When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) first began to impact New York, East End Cares immediately started brainstorming ways to assist. Hamptons.com spoke with Melissa Berman, East End Cares (EEC) Co-Founder, to learn more about their wide-reaching efforts.
What is East End Cares and how can people help?
MB: East End Cares is a social media-based group connecting those who want to help others with the opportunities to do so. We are a community collective. Addressing the current crisis, we have a few ways that people can help:
What has East End Cares already accomplished?
MB: The first thing we did was to find out who was doing what, so we could fill in and collaborate in the most productive way. We have worked with the Town of East Hampton, local food pantries, OLA, Third Wave Volunteers, Clamshell Foundation and Paddlers for Humanity in various ways. We’ve gathered a team of volunteers who are serving as ‘buddies’ for those who are unable to go out and shop or run errands because they are elderly, vulnerable or observing quarantine. We match up a volunteer with a person in need and that volunteer keeps in touch and helps them as needed. This program is working well – giving our volunteers a great way to be of service and providing a nice connection. We are working with the Town of East Hampton here as well, helping seniors they serve at the senior center (which is of course closed now).
Our 5 for Food Fundraiser, in partnership with Clamshell Foundation, has raised critical funding for Montauk, East Hampton, Springs and Sag Harbor pantries. We issued the first checks to the pantries the first of April and with demand skyrocketing, we are continuing to ask people to pitch in $5 (or more if they can) to keep the pantries stocked and our neighbors fed. To donate, visit www.clamshellfoundation.org.
We are working with a wonderful Miami-based organization called Third Wave Volunteers to get PPE to healthcare workers. Third Wave has already donated 3,200 N95 masks to EEC. 1,200 of those have gone to Southampton Hospital and we are expecting the other 2,000 this week. Learn more about Third Wave’s amazing work getting PPE all over the country at thirdwavevolunteers.org.
EEC volunteers in Montauk pulled of an amazing fabric mask making project and continue to make and distribute them. Another mask making project just started in East Hampton which we are sharing details about on our page.
We have compiled and will continue to update a directory of food resources for delivery or take out /curbside pick-up – that is posted on our Facebook page.
We post updates regularly with important messages and information for the community and we share stories of efforts taking place to celebrate all the love in action.
MB: Who knows what’s next? We will continue to raise money for the food pantries as food insecurity is a very real issue here and they need all the help they can get. Our volunteer buddy system will continue to run as long as help is needed. And we will continue to work with other organizations as needs and ideas arise. As always, our network serves as place for useful information to be shared. We will address needs as they come up. If we see more illnesses in our community (we are hoping we don’t), we have discussed doing care packages to people who are home and recovering. We are open to helping as needs arise and we are able and to connecting resources.
Who are the key folks?
MB: Every volunteer is a key person. East End Cares is volunteer run and driven. We have amazing volunteers running our projects and filling in on all the many tasks it takes to pull them off.
Christopher Barry is heading up our fundraiser on the EEC side. And Cynthia Battaglia is our volunteer buddy coordinator.
We have volunteers doing everything from shopping to researching to graphic design to hanging flyers to sharing an inspiring post. Truly it all is key. What is especially lovely about our current activities is that both primary residents and second homeowners who are here riding this out are active and helping and making a real difference. You hear a lot of conflict about ‘them’ and ‘us’ as our population has increased – but in East End Cares – it is only ‘we’ – and we are all working together to spread kindness and help each other.
How do you see this all ending?
MB: I wish I had that kind of magic vision. I personally don’t see this ending. I see it evolving. I see a lot of loss – human life, economic stability, sense of security, way of life, possibly capabilities of our overall healthcare system and more. With those losses there is grief, individual and collective. And there is the fallout of the trauma of it all. I see a long healing process and an adaptation to life as it will be – because like with all losses – it will never be the same.
I also see a tremendous opportunity for growth, for re-evaluating the way we live and getting more in touch with what we value. From the EEC perspective, I see more people feeling the deep meaning in being of service. How much you get from giving – the richness of that. And hopefully a unifying and coming together.
For now, I believe we have to accept that we can’t know how this will play out. And we have to do our best to be there for one another, one step at a time.
Those interested in volunteering should email [email protected] and put Volunteer Buddy Available in the subject line. Make sure to include a phone number, town and which towns they are willing to travel to.