Tag Archive | "The Retreat"

Loretta K. Davis

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By Mara Certic

Loretta Davis became the new executive director of The Retreat, East Hampton Town’s shelter for the victims of domestic abuse, last month. She spoke about her background and some of the programming the nonprofit organization offers.

When did you move out to the East End?

I started work on the 28th of January, right around when we had our first storm. I moved out that weekend. I spent a lot of time in Vermont, so I’m used to the snow, but the ice is unbelievable. But I’ve been coming out here for about 20 years, friends from college and high school have houses out here, and so I’ve been coming out for a long time.

I was a judge for 19 years in Tuxedo, New York, and that really is what I’ve been doing. I had criminal and civil cases, and of course we had domestic violence cases.  I was an elected official, I ran every four years. And I really enjoyed that because I got to be involved with local government and with the community. I did that until 2013 when I was on the Roundtable [for the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island] moved here to Long Island.

What made you decide to change careers?

Well, I’ve always been involved in women’s issues, I’ve worked with the Business Council for Peace, which helps women in war-torn countries. So, I’ve always been interested in women’s issues, and I’ve helped women survivors in Rwanda, done some pro bono domestic violence work [in New York] as well. This seemed like a good opportunity and I thought I could use my experience both as a judge, and in administration.

What do you think are the most important programs offered by The Retreat?

Well, there’s the core programs we offer; we have the shelter and with that we have the 24-hour crisis hotline, and advocacy services for when survivors go to court, as well as violence protection programs. But there are a lot of other programs for people who aren’t in our shelter, and people in the community. We have counseling programs at our office here; we do work with the youth in schools including an educational program about healthy relationships. There’s also a program in high schools to prevent physical violence in relationships. There are also programs that work with fathers in order to educate fathers who might be at risk. That’s a program we’ve had now for a couple of years. I know people are surprised we work with men, but the idea is to work to prevent violence, it’s kind of a re-education for them. And it’s all free.

But we’ve also been working on a campus security program in Nassau County which is going to extend to Suffolk County Community College. So it’s not just family violence that we deal with. We can make a difference. What I’d like to do is strengthen our programs and expand our outreach.

How are you planning on doing both those things?

What I’d like to do is strengthen our programs, and expand our outreach. We have our big fundraiser coming up in June and that really helps us a lot. We do get a lot of grants, but if we didn’t have our contributions we wouldn’t be able to survive. But I think we should have some more community awareness events.

Last week there was an event in Sag Harbor with the Neo-Political Cowgirls: One Billion Rising. It was a great event; there were testimonials, lots of artists and musicians. It was a great community event, it brought awareness; donations were accepted. It was free! Everyone just provided everything: their services, their music, their dancing, the space. It was a really positive and personal evening; I was really impressed with how the community came together.

The Retreat has offices at 13 Goodfriend Drive in East Hampton, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It also has legal advocates and counselors available. For more information, or to volunteer, call (631) 329-4398. The confidential 24-hour hotline number is (631) 329-2200.



Mattituck Junior Girl Scouts Donate Handmade Blankets to East Hampton’s The Retreat

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To support the East End’s domestic violence services and educational programs, the Mattituck Junior Girl Scout Troop 1334 created more than 30 handmade blankets and welcome bags for children staying at The Retreat’s residential shelter for women and children in East Hampton.

“We always have children staying in our shelter and we are so grateful to be able to give them security blankets and welcome bags when they arrive,” shelter director Minerva Perez said. “Many times, women and children come to us for help with nothing and to be able to give them something they can keep is so important to us.”

The Retreat provides safety and support for those dealing with domestic abuse by offering a 24-hour hotline, shelter, counseling, advocacy, educational programs, housing assistance and more. The residential shelter housed 58 women and 59 children from the East End in 2013. For more information, visit theretreatinc.org.





East End Weekend: Top Picks for What To Do

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Andrew Wyeth, Sail Loft, 1983, Watercolor on paper, 22 x 29 ½ inches.

Andrew Wyeth, Sail Loft, 1983, Watercolor on paper, 22 x 29 ½ inches.

By Tessa Raebeck

The weather’s supposed to be perfect this weekend, why not end a long day at the beach with a great evening out? Here are some entertainment ideas for this weekend on the East End:


Rosé Week at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard

Running Friday, June 20 through Thursday, June 26, the Wölffer Estate Vineyard is celebrating its specialty: Rosé, or “summer in a bottle,” as the vineyard calls it.

