We have all recently witnessed and learned the real definition of a hero – be it those who have willingly put themselves on the front lines such as medical personnel and first responders; those who may deliver our groceries or prescriptions; those who educate our children; those who protect our homes and safety; those who provide utilities and so many other essential services – along with countless others. There are also so many unsung heroes among us – those that see a need and undertake to solve it or at least ease the burden of others, yet neither request nor require any recognition – they too are truly heroes as well.
One such unsung hero in the Hamptons, who has chosen to remain anonymous, saw a need and filled it. By actively coordinating financial donations among other families on the East End opted to reach out to Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center (EWECC) Executive Director Katy Graves approximately four weeks ago to establish what is now The Fund for 631.
The Covid-19 virus and the horrors it has unleashed on our country, states, cities, towns and communities is almost unimaginable, however, the reality of no food, childcare, lost wages, furloughed jobs, no transportation and further chaos is all too well imagined and felt by hundreds of individuals and families on the East End.
In particular, those families that have been affected by non-essential status among the workforce be it year-round or seasonal, and have suffered the loss of income that allows them to survive.
Graves explains, “We were contacted by a donor who didn’t just want to make a contribution but wanted to do more to pull families together. Seeing the problem, defining the problem and acting on the problem led to this collaborative, and by the tremendous fund-raising taking place we six organizations can help so many more.”
Enter The Fund for 631, whereby our unsung hero encourages donations from numerous private citizens to be used to create virtual “Necessity Pantries,” and provide free childcare for front line essential workers. EWECC collects the funds which are then distributed equally among EWECC (ewecc.orgwww.cmee.org), I-Tri Girls (itrigirls.org), Heart of the Hamptons (heartofthehamptons.org), the East Hampton Food Pantry (easthamptonfoodpantry.org) and Springs Food Pantry (www.springsfoodpantry.com) “with the sole purpose of protecting the most vulnerable, and to ensure that no family falls through the cracks” by providing food and supplies, childcare and necessities.
Graves further explained, “Our donor is communicating with other families, and is encouraging them to donate to this fund.”
“For a cost of $500 per family of six (the average size of the families targeted) we can supply a week’s worth of support: $400 of food, and $100 in essential items such as cleaning supplies, diapers, OTC medicine and feminine hygiene products; $5,000 takes a family through this crisis for the next ten weeks, at which point they can hopefully begin to re-start their lives.”
According to Graves, “Our collaborative was formed based on information received from surveys conducted by our respective organizations and from talking to leaders in our communities. The needs arising from this pandemic are multi-faceted, hence, food and necessity pantries as well as free childcare.”
Hilton Crosby, Executive Director of Heart of the Hamptons, revealed some disturbing facts, “In January of this year we distributed enough groceries to prepare 7,330 meals, just one day this week we distributed to 212 families – 60 of which were new to us – and enough groceries in one day to create 8,310 meals, so we are extremely excited to be part of this collaborative due to the increasing demand for food and we now have the ability to purchase even more food to keep up with this demand.”
Continuing, Crosby relayed, “The likelihood that we are going to be able to handle this influx of need is much more attainable with this fund and all the efforts put forth by the community, volunteers and donors.”
“By constant communication and collaboration, and by sharing our data and resources we have banded together to assist as many families as possible. We have numerous families that have never been in this position with two working adults with under school age children who have now lost their jobs that are suffering in addition to our regular clients,” Graves elaborated, and “At EWECC we are proud to be providing childcare at no charge to Essential Workers of the East End,” Graves confirmed.
President of the Children’s Museum of the East End Stephen Long shared, “I think in this crisis it is critical that non-profit organizations that are serving our most vulnerable population collaborate and share resources. I think it is amazing that this fund is bringing us together. There is so much that is depressing and sad in the news, it is heartwarming to have so many people who want and are willing to help in any way they can to ensure that the East End community survives and thrives.”
I-Tri Girls Founder Theresa Roden simply said, “We are beyond grateful for the support that allows us to now support our families who are dealing with critical needs in this unprecedented situation, and gives them hope and support so they can continue to support their daughters to continue to work towards their goals in I-Tri.”
Graves relayed, “Each organization is working together trying to stabilize families with essential needs such as food, baby food, diapers, formula and other items. At EWECC we have 80 families, and we are also providing day care for children from ages 18 months to 12 years old of Essential Workforce personnel from Hampton Bays to Montauk.”
Springs Food Pantry Chairperson Holly Reichart-Wheaton stated, “I am in awe at how the community has come together to help their neighbors. That is what living in East Hampton and the Springs is all about – and they are helping. Now, even our volunteers are coming to us looking for food – it’s everyone. We served 10,183 households for the entire prior year, and we just recently served 2,885 in just one month. I am humbled by the way our community is coming together to raise the funds that allow us to continue our mission.”
Darius Narizzno, Board member and Co-treasurer of the East Hampton Food Pantry, revealed, “There is such a mountain of need, our numbers have more than doubled so we are extremely grateful for this collaboration. We service families from Montauk to Wainscott, and even if you are not registered but still need food, we will make it available. Presently, in keeping with social distancing and the safety of our staff and volunteers, beginning this week we are open every other Tuesday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and are located behind the East Hampton Town Hall. We are servicing outside so pull in and we will load your trunk. We don’t know how long this will go on but this act of generosity is really assisting with our needs.”
So to ALL the unsung heroes who have quietly and humanely extended their support and generosity to those less fortunate – we all thank you.
For more information go to www.ewecc.org/631fund. Donations should be made to EWECC, the 501(c) (3) who will collect funds and distribute them evenly between the six organizations for them to purchase and distribute product to the hardest hit families on the East End. Additionally, checks can be mailed to EWECC, P.O. Box 63, East Hampton, NY 11937.