From Long Island to Islands in Need

After sending volunteers to Texas, East End Cares to hold benefit in Montauk Saturday
Maureen Rutkowski of Montauk joined Team Rubicon in hurricane-battered Beaumont, Tex. Courtesy Team Rubicon

Harvey, Irma, Jose, Lee, Maria, Nate: Six meteorological assaults since August have brought death and destruction through parts of the United States, the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as other parts of the Caribbean, and, more recently, Central America.

The East End was largely unscathed when much of the Island was battered by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but residents here, aware of the devastation in the western part of the Island, mobilized to help those in need. They are coming together now under East End Cares, which is helping Hurricane Harvey victims. Also engaged in helping those in need, four-legged friends and all, are the Animal Rescue fund of the Hamptons and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

East End Cares was born after Hurricane Sandy when Melissa Berman, a Montauk resident, rallied volunteers. The organization has recently teamed up with Team Rubicon, a nationwide non-government organization that unites military veterans with first responders for rapid emergency action. Through its fund-raising efforts, East End Cares has sent volunteers such as Amanda Bickerstaff, one of its founders, Jon Schoen of Sag Harbor, and Maureen Rutkowski to help on the ground in Texas.

In an email to The Star, Ms. Rutkowski wrote, “I just returned from a week in Beaumont, Tex., mucking out houses with Team Rubicon. . . . I was on a humanitarian mission, expecting long days, hard work, and high emotions. Yes, I experienced all of those, and so much more. I made lifelong friendships, learned new perspectives, cried a bit; laughed a ton, and gained a newfound appreciation for how people with a broad range of backgrounds, beliefs, and life experiences can join together to get a whole lot done.”

To continue providing help wherever and whenever, East End Cares will hold a fun-for-all Oktoberfest fund-raiser on Sunday at Solé East restaurant in Montauk from 5 to 8 p.m. The event will feature music, raffles, a silent auction, s’mores, pumpkin crafts for kids, beer, snacks, hot cider, and more. Advance tickets are $20 for adults ($25 at the door) and $10 for kids. Solé East is at 90 Second House Road, Montauk. All proceeds will benefit U.S. and Caribbean disaster response efforts by Team Rubicon.

Meanwhile, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons has not forgotten about the hundreds of animals who need help. The organization has rescued 105 dogs and cats from shelters in Texas and Florida impacted by the hurricanes. And, last week, ARF learned that its longstanding partner, Barks of Hope, in Rincon, Puerto Rico, had no electricity, water, or gas. 

“Aid for the 45 animals in its shelter was nowhere in sight‚“ Scott Howe, ARF’s executive director and chief executive officer, said. In response, two staffers, Michele Forrester, the director of operations, and her husband, Jamie, an ARF driver, got on a commercial flight on Monday into Aguadilla, the closest airport to Barks of Hope in Rincon.

 The couple, Mr. Howe said, arrived in Rincon to prepare dogs for a flight to Westhampton yesterday. ARF chartered a cargo flight that left Georgia in the early morning yesterday to pick up the dogs and volunteers in Aguadilla at around 9 a.m., he said. The flight arrived at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach at around 1 p.m.

“Never did we imagine the need would be so great and so urgent within such a short amount of time. This work would not be possible without adopters and donors, and we need both,” Mr. Howe said. Donations to ARF can be made at

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. is spearheading a food drive to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria in partnership with Long Island Cares and New York State. Millions of residents in the territory have been left without power, limited running water, and no access to fuel. 

Assemblyman Thiele has asked for donations of non-perishable foods and cleaning supplies — garbage bags and latex gloves, shampoo and soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and toilet paper, among them. Flashlights, batteries, and mosquito repellent are also in great need.

Items can be placed in a food-drive box at the assemblyman’s office, Suite A, 2302 Main Street, Bridgehampton. The assemblyman’s office said that all donated goods would be delivered to Long Island Cares where volunteers will organize, pack and send everything to a central donation center at the New York State Office Building in Hauppauge, from where it will be shipped to Puerto Rico. Alternatively, people can also participate in an online drive by visiting: You­GiveGoods at, where the most needed items to date are indicated. 

Long Island Cares is one of the region’s most comprehensive hunger assistance organizations, serving thousands of individuals and families with nutritional food and support services through a network of more than 580 community-based agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, child care programs, disability organizations, and veterans’ services, among others.

At the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons on Wednesday, Michelle Forrester held Scooby, one of 67 dogs and cats that arrived from Rincon, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday by chartered plane. Durell Godfrey