When Philanthropist Jean Shafiroff shone a light on the Heart of the Hamptons (HOH) food pantry with her support, we took a look. We called Executive Director Hilton Crosby, MS and found, in the heart of Southampton, he and his skeletal staff of four are working relentlessly to put groceries on an ever growing population in duress.
“We are here for all those in crisis,” Hilton said. These days, that number is growing exponentially. Heart of the Hamptons reaches out to those who might not qualify for government subsidies, but still don’t make enough for the cost of living on the East End, which is higher than national norms. To do that, he carries tens of thousands of pounds of food in and out of the basement of Basilica of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary R.C. Church, with only four other staff members: Maribel Ramos, Maripaz Ramos, Delaney Jones and Francisco Zhiminaicela. On Wednesday, April 15 alone, HOH distributed 6,429 meals worth of food to 164 households. The previous week the organization distributed 5,998 meals to 153 families, including 83 new households. That’s a staggering increase from previous weeks, as 7,331 meals accounts for the entire month of January.
“It’s not easy for anybody,” Shafiroff said. “Right now, government statistics show there are 17 million unemployed Americans. Most people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck. And there is nothing worse than having a family and no food on the table. I can’t bear to see anyone suffer. Whoever can, has an obligation to step in and help out, no matter what the amount. ”
Jean is also donating to her longtime charities’ emergency funds: Healthcare Heroes Fund for COVID-19 (southampton.stonybrookmedicine.edu) and the Southampton Animal Shelter’s pet food pantry (southamptonanimalshelter.com).
“These are tougher times than I can even describe,” Crosby told us. “We’re working our fingers to the bone to get food to people. We don’t have time to think about anything other than just getting the work done.”
“In the past, our largest grocery purchase was $8,000. Yesterday, we made a $12,000 order. Our forecast is for double. Jean’s large contribution has been very helpful.”
Heart of the Hamptons gives families about 100 pounds of groceries at a time. These days that can mean 13,000 pounds a week. Volunteers are a health risk. Crosby is afraid of the physical toll transporting all this food up and down their basement stairs — and out of windows — is taking of his staff, not to mention the seniors and disabled they serve. Landlords take note: They desperately need a new ground floor home.
Heart of the Hamptons gets produce from Hatco Farms, a local business that provides Stop and Shops nationwide, frozen meats from Long Island Cares and non-perishables from Astor Distributors, among many others.
For more information: heartofthehamptons.org.