Anna Nowak's downtown shop, Lion's Paw & Co., aims to provide people with ways to make their homes more inviting, more comfortable -- a "peaceful and calm environment," she says.

Project Return is a group home in Westport for young girls, seeking to heal after abuse and neglect.

At a luncheon last October, Nowak learned about Project Return and heard stories that young women helped by the program had to tell. "I was so touched," she said, "and it was like somebody turned on a switch for me."

Nowak's reaction was to use her store, opened for a little over a year, to benefit Project Return. Starting in December, she began selling small trees -- different conifers, like Frasier firs or boxwoods -- that buyers pledge to plant in the ground in the spring. Proceeds from the tree sales will go to Project Return, and so far, about 75 trees have been sold.

Planting a new tree, Nowak said, suggests a fresh start, and the donations from the sale of the trees helps to give the women at Project Return make a fresh start of their own.

"It's been very, very successful," Nowak, said, and she plans to continue the tree sale through the end of January, as long as she still has trees to sell.

She said she definitely will be doing the fundraiser again this December.

"We had a whole winter wonderland out on Donnelly Walk," Nowak said. "It's something I'll continue to do."

Lion's Paw is located at 63-A Unquowa Road, on Donnelly Walk. For information call 203-894-8822 or visit