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AFTEE Lends a Helping Hand to East End Charities

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Heller_AFTEE at Dodds & Eder 12-2-14_3964_LR 

Members of the charitable organization All For The East End held a gathering at the Dodds & Eder store in Sag Harbor on Tuesday night, to raise awareness and inform interested parties on the current status of the organization. Among those attending were AFTEE board members, from he left, David Okorn, Myron Levine, Danielle Cardinale, Claudia Pilato, Dottie Simons and Bob Edelman. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

To celebrate what has become known as “Giving Tuesday,” All for the East End, or AFTEE, a grassroots charity that was formed just two years ago with the goal of keeping charitable donations local, held a reception at Dodds and Eder in Sag Harbor on Tuesday, December 2, to celebrate the grants it awarded this year and get a kick start on raising money for 2015.

And what a start it got. After it was announced that Bruce and Luke Babcock through their Pope Babcock Foundation and Bridgehampton National Bank would donate $10,000 each and Myron Levine, one of AFTEE’s founders, would give $7,500, Dan’s Papers chief executive officer Bob Edelman said the company would give $12,500.

With $40,000 already in hand, Mr. Edelman and Claudia Pilato, BNB’s marketing director, who are both on AFTEE’s board, both pledged personal donations of $1,000, an amount Kevin O’Conner, BNB’s CEO, matched.

Soon, another half-dozen pledges from the audience had brought the unofficial total raised for the evening to $47,000.

That’s nearly as much as AFTEE distributed this year when it provided 20 different nonprofit organizations with micro-grants of $2,500.

“We’re hoping it can be a model around the country,” said Mr. Edelman of the idea of targeting local nonprofits with meaningful donations.

“There is a great need, and every organization is doing really valuable work,” added Ms. Pilato.

Mr. Levine, who has become an active fundraiser for a number of causes after the death of his son, Josh, in an accident at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett in 2010, said he hoped that East End residents with the means to do so would consider making bequeaths in their wills to AFTEE so an endowment could be established to allow the organization to become self-sustaining.

“If they are passionate about the East End, they should consider leaving something to AFTEE,” he said.

To demonstrate firsthand the impact the organization has had, Ms. Pilato asked recipients of this year’s grants to tell the audience what they had done with the money.

Theresa Roden, the founder of i-tri, a program that focuses on raising the self-esteem of middle-school girls by having them complete a youth length triathlon, said her organization, started a nutrition program. Girls in the program and their families were able to learn the importance of eating a healthy diet, she said.

Sarah Benjamin, the director of Community Action Southold Town, said her group had used the money to set up a program to encourage parents of young children to both read to them and play with them, basic activities that help children get a head start in school.

Angela Byrnes of East End Hospice said her organization had recognized that children are often overlooked in the grieving process. To raise awareness, the organization held a conference that was attended by more than 100 representatives of schools, hospitals and other community organizations to discuss ways to provide better services for children who have lost a loved one.

Zona Stroy of Open Arms Care Center in Riverhead, an organization which over the years has found its niche as a food pantry, said her all-volunteer organization used its grant money to buy food.

“We decided people should eat all year long, not just at the holidays,” she said.

AFTEE received 82 applications this year. The task of determining where that money should go fell to the Long Island Community Foundation, whose executive director, David Okorn, said he established a committee with one member from each of the five East End towns to make the decisions.

They learned, he said, that it is difficult choose one organization over another because all of the applications were for well-deserving programs.

AFTEE is a registered nonprofit organization. More information about making donations or applying for a 2015 grant can be found at aftee.org.

Myron Levine

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DSC_0012 By Stephen J. Kotz

How did the idea of holding a memorial dinner for your son first take shape?

After the accident, we were contacted by the East End chapter of Slow Food. They wanted to know if we would agree to do a benefit with the money going to his children. We said if they wanted to have a dinner in his honor, we’d be willing o do that as long as it would fund something related to organic farming.

Ted Conklin of The American Hotel agreed to donate The American Hotel for the dinner. Everything was donated. The first year, it was sold out.

We raised $12,000 to $15,000 and we used the money fund two interns for Sylvester Manor.

This year the fourth annual Joshua Levine Memorial Dinner will take place on Sunday, April 6. What have you got planned differently this year?

The dinner itself will again be at The American Hotel, but this year Dodds and Eder said they would like to host the pre-dinner party. Their space is gigantic, so we can get 250 people in that space and it wouldn’t seem crowded.

We were never able to have a silent auction before because we never had the space, so we have been going out in the community to get items for that. The generosity is unbelievable. We’ve gotten donations for foursomes from The Atlantic, The Bridge, East Hampton, Noyac, Hampton Hills, South Fork, and Sebonac [golf clubs] a two-night stay at The Huntting Inn and a gift certificate to The Palm; Topping Rose, Sen, the Cuddy, the Living Room, Marders, you name it.

Who will be the beneficiary of this year’s event?

The second year, they told us about the edible schoolyard project. That really appealed to me. If anything, that would really memorialize Josh and what he was all about. It was really about helping kids to understand. It has evolved now so what they learn in the garden is integrated into the classroom. These kids are passionate about it.

They felt they needed to bring some stability to the program by having master farmers who would work with the schools. We decided that first year we needed three master farmers. Slow Food East End actually had an application that went out to the farming community with a stipend of $4,000 each.

We did the same thing last year, but with 18 to 20 schools now involved, we needed an extra master farmer.

This year we are hoping to raise $40,000. Now there are 25 or more schools, so we’ll need one or two more master farmers. We are also trying to raise money for projects some of the schools need.

How did your son find his way from the city to farming?

Josh was doing real estate in the city. He was successful. He just didn’t like it.

We had been out here since 1979. I do a lot of gardening, so l guess it was in his blood. His wife, Anne, was born on a farm in Virginia and he just wanted to learn about it. He applied for an internship at Quail Hill with Scott Chaskey. Scott hired him and the next year promoted him to be the market manager.

He was looking to get an education and then looking to use it to do something else. He wanted to start a business helping families make organic gardens and then he’d come and help them care for them.

What does the future hold for the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation?

The principal purpose of the foundation will be to continue to support the edible schoolyard program and other things Josh might have been passionate about.

It’s gotten a life of its own now. These gardens are really important. It’s not just about growing food, it’s about learning about life…. There are just so many lessons you learn in this program.

It’s also important for my grandchildren. There’s a selfish part to this. I want my grandchildren to know who their father was.

The Fourth Annual Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation Dinner will be held on April 6 at The American Hotel with a pre-dinner party and auction at Dodds & Eder in Sag Harbor. For more information or to buy tickets, visit joshualevinefoundation.org.