Wölffer No. 139 dry rosé hard cider.

Wölffer No. 139 dry rosé hard cider.

On Friday at 8 p.m. at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, the winery’s famed vintage will be available before the Rufus Wainwright concert. For tickets, visit whbpac.org.

The rosé travels Saturday to the Group for the East End’s “Here Comes the Sun!” benefit, at the vineyard from 6 to 11 p.m. The fairly new and equally delicious No. 139 Rosé Cider will be poured for gala guests. For information and tickets, visit groupfortheeastend.org.

Rounding out the weekend—but not the rosé week, which goes till Wednesday—on Sunday on the lawn of the Wölffer residence, “A Taste of Provence” lunch from 1 to 4 p.m. will give guests not just a taste of rosé, but also of a grand meal prepared by Chef Christian Mir of the Stone Creek Inn. The event is reserved for Wölffer Wine Club Members.

For more information on rosé week, visit wolffer.com.


“Under the Influence” at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum

Pairing contemporary artists’ works with those of the artists who have inspired them, “Under the Influence” offers a collection of masters and mentees at the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum.

Curated by local gallery owner Peter J. Marcelle, the exhibition explores the relationship between nine contemporary artists and the greats whose influence got them started.

The pairs, with the contemporary artist first, are: Terry Elkins with Andrew Wyeth, Eric Ernst with William Baziotes, Cornelia Foss with Larry Rivers, Steve Miller with Andy Warhol, Dan Rizzie with Donald Sultan, Stephen Schaub with Alfred Stieglitz, Mike Viera with Eric Fischl and Gavin Zeigler with William Scharf.

An opening reception is Friday, June 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum, located at 200 Main Street in Sag Harbor. All sales benefit the museum. For more information, call (631) 613-6170.


Artists Against Abuse to Benefit The Retreat

To benefit The Retreat, the domestic violence services agency in East Hampton, Artists Against Abuse will be held in Bridgehampton Saturday, June 21.

The event, with the theme of Midsummer Night Fever, brings artists, philanthropists and residents from across the East End together in support of The Retreat, eastern Long Island’s only comprehensive domestic violence services organization.

The event will feature Congressman Tim Bishop and actress and social advocate Rachel Grant.

“The World Health Organization reports that in some countries, up to 70 percent of women report having been victims of domestic violence at some stage in their lives,” said Congressman Tim Bishop in a press release. “I have always been a strong advocate for the needs and rights of women. Women play integral roles in the global community and they deserve to be treated with respect by their male counterparts.

The benefit begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Ross School Lower Campus Field House on Butter Lane in Bridgehampton. For more information, visit artistsagainstabuse.com.


Shop Til You Drop for Katy’s Courage

Looking for a good reason to shop? Katy’s Courage, a not-for-profit in honor of Katy Stewart, a beloved Sag Harbor resident who passed away at age 12 from a rare form of liver cancer, invites you to shop ‘til you drop for a good cause.

On Saturday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Sequin in Southampton will be serving cocktails while shoppers browse through designer Gabby Sabharwal’s new swimsuit line, Giejo, and create their own necklaces.

Sequin is located at 20 Jobs Lane in Southampton. For more information, call (631) 353-3137.

Girl Scouts Learn to “Fight to Survive” at Sag Harbor Self-Defense Workshop

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Cecilia Blowe practices her palm-strikes as Sensei Michelle Del Giorno supervises at a self-defense workshop organized by Girl Scout Troop 1480 and co-hosted by The Retreat and Epic Martial Arts in Sag Harbor on February 25. Photo by Michael Heller.

Girl Scout Cecilia Blowe practices her palm-strikes as Sensei Michelle Del Giorno looks on at a self-defense workshop organized by Girl Scout Troop 1480 and co-hosted by The Retreat and Epic Martial Arts in Sag Harbor on February 25. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about one-fifth of high school girls report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average, according to the Department of Justice.

With those statistics in mind, Senior Girl Scout Troop 1480 of Sag Harbor organized a workshop to educate themselves on self-defense methods and raise awareness about the prevalence of violence against women. “There’s so many unexpected things that can happen and the rate is really high,” said Ariana Moustakas, a 15-year-old from Sag Harbor.

