The inaugural Caliente fundraiser, a benefit for Long Island Cares-The Harry Chapin Food Bank and OLA of Eastern Long Island, was held at the picturesque Bridgehampton home of Maria and Kenneth Fishel on Saturday, July 8.
Partygoers noshed on a variety of mouthwatering bites from East End eateries as Tito Puente, Jr. and his eight piece band energized attendees with lively music, and celebrated three community luminaries – Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares, Minerva Perez, Executive Director of OLA, and artist and activist April Gornik.
“It’s like a dream. It really is,” Perez told Hamptons.com. “There’s some fabulous people here, and people I’ve never met before, which is great because it means new friends for OLA, I hope. It’s a very festive and exciting atmosphere. This is better than I expected.”
Gornik, who is spearheading the Sag Harbor Cinema purchase and restoration efforts, was thrilled to be honored alongside Perez and Pachter. “What I’m especially excited about being honored is being in the company of Minerva and Paule, who I think are real drivers for good in this community. Minerva and OLA just do an amazing, amazing job for the immigrant community and the Hispanic community out here, which I think is incredibly important,” shared Gornik. “And, well, feeding Long Island – do we think that’s a good idea? I don’t think there’s going to be an argument about that so I’m really honored to be a part of this event for that reason.”
While ensuring the Sag Harbor Partnership reaches its $8 million goal for the purchase and restoration of the Cinema through events like the Big Tent: Party for the Cinema (on Sunday, July 16) has consumed the majority of Gornik’s time lately, she does plan on focusing on her art when the timing is right. “I’m not finding a whole lot of time for my studio at the moment, but I plan on getting back to it as soon as possible,” she told us.
Pachter addressed a major local crisis that many might not be aware of. “As we’re standing tonight under this tent having a good time and listening to wonderful music, there are 9,000 of our neighbors who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. And these are people that live in the Hamptons, that live in Montauk – that everyday take part in the nine pantries that we support east of Riverhead,” explained Pachter. “We have a serious problem on Long Island with food insecurity, with poverty that is impacting more people than we would ever consider.”
He urged the community to open their eyes to the issue of food insecurity. “The largest number of people that are being served today by Long Island Cares, believe it or not, are returning veterans. Returning veterans right here on Long Island who served our country, who went on multiple deployments, and who came back from the frontline to now being on the bread line. That’s the reality on Long Island in 2017,” he added. “Whether you live here or all the way west, we cannot insulate ourselves from these problems. We can’t insulate ourselves from the need of the immigrant population that are coming to Long Island in droves because they believe on Long Island, they will find a better life. With organizations like, OLA, with organizations like Long Island Cares, people have a shot at finding a better way of life, but as Harry Chapin said many, many years ago, ‘It takes an entire community.’ Everybody pulling together, everybody understanding the problem, and everybody willing to make a difference.”
Actor Richard Kind served as Caliente Master of Ceremonies. “What we are celebrating tonight are two such important, important organizations here on Long Island – Long Island Cares and OLA. Lately, it seems that when we say America first, and it always should be, it takes a tone of selfishness,” Kind told the crowd. “It’s not just America first, it’s America first at the expense of others. That is not how I feel about America. America first by helping others and taking care of ourselves, because when we take care of others, we are taking care of ourselves. And why is help considered a handout when mothers have two jobs and still can’t afford to feed their kids or take care of them? And they need help. We are there for them and that’s important.”
Academy & Tony award winner Mercedes Ruehl served as Honorary Chair with Shari Frank, Toni Herold, Toni Ross, and Sharon Siegel as Benefit Co-Chairs. Linda Shapiro of LBS Productions served as the Event Coordinator.
For more information about Long Island Cares, visit www.licares.org. For more information about OLA of Eastern Long Island, visit www.olaofeasternlongisland.org.