sadly, many of the cupboards were almost bare.

During the holidays everyone chips in and donates items for the food baskets for the less fortunate. But, after my visit, I knew that anytime is the time to donate to the Food Bank.

The Orange Community Services provided Orange Live with this list of Food Bank Needs by category.

Boxed Pasta  (They currently have a lot of pasta)
Mac & Cheese

Chick Peas

Green Beans

Chicken Noodle
Cream Of (any)
Soup Broth

Breakfast Food
Peanut Butter/Jam, Jelly

Chef Boy R Dee
Cranberry Sauce

Dish Detergent
Laundry Detergent

Paper Goods
Toilet Paper
Paper Towels

Pet Food
Cat Food Dry or Wet
Dog Food Dry or Wet

Boxed Potatoes
Bagged Rice
Boxed Rice



Pudding mix
Cake mix
Pie Filling

Other Things To Consider
Shaving Cream
Disposable Razors
Women’s Sanitary Needs

Grocery Store Gift Cards

You may drop off your donations at the Community Services Department at High Plains Community Center between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. For more information, call Community Services Administrative Assistant Kim Callahan at 203-891-4788 or Outreach Worker Denise Stein at 203-891-4787.

Orange Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Class Now Forming

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Sep 142013

File Photo: Asst Chief Anthony Cuozzo checks in with the CERT Volunteers at High Plains Community Center during last year's hurricane.

File Photo: Asst Chief Anthony Cuozzo checks in with the CERT Volunteers at High Plains Community Center during last year’s hurricane.

The Orange Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)  is forming an October 2013 Class, and we want YOU to become part of our team!

How can I do that you may ask?  It’s easy and we will tell you how, but first a few things about CERT in general and your Orange CERT.

The Community Emergency Response Team program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search & rescue, disaster medical operations, team organization and other areas.

CERT is a National program with thousands of local teams in many towns in every state across the U.S.  Orange CERT trained and certified its first team in June 2006.

Now relax, you are not expected to become ‘instant’ firefighters, paramedics or professional first responders that is not who we are.  CERT members do not replace the professionals.  CERT supports and works with them.

CERT members can assist others in their own neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help, as their resources are naturally overwhelmed.  Trained CERT members are there to provide assistance to those in need while awaiting the arrival of the responders and provide useful information and support to them when they do arrive.  CERT members also take an active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

If you are like most people, who, when something like a hurricane or disaster happens, and their first instinct is to help, no matter who it is, loved ones, neighbors, the community, then you know the reason the National CERT program was created.

The emergency authorities in California developed this program many years ago, after an earthquake, when they realized ‘regular’ people wanted to help.  Provide the people with basic training in some areas, which would allow them to help others in the process, and support the professional responders. The added benefit to this idea was that, now trained, people were less likely to become victims themselves while trying to help.

Orange CERT has earned the respect and support of the local Police and Fire Departments, who support our efforts.  You may have seen your CERT operating the Emergency Shelter at High Plains Community Center during Storm Irene or Hurricane Sandy, or assisting at the Town Fireworks and Orange Firemen’s Carnival.  Orange CERT also was called in to assist the many local, state and federal agencies in the search for a missing local teen.  Yes, we are a trained, active and dedicated team.

Anyone 18 years of age or older can join the team.  Our team consists of men and women from many areas such as police, fire, paramedic, electrician, scout leader, administrative backgrounds, moms, dads, grandparents, any and every background you can imagine.  Everyone is welcome to attend class and be part of the team.

Training classes consist of 8 – 10 sessions, 2-3 hours each,  on Wednesday nights each week.  Orange CERT has several members who themselves are Certified CERT Instructors.  There are no tests or exams to worry about.  Each student is not required to perform duties he or she may not feel comfortable doing or is unable to do, like heavy lifting for example, students learn by watching as well.

No one is expected to go beyond their own physical capabilities.  There are many administrative and other duties one can assist with on every team.  Some people obtain the training just for their own use and peace of mind, to have the knowledge and training to help their families, friends, and groups and that’s fine too.

One can never go wrong with having the benefit of this helpful training and information.  Upon completion, each person will be issued a backpack with CERT Equipment, Personal Protective items, and a CERT Team Uniform Shirt.

It’s also very important to feel secure in the knowledge that ALL CERT members, who assist in an official activation, be it for an emergency or non-emergency event, ARE covered by the Connecticut State Worker’s Compensation Insurance, should they in the rare event become ill or injured while on duty.

So, now that you know a little more about CERT and what Orange CERT is about, we hope you are interested in becoming a member of the October 2013 Class and join our team.  We are a respected and trained team, who also manage to have some fun in the process; yes we do fun things too!  Like train with rescue helicopters for example, but that’s another story for another time.

For more information on how to sign up for the Fall 2013 Class, send an email to: Allen Mushin at: K1qex@optimum.net or Anne Davis at:  Cookiemama059@aol.com, or visit our web site at: www.orange-cert.org.

We will be happy to answer any questions and to get you signed up for the class and on your way to becoming a fellow team member of Orange CERT.