On Tuesday, 15 girls from East Hampton and Southampton attended a class at Epic Martial Arts in Sag Harbor, an event sponsored by the troop. Troop leader Diane Bucking asked Sensei Michelle Del Giorno to lead the workshop, and Ms. Del Giorno enlisted the aid of The Retreat, asking participants to give a suggested donation for the East Hampton center for victims of domestic violence. Telling the girls “silence breeds violence,” Helen Atkinson-Barnes of The Retreat was on hand Tuesday with information and resources.

The idea stemmed from “Girlstopia,” a book Girl Scouts use to envision community service projects and take “a leadership journey toward an ideal world for girls.” According to “Girlstopia,” violence causes more death and disability worldwide among women ages five to 44 than war, cancer, malaria or traffic accidents.

“I realized that I’ve got two high school girls who live in a very small town and they’re going to be going off to college and need to have a few skills to keep themselves safe,” said Ms. Bucking.

“You never know what to expect when you’re out of East Hampton and you’re at a new college, so knowing self-defense mechanisms is really helpful,” agreed Laura Field, a 17-year-old senior at East Hampton High School who attended the workshop.

“You could be walking down the street and you could get attacked,” added Ariana. “You think it’s not going to happen, but it could happen to you and you need to know what to do.”

Sensei Del Giorno started the workshop by telling the girls self-defense has many forms, such as putting your seatbelt on and eating healthy. “But right now,” she said, “we’re going to focus on physical self-defense, safety and awareness and really being out there and being focused in the world, paying attention.”

Telling the girls no one can protect yourself as well as you can, Sensei Del Giorno said you must be aware and suspicious at all times. She said to walk with confidence with your head up, looking others in the eye. “If you feel in danger, if you feel threatened, you use your voice and you put your hands up,” she said.

“I think it’s good for all these girls to be aware of their surroundings, the dangers that are out there, and be prepared to address them if they have to. They have to be confident,” said Linda Blowe, a troop leader whose 16-year-old daughter, Cecilia, attended the workshop.

When confidence and awareness fail to deter an attacker, however, the physical fight must kick in.

Sensei Del Giorno told girls to trust their gut instinct. “If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If the guy looks like a creep, he probably is,” she said. “If you think it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Get out.”

“None of this working?” Sensei Del Giorno asked the girls. “Good. Then you know what you have to do. You have to jam your fingernails through his eyeballs and kick him here and kick his ass—’cause that’s what you need to do to survive,” she said, with “here” referring to the groin area.

“You have the value in you, you’re worth it, you have to fight to survive,” she said.

Middle School Focuses On Those Three Little Words

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PS I Love You adjusted

By Claire Walla

The P.S. I Love You campaign was started last year by a high school student in West Islip, Brooke DiPalma, whose father committed suicide in 2010. His last words to his daughter were: I love you.

According to Pierson eighth grader and student council member Sheila Mackey, DiPalma’s school banded together after the event and wore purple to express their support for her in her difficult circumstance.

“She said she walked into a sea of purple,” explained Mackey who, along with other student council members, had heard DiPalma speak earlier this year at an anti-bullying conference they attended. “And that’s what we wanted to do here.”

“And we did!” Alex Kamper, the student council president, added.

In the vein of what DiPalma began at her school, the Pierson Middle School Student Council have successfully managed to create what they refer to as an atmosphere of support at Pierson. Last Friday, the middle school student body was unified with a sea of purple clothing and individual lockers were decorated with purple post-it notes bearing those three little words.

Purple is actually the national color for abuse prevention, said Helen Atkinson-Barnes of The Retreat, a domestic violence agency on the East End. Atkinson-Barnes was on-hand during the student-led activities last Friday, but she’d also been a presence on the Pierson campus the first two weeks in February, leading talks for seventh and tenth grade students on the elements of healthy relationships on behalf of The Retreat.

Student council members first learned about P.S. I Love You this past fall when they attended an anti-bullying conference put on by the Holocaust Center in Commack. In addition to presentations by DiPalma — who made a YouTube video about her struggle, and the good that eventually came of it — students watched a video made by a teen who had been bullied and became suicidal.

As part of their P.S. I Love You campaign, the Pierson students wanted to show these videos to their classmates.

“You could see jaws drop in the audience,” said Mackey.

