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Montauk Community Rallies for Robbie Badkin, aka ‘Robbie the Welder’

That a good man can face hard times is not new or unusual, but seeing an entire community pull together for him is extraordinary. Napeague resident Robbie Badkin has been on the receiving end of such an outpouring of support from his tight-knit community when they realized that his mold-riddled house was making him sick.

Badkin, welder, artist, philosophical soul, known to all in Lazy Point and Montauk, developed a blood infection that led to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome earlier this year, sending him to the hospital where doctors put him in an induced coma. Doctors were skeptical he would pull through. During this time, his family learned that Badkin’s home in Lazy Point was filled with black mold. There were financial issues, too—the kind a lot of good people have found themselves facing.

Robbie’s nephew, David Elze, a local architect and artist, established a GoFundMe page to raise support for Robbie. He set a goal of $10,000, which he hoped would be enough to make repairs to Robbie’s house. That original goal was met in two days.

But as Elze soon learned, the damage to the house and the financial problems were more extensive. With a new goal of $25,000 in place, over $19,500 has been raised as of this writing. And, donations of labor and supplies have poured in. Robbie’s house is being restored by crews of volunteers, people who are coming to work on his Lazy Point cottage after putting in a full day’s work elsewhere. The volunteers include Amagansett musician Matthew Schmitt. Schmitt’s twin brother suffered a traumatic brain injury at a job site, but Schmitt has found time to “drop everything to help without hesitation,” Elze said, “without complaint.” Local businesses like Riverhead Building Supply, Blackman Plumbing, Sag Harbor Village Hardware, Hildreth’s of Southampton and others have donated building materials to rebuild Robbie’s home. Other local donors include Paul Forsberge of the Viking Fleet and Henry Uhlein of Uhlein’s Marina. Everyone helped, because everyone knew Robbie. The local attitude is, “of course, you know Robbie. You’re from Montauk.”

The story is so extraordinary that it caught the attention of those outside Robbie’s neighborhood. Elze found himself the subject of a piece for Envoye Special, France’s version of 20/20. A French production crew followed Elze around to document Robbie’s story.

“I’ve always looked up to my uncle,” Elze said. He remembers when his aunt, who lived down the street from Robbie, was worried about her house flooding. The decision was made to raise the house. Elze has a clear memory of Robbie driving up with the steel beams he had ordered, jacking up the house and getting the beams under the house so a mason could put in a block foundation. “There was no thought that this was just too big. Nothing is impossible. Elze’s words perfectly capture Robbie’s point of view, which is “you just have to figure out how to do it.”

Elze has taken his uncle’s philosophy to heart. Through GoFundMe and other social media, Elze was able to raise money and awareness of Robbie’s situation. People came to work on Robbie’s house. They gave their time. They gave their money, sometimes anonymously, sometimes with just a few words wishing Robbie well.

A fundraising event at Inlet Seafood on March 30 featured a Silent Art Auction and a raffle of prizes donated by local businesses. “Robbie made an appearance, too,” Elze said. Guests enjoyed Inlet’s array of sushi and other goodies and helped raise an additional $10,000, but Elze’s GoFundMe campaign is still ongoing to pay for the remainder of the renovations and other expenses.

In just a few days, Robbie will return to the home he has lived in for decades—repaired and restored through the work of an entire community.

“It is unique out here,” Elze said, reflecting on the outpouring of support. “My call to the community might have been lost in the din of day-to-day noise someplace else. When I called for help, people heard and responded.”

For more information and to donate to Robbie’s crowd funding campaign, go to gofundme.com/robbie-the-welder.

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