Happy Birthday: Three New Canaan-Based Nonprofit Organizations Turn 80

Three well-known local nonprofit organizations this year will mark 80 years in operation. The New Canaan Chapter of the League of Women Voters, New Canaan Mounted Troop and the New Canaan Beautification League are united by their focus on community engagement and service. The League of Women Voters is the local chapter of a national organization that helps register citizens to vote, and provides voter education about candidates and issues, according to LOWV Chapter President Miki Porta. 

“We’re really all about civic engagement,” she said. “A lot of us are just history and civics and government geeks who really believe that the more of us who volunteer and get involved, the better life is.” Porta said that running the candidates’ debate prior to Election Day is the LOWV event that makes the biggest difference in the lives of New Canaan residents. 

“Because the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization…I think that the candidates themselves and also the people coming to the debate feel that it’s going to be fair, it’s going to be substantive, and it’s going to be balanced,” she said.

‘He Is Like ‘Grandpa Benny’ ’: Iconic New Canaan Mounted Troop Horse Turns 30

Benny, a chestnut gelding, made a small circle in his stall on a recent morning, then stepped toward the sliding door and poked his head out into the aisle, as if to catch sight of one of the other 24 horses living here in the New Canaan Mounted Troop’s spacious barn. According to those who know him best, it’s a gesture typical of this singularly sociable animal, a thoroughbred-quarter-horse cross who has called the Carter Street nonprofit organization’s serene 13.4-acre campus home for more than two decades. Benny “still gets visits from people who rode him years ago in the program,” according to Anne Dylweski, closing in on her eleventh year as barn manager at NCMT. “One former student from the late 90s, I believe, still stops in any time she’s passing by. I think it says something about his character that people take time out of their day to come see the horse that helped teach them riding years ago.”

Gregarious, patient, comical and kind, Benny since arriving at NCMT in 1994 has emerged as an “icon” of the unique program here, according to several lifelong riders and fans, serving as both companion and instructor to scores of New Canaan and area kids who have learned the basics of horsemanship and equine care atop and alongside him.