She went on to explain that student council members also came up with a concept of their own, called “mix-it-up at lunch,” where students sat in groups according to their birth months, rather than their peer groups. The concept, Mackey continued, was to get students to mingle and learn about classmates they’ve never really talked to before.

Her fellow councilmember Ariana Moustakas said their goal was to raise awareness about these issues and encourage students to exercise more tolerance.

“We want to use this day to influence people,” she began. “Because when everyone’s nice to each other, it makes a big difference.”

“The kids seemed a lot nicer,” Mackey added. “I definitely want to bring it up to the high school.”

Exploring Ways to Combat Bullying

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By Claire Walla

Karen Ross, the director of non-residential services for The Retreat, came to the Hampton Library last Thursday, October 20 for a discussion on bullying.

Bullying has recently become a much talked about topic across the country. In addition to this being national anti-bullying month, the federal government has recently passed the “Dignity for All Students Act,” which will require all public schools to have anti-bullying measures in place by July of 2012.

“We really have to change the environment of the schools,” Ross explained. “From the administration to the cafeteria staff, everyone needs to be trained to handle bullying in the same way.”

One of the first things she did at the presentation was pass out a piece of paper with a collection of drawings featuring kids with a full spectrum of expressions spread across their faces. It depicts a diagram known as “The Bullying Circle.” The momentum moves counter-clockwise from angry-looking Bullies and smiling Active Supporters, to rather aloof Disengaged Onlookers and fervent Defenders. The Targets, looking rather downcast, stand in the middle with their head bowed down.

“A lot of people think there’s just a bully, and the person who’s being bullied,” Ross explained. “But everyone here on this page is participating,” she said, pointing to the black-and-white figures on the page.

Ross’ presentation last week did not attract a large crowd, but she was able to draw from the experiences of those in attendance to punctuate her point.

Dan and Darlene Claud — the father and aunt of a high school student at Southampton High School who they say has been suffering from physical abuse and verbal taunts from a bully at his school for over a year —came to hear Ross speak because, as Darlene said, “we’re at our wits’ end.”

She and her brother expressed frustration that the school district has not been able to prevent the bullying their family has experienced.

“We’ve been doing so much it’s kind of overwhelming,” Darlene went on. “A few weeks ago we went to the school board and told them how we felt. It drew a little attention, it at least made [the school district] react, but it’s not necessarily going to provide a better environment at the school.”

Alluding to “The Bullying Cycle,” Ross emphasized that many more students are involved in bullying than the bully and his or her victim. And in that sense, she said, one of the best ways to prevent bullying is to change the culture of a school district so that more students will step in to stop bullying when they see it occur.

“If we can get some kids in the school who are acting as leaders to educate their peers on these different levels,” she explained, “It might help the situation.”

Ross said students like Rashida Perez — who also attended last Thursday’s discussion — are exactly the type of student that would benefit Darlene Claud’s nephew to have around.

Perez, who is currently participating in The Retreat’s Teen Leadership Program, is a junior at Bridgehampton High School, spoke about incidences of bullying she has witnessed at her school. According to Perez, last year there was a fight at her school between two students.

“People knew it was going to happen and they didn’t say anything,” she explained. “I got up and got in front of them and yelled, ‘Stop!,’” she continued. “I was the only one doing something.”

When Ross asked Perez why she suspected no other students stepped in to prevent the fight, Perez responded: “Everyone wants to be ‘in,’ they want to do what everyone else is doing.”

“I think it’s important for everyone to know what bullying is. You really have to get out there and stand up for everyone,” she added. “It’s like a domino effect. If one person stands up, others will.”

A Conversation About Violence

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With the Public Service Announcement competition at local schools on dating violence prevention, The Retreat once again proves their ability to engage the community in a thoughtful, topical and meaningful way. By placing budding students in charge of crafting a short PSA film, the young adults are the ones who control the content. They will no doubt find a message that speaks to their modern experiences of dating instead of regurgitating the stale facts found in any cheesy early 1990s PSA, in which the bad acting and outmoded fashions are laughable. These are the youth growing up in the age of “sexting.” Pornography is no longer relegated to a curtained backroom of a seedy store but can be accessed in a matter of seconds with the click of a mouse. We would be naive to presume that before the Internet teenagers weren’t engaging in sexual behavior. Of course they were, but their outlet for exploring these feelings was vastly different than today. With that being said, education on teen dating needs to be updated to meet the changing times and technology.

