The mood was merry and bright on the rainy Tuesday evening following the buy-buy-buy weekend-long kick-off to the holiday season—Black Friday with the hyped-up shopping frenzy, the Cyber Monday must-have online race for the goods—as a large group of people gathered for a very different purpose. Giving. It was #GivingTuesday, AFTEE style.
On December 2, the nonprofit group AFTEE—All For The East End—invited the community to a wine-and-networking event hosted by Sag Harbor’s Dodds & Eder, where the giving spirit of the season was celebrated front-and-center and checks were presented to AFTEE from Bridgehampton National Bank, Dan’s Papers, The Pope Babcock Foundation and AFTEE founder Myron Levine, among others. AFTEE is an umbrella 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to raise awareness about and assist the not-for-profits in the five towns of Long Island’s East End: East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold. Since the Great Recession, local NPOs—there are more than 1,075 such registered organizations in the Hamptons and on the North Fork—have seen their resources dwindle during a time of rising need. The wealth of many people on eastern Long Island leaves the misconception that everyone who lives and works here is well-off, and those in need are too often not seen.
One of the strongest continual supporters of AFTEE is Bridgehampton National Bank and their CEO and president, Kevin O’Connor, who sees AFTEE as a “clearing house for ideas” to further the effectiveness of fundraising and distributing assets. “Helping those people in our community who struggle is part of what we believe community banking is all about,” Mr. O’Connor said as he presented a check for $10,000.
Under the management of David Okorn of the Long Island Community Foundation (LICF), disbursements of funds are made each year through a grant process. Last year there were 82 proposals for these grants, and AFTEE made micro grants of $2,500 to 20, touching each of the five towns. It is the hope of AFTEE to help bridge the gap created by funding cutbacks, employing “creative collaborations” and identifying and bringing new sources of funding and awareness to the good services these NPOs provide.
As part of the evening’s presentation, four representatives, from four different NPOs, from four towns, spoke of how they used their AFTEE grants.
The first to speak was Theresa Roden, founder of i-Tri, a five-year-old program established in East Hampton and focusing on at-risk girls, teaching them life skills and self-esteem through triathlon training. Their grant funds were used for training, equipment, providing food and instruction in food preparation.
Second up was Sara Benjamin of CAST, Community Action Southold Town, a functioning NPO for more than 50 years. CAST used their grant to sustain their 365-day food pantry, ESL classes and their parent-child home program. Driven by the idea that “what happens when you are young influences the rest of your life,” and believing the power of putting “books in hands,” their ultimate goal is developing self-sufficient healthy adults.
Angela Byrns of East Hampton Hospice told the group that they used their grant to host a conference addressing child bereavement, including people from the community, schools, and churches, to assist families and especially the often-forgotten or overlooked grief of children dealing with illness and loss.
Zona Story of Riverhead’s Open Arms Care Center was the last to speak. The Open Arms Care Center, established 20 years ago by two women who began by making soup, is all volunteer, focusing on feeding, nutrition and clothing. Treating the funding as “pass through money,” a sort of “money, to food to people” process, Open Arms Care Center works with Long Island Cares, and many of their volunteers have, at some point, been beneficiaries of the program, lending them a special compassion for those they now serve.
“AFTEE’s Giving Tuesday event served a number of mission critical objectives for us as we move into 2015,” says Bob Edelman, a member of AFTEE’s board and executive committee, and CEO of Dan’s Papers, which also presented a check to AFTEE on #GivingTuesday, for $12,500. “The most important of which was to increase our brand’s awareness on the East End, solicit support from local community residents and businesses and demonstrate the good AFTEE has done for the nonprofit community in the five East End Towns.”
For more information on AFTEE, visit AFTEE.org.