Small businesses are ubiquitous in the Hamptons. Many year-round Hamptonites rely on work from restaurants, stores and other local organizations for their income. Knowing that the extended quarantine could have devastating financial consequences for the community, Westhampton Beach residents have mobilized to help one another via the Facebook fundraising platform. Brian Tymann’s “Help for Local Families” fundraiser was extremely successful, and Kevin Leonard and Pietro Bottero of The Patio at 54 Main have been working tirelessly on the “WHB Local Restaurant Workers Emergency Fund.” Tymann and Leonard talk about the importance of these fundraisers, and how the community of Westhampton Beach has come together in this time of great upheaval.
Talk about your volunteer efforts during the quarantine. How did they get started, and what prompted you to start the fundraising?
Brian Tymann: Well, I had a conversation one day a few weeks ago with my good friend Laura Fabrizio, the Founder of The Moriches Bay Project, and she said that she wanted to see if there was a way to deliver groceries to those in need. I had been thinking the same thing. When I hung up, I got a call from Dawn Orban, who runs Bright Beginnings school in Westhampton Beach and she simply asked if I could “put it out there to the community” that there were going to be a handful of families that the school identified as being in need of help with groceries. So about an hour later, I got on Facebook and figured I’d start a small personal fundraiser to raise some money to pay for the groceries, and I’d purchase and deliver them. I set the initial goal at $500. That goal was met in the first 15 minutes. So I raised it to $1,000. That goal was exceeded by the end of Day One. By the end of the week, it was getting close to $10,000. Today it’s over $14,000.
Kevin Leonard: The fund was a collaborative effort with my boss, Pietro Bottero, owner of The Patio at 54 Main. After two amazing regulars selflessly donated to help out some of the staff that were temporarily let go, it was a no brainer. We had to start a fundraiser for our local out-of-work restaurant employees.
What’s the reaction been like from the local community?
Tymann: Mind-blowing. The generosity of the donors has been absolutely astounding. People are donating everything from $5 to hundreds. A local charity called “Live Your Cor” founded in Corey Hubbard’s name (a young man who was tragically killed a few years ago), gave a substantial donation, citing that “it’s exactly why their foundation was formed, to help the community.” Some people are giving weekly. Many people giving are extremely tight on finances themselves, but they know that others are even tighter. I’ve not only bought groceries for people, but I, and my trusty assistant, Lindsey Gravina, have picked up medications for people, we’ve driven people to doctor’s appointments, you name it. And many of those people who we’ve helped have even insisted on donating! We’ve also focused on supporting local businesses by shopping with them and even buying gift certificates to their stores. Justin DeMarco from Justin’s Chop Shop has thrown in significant donations along with our orders and has added onto gift certificate values, Lynne Jones from Lynne’s Cards and Gifts has thrown in gift certificates as has Craig at Goldberg’s, and Debbie at Fruit King has discounted our purchases. And I’ve had about 30+ offers to help us deliver, as well. There has been such an outpouring of support, I hope I’m not forgetting anyone.
Leonard: Our local community has shown what coming together is about, the efforts put forth have been astounding. Some residents have donated money as well for us to do a series of meals drops at Peconic Bay Medical Center for staff to bring home between shift changes.
How do you stay positive through this challenging time?
Tymann: By keeping busy and by being productive. That leaves me with no time to be negative. Even though our worlds are disrupted, things must go on, even if they require modifications and changes. Seeing people come together has been really uplifting, and the pandemic nearly erased political talk from social media, which is so refreshing. Plus, and most importantly, this situation has led me to much more quality time with my wife and two girls, eating real family dinners and taking walks together. That really keeps me happy.
Leonard: Being able to help others has helped a lot to stay positive. Video chatting with friends and family has become a regular thing to me. Also, having more free time to focus on practicing self-care has done wonders for my mental health.
Who do you identify as the communities on the East End that are most in need?
Tymann: This pandemic has demonstrated that there are no people unaffected by this situation, and the people who are “in need” during it are often the least expected to need help. There are elderly people who are wisely staying home. They need deliveries. Most of the time they want to pay for the products and the service—it’s just that they just can’t go out. There are people who lost their jobs and have absolutely no income and can’t get replacement jobs because their kids are home from school and they either can’t afford a sitter or they’re being responsible by not bringing someone into their house. How can they afford food without any income? Many of these people were living very well just a few weeks ago.
Leonard: The out-of-work blue collar workers throughout the East End, retail workers, restaurant employees and small business owners. These are the people that make this place great year-round. Without their income, some might not be able to come back to work or reopen. These are the people we need to help.
How can people get involved?
Tymann: As they say in the not-for-profit world, the biggest limiting factor in serving people is money. We’ve raised a lot more than I ever expected, but being that we’ve been serving people so effectively, and that the needs are expected to grow, the more funding we have the more we can do. My dad was the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of LI for 34 years and I grew up watching him fight his hardest to raise money to serve more people. I find myself in that position now.
Leonard: We encourage everyone who comes across this to please tell a friend and share! You can donate to the WHB Local Restaurant Employee Emergency Fund on Facebook, or you can contact us at The Patio at 54 Main via phone, email or social media.