We hope these films do not solely focus on young women as victims or potential prey. When almost a third of girls in a relationship have been pressured to have sex or engage in sexual acts, prevention needs to also start with examining male behavior and their perceptions of women. This issue is much larger than the East End and needs to be addressed as a nation. Time and time again we see evidence of our cultural obsession with female sexuality and chastity without looking at the exploits of their male counterparts. Why do fathers chaperone their pre-pubescent daughters to purity balls in which the girls wear all white and promise to save themselves before marriage, while there is no such initiation process for young men? Why is it that Tiger Woods is labeled a philanderer while his army of girlfriends on the side are looked at as whores? Woods behavior was in fact quite promiscuous if you think about it. 

In their infinite wisdom, The Retreat also handles this thorny issue through a program called Structured Help Antiviolence Re-education Program, “a group for men who are physically, verbally and/or emotionally abusive toward their partners.” This is one of the few courses we have seen to openly challenge male behavior. If The Retreat is able to continue their diligent work, we hope at least in our area the dialogue surrounding dating violence will change course.

Public Service Announcement Competition Hits Local Schools

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One in three teenagers has reported experiencing a form of physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse from their boyfriend or girlfriend with almost a third of girls involved in a relationship reporting they have been pressured to have sex or engage in uncomfortable sexual behavior, according to the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

And according to Stacey Bellem, the director of agency programming at The Retreat in East Hampton, these statistics likely represent the reality of dating violence on the South Fork.

“Those numbers are pretty accurate and we are seeing, in general, a rise in domestic violence,” said Bellem.

Which is part of the reason why The Retreat has launched a formal Public Service Announcement competition between students in area schools as part of its dating violence and awareness prevention campaign. As of press time, high school students from Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, Southampton and likely the Ross School are slated to spend the next three months developing short videos centered on the theme of dating violence prevention.

Bellem said the hope is to provide students with an opportunity to teach each other about the perils of dating violence, a lesson that may have more of an impact coming from their peers rather than their high school health teacher.

Students are encouraged, said Bellem, to work in small groups of two to four students in creating the videos with their media arts and health teachers working cooperatively with students to flesh out the content. The videos will be judged on impact, creativity and on the understanding of the many facets of teen dating violence. Members of the Retreat administration and board of directors as well as celebrity “friends” will judge final submissions. The top three finalists will be invited to The Retreat’s Artists Against Abuse Gala in June where the first place winner will be announced.

“We wanted to create a program that can get youth involved, engage the community on this subject and make it a fun, creative event,” said Bellem. The Retreat launched the competition this week, noted Bellem, on the heels of the announcement that Congress and New York State have proclaimed February Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Working with local schools towards violence prevention is not new for The Retreat, which presents violence prevention education programs in all local schools, including programs geared towards elementary and middle school students like “Hands Are Not For Hitting” and “Respect You, Respect Me.”

With the rise of the Internet and use of mobile phones amongst children and teens, a cyber-bullying prevention program has also been developed for local schools.

“In the middle schools we work a lot on bullying and early prevention,” said Bellem. “We really want to reach the kids before they start dating.”

So far, once teens start dating, the state and national statistics are jarring. In addition to basic statistics on sexual pressure and physical violence in teen relationships, more than one-fourth of teens in relationships said they have been put down by their partners.

According to statistics out of New York City, almost 11 percent of teenage girls reported experiencing physical dating violence, up 50 percent from statistics reported in 1999. The Retreat is working with Suffolk Community College’s Riverhead campus and Stony Brook-Southampton to develop comprehensive statistics on the prevalence of dating violence on the East End, which Bellem predicted would model national and state statistics.

She added that in an effort to reach a new, technologically savvy generation of teens, The Retreat has also been creating multi-media lectures on issues like high school teen violence and the media’s effect on gender identities.

However, it is Bellem’s hope that the peer-to-peer communication the PSA competition will foster will lend to a deeper understanding amongst high school students about dating violence.

“They are in the same age group,” she said. “They are relatable, they speak the same language.”

Non-Profits Share Strategies at Social Services Summit

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web summit

By Georgia Suter

Conquering financial concerns and finding ways to share resources were among the subjects  discussed  at the first East End Social Service Summit, which brought numerous local non-profits into the same room for the first time.

