The North Fork is very much a giving place.
As much as it changes with each passing year, a sense of generosity between neighbors remains.
This holiday season, we at northforker want to pay tribute to some of the charities that have helped people in our communities live fuller lives.
This month, we’ve been sharing the stories of these organizations and let you know how you can help them further their missions.
On frigid nights each winter, houses of worship across the East End open their doors to people who would otherwise have no warm place to stay.
St. Agnes R.C. Church in Greenport would typically be one of about 20 sites rotating to serve the local homeless population, now faced with an even more dire set of circumstances due to the pandemic.
“Because of the situation with Covid, some places opted out this year,” explained Father Piotr Narkiewicz, who moved to St. Agnes from St. Isidore’s in Riverhead in August.
When asked by Maureen’s Haven, a local homeless outreach organization, if they would open their doors this weekend, Father Narkiewicz knew he had no other choice. “What’s the other option?” he asked. “Let them sleep in the streets? It’s not a good idea. We’re taking a risk but doing everything we can to keep safe and secure from Covid.”
Because fewer organizations and parishes were able to host Maureen’s Haven, St. Agnes now opens its doors four nights per week, instead of one, offering guests a hot meal, shower, fresh clothing and a safe place to rest.
Dan O’Shea, executive director of Maureen’s Haven, which serves the entire East End, said Monday that they began the emergency winter shelter program Nov. 1, with a “dramatically different” approach than years past because of Covid-19.
“We would have rotated almost nightly,” he said. “But a lot of the congregations were reluctant, or simply could not offer to let us use the facilities. A lot of them have aging populations,” Mr. O’Shea said.
The shelter program has been scaled back to approximately 12 sites, though Mr. O’Shea said parishes that aren’t able to physically host the organization have remained involved by preparing food or collecting other donations.
“We still have an amazing pool of volunteers, supporters and community members. I’m grateful to the entire East End community,” Mr. O’Shea said. “Every town has stepped up in their own way.”
To offset additional costs associated with the increased building use, like heat, water, electricity and gas, Father Narkiewicz started a GoFundMe campaign late last week, with the goal of raising $2,500.
Funds raised will also help the church pay for an emergency roof repair at the parish hall. “After one of those huge rains this fall, we realized our roof was leaking like a colander,” Father Narkiewicz said. The emergency repair was finished last Wednesday evening, just as the snowstorm began.
The pandemic has forced organizations like Maureen’s Haven to adapt and alter their services and programs.
Mr. O’Shea said when the shelter program ended, they focused more on outreach, connecting people to services and operating a weekend lunch program. “We haven’t slowed down. We’re seeing a lot of new faces,” he said, which prompts an “aggressive” staff response to try and get people housed and out of the system as soon as possible.
In the winter months, he said, support is needed more than ever through food and clothing donations, toiletries and personal protective equipment, including masks.
For more information and to donate to Maureen’s Haven, visit maureenshaven.org.
How to donate
To donate to the GoFundMe for St. Agnes church, visit gofundme.com/johns-place-emergency-homeless-shelter.