Although she moved away two decades ago, Lauren Flaherty never forgot the friendly neighborhood charm of the North Fork.
“I come home constantly because I’m obsessed with the area,” she said. “I love the area, it has my entire heart. I just can’t afford to live there anymore.”
Therein lies the change Flaherty sees when visiting her parents in her hometown of Cutchogue. Cottages she remembers from her childhood have vanished; her eyes widen with sticker shock looking at the homes in their place.
While economic statuses may have changed, she believes community ties remain tightly knit. To help families and neighbors in need, she launched North Fork Native, an online store that will accept donations of gently used clothing and sell it to raise funds for local charity groups.
The mother of four stockpiled outgrown children’s garments for years, and recently began accepting donated clothes, all of which may now serve a new found purpose. All of these second-hand items on the ‘shop small’ portion of her site may be purchased for personal use or for donation to a local family.
The proceeds will go towards the Mattituck Presbyterian Church, for which Flaherty’s mother, Brenda, works, and which runs the John’s Place homeless mission.
Flaherty’s North Fork Native arrived as many people gear up for an annual New Year’s closet cleanout, a way to not only declutter for the upcoming year, but a chance to stumble across clothes that could be donated to those in need.
Anyone rifling through their wares of yesteryear and interested in donating clothing to North Fork Native may direct message Flaherty via the shop’s Instagram account to arrange a handoff.
As she develops her business, she said she hopes to establish a single clothing drop off location, as well as partner with other charitable groups such Kait’s Angels and CAST to donate proceeds from her “shop small” sales.
North Fork Native will soon boast a Shop Local section, which Flaherty said “just satiates my creative side.” She will sell sprays and soy candles reminiscent of scents of the North Fork, from a glass of wine, to sweet corn from Harbes and the sea salt of the bay.
“My vision is to bring back the sense of community that the North Fork used to represent — neighbors helping neighbors, a sense of community like no other,” Flaherty said. “When I grew up there, everyone knew everyone and would do anything for anyone and now, it’s a different world, a different place. But we are still humans and we can still work together to make a difference.”
Cleaning out your closet? Here are six other charities to consider donating to:
Maureen’s Haven, 28 Lincoln St., Riverhead
The Salvation Army Thrift Store & Donation Center, 319 E Main St., Riverhead
The Butterfly Effect Project, 1018 Northville Turnpike, Riverhead
Good News Thrift Shop, 12605 Main Road, Mattituck
Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation, 53930 Main Road, Southold
Eastern Long Island Hospital Opportunity Shop, 321 Main St., Greenport, NY 11944.