On Friday, February 18, a pair of local nonprofits will accept brand new Land Rover Defender SUVs from the automaker’s Southampton dealership. Against all odds, these two East End organizations — Bridgehampton-based Hamptons Community Outreach, and New York Marine Rescue Center in Riverhead — earned two of the seven vehicles up for grabs in Land Rover’s nationwide Defender Above & Beyond Service Awards competition.
The charities, which are just over 25 miles apart, beat other worthy nonprofits spread across the United States in their individual categories, Coastal & Marine Conservation (NYMRC) and Urban Improvement (HCO). And while the need for NYMRC’s work protecting endangered marine mammals and sea turtles is not dictated by the region’s wealth, or lack of it, some might ask how Hamptons Community Outreach prevailed over groups from the country’s most blighted and poor regions. The answer is simple: Not everyone in this so-called playground of the rich and famous is living that glam life.
In fact, it’s this disparity that can make things especially hard for families struggling to pay bills, or even eat, in towns where the cost of living is far more suited to the one percent. The need is real, explains Hamptons Community Outreach founder and Executive Director Marit Molin, who started her organization as Hamptons Art Camp, a summer program for under-resourced kids that later evolved as needs changed in the community.
“I realized that there were a lot of children who spent summer in front of the TV or in the back of their parent’s truck waiting for them to be done with work,” Molin says, explaining how Hamptons Art Camp took shape in 2018 as a wonderful, enriching experience for kids 6–12 years old. “Forty percent of the children are underserved and non-paying,” she continues, pointing out that HAC has a diverse population of campers, which is good for kids on both sides of the vast financial chasm that often keeps them apart.
“We see friendships being forged between different communities and different types of kids,” Molin says. “We absolutely adore seeing that happen — it just makes us so happy. Kids that normally would not make friends with each other actually leave camp together, they go home and they have playdates.”
But things changed when the pandemic hit in 2020. “…we could not fundraise for the camp and we didn’t know if the camp would happen,” Molin recalls, so she leaned on her training as a licensed social worker, turning to the marginalized local communities where she works to ask how she could help. “All of them said we need food,” Molin remembers.
“We started a gofundme campaign, we started letter writing, reaching out to wealthy individuals, like clubs and corporations and companies,” she continues. “People were really generous. There was something about the pandemic that made people really want to give.” Molin’s efforts raised an incredible sum of $300,000, so she put it to good use. “We delivered 6,500 hot meals and 90,000 pounds of fresh produce, and groceries bi-weekly for 250 families,” she says. “At that point we were so much more than an art camp, so we changed our name to Hamptons Community Outreach.”
Hamptons Art Camp is now back in action and, after a summer of splitting programs into two smaller groups and two shorter sessions each day, they will return to single sessions this summer with all of their 100-plus campers doing a wide variety of arts and crafts, as well as outdoor water play, and much more together over six weeks at both The Church and Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor.
At the same time, Hamptons Community Outreach’s mission continues to grow. The organization now has four big programs: food outreach, free mental health services, child outreach and their #ICARE Crisis Fund which has the flexibility to help struggling residents in a variety of ways, such as home repair and medical assistance.
“That was started because there were a lot of people who were reaching out to us that just had nowhere else to turn, workers, uninsured workers who had accidents,” Molin says of the fund, recounting one case where a man in his early 40s lost his vision and then, as a result, lost his income, the room he rented, and even his nourishment. “He’d been fired from his job, so we fundraised for an eyesight restoration surgery and it was successful,” she shares. “Now he has a place to live and he has employment, and he actually volunteers for Hamptons Community Outreach. He delivers food for us in the Hampton Bays area.”
HCO’s home repair program has made vital improvements to residences where people were forced to live in unacceptable conditions. “We’ve fixed about eight houses. As of now we have 14 families on the waiting list,” Molin says. “People live with black toxic mold and cracked windows without a heating system, and they have no resources and no place to go,” she continues, thanking volunteers like Alex Forden of Sag Harbor’s Forden & Co. Builders who donate their services or help get discounted rates from others.
The organization’s child center outreach program includes Hamptons Art Camp, but it also operates a birthday club — delivering cakes and gifts to kids from impoverished families who cannot afford to celebrate their birthdays — and a tutoring program. “We have about 28 students right now in the Southampton High School and the Middle School, and they have been identified as in need by the guidance counselors and teachers,” Molin says, explaining that students are paired with licensed teachers as tutors and then evaluated from beginning to end. “The results that we’re seeing are nothing short of fantastic,” she says, describing one boy who went from a 55 GPA to an 89 after time with his tutor. “He was really struggling and he was in a lot of pain. There were a lot of issues at home,” Molin adds, noting that the boy eventually told them he had never learned to study, but once the tutor helped him, he found schoolwork much easier, and even admitted enjoying it.
Clearly, Land Rover watched HCO’s submission video and recognized their good work. They were chosen as one of five finalists in their category, as was NYMRC (watch their submission video), and both nonprofits prevailed after a public voting period in August of 2021. Finally, the organizations learned the good news during a live, “Oscars-style” Zoom reveal, Molin says. “They pulled up a slip out of an envelope — so they said, “Category, Urban Improvement,” …and they read the name Hamptons Community Outreach, and we just started jumping and screaming, we just could not believe it.”
From there, the winners customized their Defenders with accessories to meet their specific needs. Land Rover also wrapped each SUV with the nonprofits’ logos and then brought HCO and NYMR to Asheville, North Carolina for driver training and to present their work to Land Rover executives, before concluding the trip with a vineyard tour and banquet. “They were fantastic and lovely and generous — memories of a lifetime,” Molin recalls.
New York Marine Rescue Center director Danielle Perillo says the Land Rover will be instrumental to their work, which often takes them to desolate, sandy beaches to recover cold-stunned turtles and stranded seals. “With a Land Rover Defender, we will be able to get to these locations and animals much faster,” she says.
Hampton Community Outreach will use their Defender for moving construction supplies and delivering food, among other tasks aimed at improving the lives of people in their community.
Visit New York Marine Rescue Center at nymarinerescue.org.
To find out more about the Land Rover Defender Above & Beyond Service Awards competition, and see all the finalists and their submission videos, visit landroverusa.com.