A team from Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk recently donated 200 N95 respirator masks and 1,750 disposable full body coverall suits to Stony Brook University Hospital’s Trauma Unit. The donation allowed the organization a chance to do some good while much of their usual efforts to shelter low-income families is on hold during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We have tremendous admiration for the healthcare community,” Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk CEO Lee Silberman said on Thursday, noting that he was glad his not-for-profit could help them in some small way.
When he heard about the mask and equipment shortages hospitals are experiencing or will experience, Silberman reached out to his head of construction and asked if they had any N95 masks to donate. The manager searched Habitat Suffolk’s warehouse and all panel trucks for the masks—which construction teams use to protect their lungs from dangerous particles during certain phases of work—and gathered them for SBU Hospital.
In addition, Silberman recalled that Michael Mangiacapra of American Regent (a Division of Luitpold Pharmaceuticals, Inc.) had generously donated a huge number of protective, full-body coverall suits about a year ago, which were sitting at their Suffolk ReStore donation center in Ronkonkoma. Because Habitat Suffolk needs these suits so infrequently, Silberman added all 1,750 to their delivery. “They literally would’ve lasted us 30 years, with the amount of times we have to use them,” the CEO said, noting that the hospital initially refused the suits because they’re not what staff typically use, but they quickly changed their minds and called back. These are, after all, far from typical times.
This also holds true for Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk.
According to Silberman, the organization is continuing to do some work where possible, but a number of projects are on hold, delayed or in limbo, and they desperately need funding. “We are doing what we can to keep open, but in a safe way,” he said. Like most businesses and organizations, Habitat Suffolk is struggling due to the pandemic and its far-reaching consequences.
Silberman said they had to close their ReStore thrift shop in Ronkonkoma and furlough the staff on Tuesday, March 24, though they are working on a virtual store, which he hopes will open with limited staff next week. As of Thursday, March 26, Habitat Suffolk have ceased all construction work on six houses for a two-week period. A couple of other homes were scheduled to be complete and ready for families to live in them by June, but “Right now that’s kind of touch-and-go,” Silberman said.
“We’re taking to heart what Governor Cuomo is saying,” he continued, explaining that, like most of the country, all Habitat Suffolk office staff are now working remotely from home to observe social distancing and avoid spreading the virus or putting people at risk.
As for good news, one Habitat for Humanity Suffolk home is finished in Mastic Beach and Silberman said they’re working with Brookhaven Town to get a certificate of occupancy, and working with the banks to get the home cleared to close so the family can move in.
Once that happens, the organization will forgo gathering for a traditional ribbon cutting ceremony, but they will host a virtual celebration online instead.
With all these changes and difficulties, Habitat Suffolk says critical projects and initiatives will continue to move forward, honoring their mission to bring people together to build homes and provide communities hope—a need that will grow even greater during these incredibly difficult and uncertain times. “We’re doing new budgets assuming we’ll have next to no revenue in July,” Silberman said, highlighting the very real hardship they’re experiencing.
To help keep the mission going, Silberman said the organization will begin a new online donation initiative on Thursday, March 26, offering Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk t-shirts for all $50 donations, and hats for all $100 donations.
To learn more or donate, visit habitatsuffolk.org.