On March 8, Stacey and Kevin Kotler, who split their time between Manhattan and Southampton, packed up their car and relocated out East for the unforeseeable future. After settling in, it became apparent to the couple that their happy place was suffering and they wanted to find a way to help.
First, they used their contacts to secure ten oxygen breathing systems for Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. After that, they were inspired to establish Hamptons United. We caught up with Stacey to learn more:
How did donating ten oxygen breathing systems to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital evolve into the founding of Hamptons United?
SK: My husband had been running a health care investment fund for the last 15 years and been in health care for close to 20 years – on the finance side. When we moved out here in early March, there was evidence that the local community was suffering and anything to do with ventilators and hospitals were clearly in the forefront of people’s minds. Through his network, contacted the CEO of a company called Vapotherm who manufacturs a ventilator type system that you can use on patients suffering from COVID-19 before you have to go to intubation and use a ventilator. He called him directly and said, “I would like to get as many systems as I can right now for Southampton Hospital.” They were able to get us ten systems, which ironically two weeks later New York City contacted them and wanted 30,000. We called them early enough to get those systems – if it had been two weeks later, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. Those ten systems have been used on over 100 patients.
I get emotional when I talk about it just because it’s incredible. It’s an incredible system and to be able to do that for the Hospital was just amazing. Once that happened, we quickly started talking about well, what can we do next? What would be something that would not just be a one time act of kindness, but something that can really make a longer term impact on the local community -and that’s how Hamptons United started.
Could you speak about the organization’s goal?
SK: Our mission for the platform is to really be a one-stop shop to learn about local nonprofits and then be able to give directly to these organizations and make an immediate impact. So go on our website, learn about the organizations that are being highlighted, and then choose something that resonates with you. If you’re into education and you want to donate to an organization in that realm or if you’re interested in health and medical, there are a number of organizations that are working with the local hospitals and nurses and doctors, and then obviously, food banks are at the forefront of a lot of the organizations that we’re highlighting. Being able to learn, click, donate, and the ultimate goal is to have hundreds of organizations highlighted and for Hamptons United to really be part of the local community for the longer term and not just through COVID-19.
Currently 14 organizations are featured on Hamptons United? How were they selected?
SK: Initially, the first organizations were introduced to me through Mayor Jesse Warren in Southampton. He was instrumental in the initial discussions and said, “I’m getting 20 to 30 phone calls a day and people are asking me, where can i donate? How can I help?” And he listed a number of organizations that he was referring people to at random. He said, “Talk to Hilton at Heart of the Hamptons, talk to Mary at East End Hospice.” Those were the initial phone calls and when I talked about what I was thinking about doing, they all said, “Sign me up.” They were so focused on their cause and fundraising is not what they are thinking about right now. But, actually, that’s what’s fueling their effort. So it was the initial discussions, getting some organizations on board. Then, once we started talking about it, and people started hearing about Hamptons United, now it’s the opposite end. I’m getting contacted daily by more and more organizations who want to be a part of the platform, which is amazing, because that’s really what we want. We want to be able to highlight the little guys who are doing so much for the local community, but people just don’t know about their organizations.
When was Hamptons United founded and what has been its reach so far?
SK: Our platform launched on April 15. The reach has been really incredible. Over the first four weeks, we have had over $100,000 be donated through Hamptons United. And that’s not including the acts of kindness that have also been going under our Hamptons United umbrella. So people really are embracing the platform. They are going on the site. We’ve been talking regularly to the organizations to see what they’re seeing on their ends. It’s sort of been our silver lining through this crisis that we feel super connected to the Hamptons and want to continue to help the local community as this crisis continues to evolve.
Looking to the future, after COVID-19 is behind us how will Hamptons United continue to serve the community?
SK: With our platform, and as the number of organizations increase, we plan to continue to promote and help with the fundraising going forward. So this isn’t something that evolved out of this pandemic and then it’s going to go away. I’m pretty vocal about the possibility of my family staying on the East End and not returning to New York City. We’re looking to our own future and also the future of helping those who are going to be here for the longer term. And we really hope that when people think about the Hamptons and being philanthropic and giving back that they go to Hamptons United and continue to see the new nonprofits that are joining and what we’re doing. We hope to evolve as well, so getting more involved in different projects and different causes that we can help to promote under our umbrella.
You live part-time in Southampton. What initially drew you to the area?
SK: My husband, he’s from born and raised in Brooklyn, and he had rented houses in Southampton for years before we met, and we started coming, I guess now it’s been 14 years. We just fell in love with the community and the sort of calmness of this town and we had rented for many years always looking to make our second home here in Southampton. The opportunity came about five years ago, and we not only spend our summers here, but we come all year. So rain, sleet or snow we get our kids in the car on Friday, and we come out – so we really feel part of this community. And we just we absolutely love it here.
Is there anything you would like to add?
SK: There’s been so much negativity and sort of this perception that all New Yorkers who have made a second home here in the Hamptons have invaded and who have come and taken their place and have forgotten about the local community. One thing that we’re really trying to support and help promote is that the Hamptons is our home too. We really want to be helpful and supportive and have the local communities understand that we are here, but we also want to help. I always talk about how we are one united community, we are Hamptons United.
For more information about Hamptons United, visit www.hamptonsunited.org.