The lulling economy has resulted in substantial drops in governmental assistance and private donations for the non-profit organizations, many of which are seeing significant increases in demand for their services as stress levels rise and incidents of domestic violence and substance abuse grow. The Richard Demato Gallery and The Retreat for women of domestic violence co-sponsored a gathering for the organizations last week, as a means of addressing financial challenges and exploring possible areas for collaboration. The President of The Retreat, Richard Demato, along with the organization’s executive director, Jeff Friedman, have been thinking creatively about ways to involve the community and other like-minded organizations in their efforts, now that East Hampton Town has cut them out of its budget.

“The reality is none of us can stand alone today. You simply cannot depend on outside financial resources– you have to find creative ways to involve the community in the work that you do…on Friday, if we can pick up a couple ideas from one another, it will be a success,” Demato stated in an interview last week.

Improving the level of interaction between local non-profits and connecting over common goals was at the heart of the Social Service Summit on Friday.

Attending the conference were representatives from numerous non-profit organizations including the East End Arts Council, the Wellness Foundation, The East Hampton Department of Human Service’s Communities that Care program, the Southampton Animal Shelter and the YMCA, among others. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was also in attendance.

Demato, also a gallery owner, opened up his exhibition space in Sag Harbor for the event and began by sharing some of his own insights on creative marketing and fundraising. Among their new strategies to raise awareness, The Retreat will be doing seven, free television shows through LTV, which is something Demato has suggested to other groups. Demato also spoke openly about his past efforts to draw support—radio ads, art gallery contests and wine tastings all widened the Retreat’s listening base.

The summit, which quickly evolved into a discussion-based question and answer session, helped to wash away any feelings of competition amongst the various agencies and bring light to their overlapping needs. Sharing experiences with financial struggle led to a number of proposed solutions for saving money, including the idea of pooling resources like public transportation and sharing therapy personnel to cut down on staffing insurance costs. The Bridgehampton Head Start Program, for example, doesn’t currently have enough buses to transport all of their kids to and from school. Likewise, a representative from a local church shared that they have 25 bed-bound seniors who want to go to Mass, but the church doesn’t have a van to get them there. One representative suggested writing a collective grant so that two or more organizations might be able to share one vehicle. Demato emphasized the advantages that come with this kind of collaboration, noting that with a collective proposal, the agencies can hit more targets with one strike and imply more urgency, as a larger need for the service is presented.

In addition to financial strategies, new ideas for positive interaction between the agencies were proposed. One representative suggested bringing animals from the Southampton Shelter to visit children at the Retreat. A member of the Wellness Foundation proposed organizing collective events such as a health fair, which could cover overlapping health issues and result in a positive cross over of people.

“We will all tap into a larger community, and we’ll be much more difficult to ignore,” Demato remarked.

At the core of the conference was an emphasis on raising awareness around the community. Demato spoke early on about the misperceptions that many people have about East Hampton, noting that in the past The Retreat has even been mistaken as being a spa or resort site.

 “People mistake East Hampton for a rich society that doesn’t have abuse, so it’s critical that we talk and share and realize that there are common problems…” Demato explained.

Keeping in touch and staying connected was a critical subject of discussion as the meeting came to a close. Several representatives expressed the desire to meet on a monthly basis—The Bay Street Theater has already offered up their space to host the next gathering. Communicating through an interactive web forum and creating a regular email newsletter were also proposed methods of maintaining contact, as was an umbrella non-profit Facebook group which has, in fact, already been launched online, as the ‘East End Providers Alliance.’ Demato expressed the importance of making such connections to help spread the word about one’s cause and expand the overall reach of support groups.

 “Sharing what you’re committed to doing is infectious,” he said. “Each new person, each volunteer, brings a new group of people.” 

Richard Demato

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The President of The Retreat talks about the effect of the recession on domestic violence, what the not-for-profit has done to stay afloat amid declining governmental assistance and why he thinks local organizations should start working together.

The East End Social Service Summit has been billed as a gathering of local not-for-profits with the ultimate goal of groups developing symbiotic relationships. Where did this idea come from and what do you truly hope this evening will accomplish?

It is a concept that just fell into my head. I felt [The Retreat] had a difficult time and we worked hard to come up with some unique concepts to take care of our agency. I feel, and [The Retreat’s Executive Director] Jeff Friedman agrees, that we have our unique ideas and other organizations have their ideas and if we share them successfully we could all benefit. Although we go to the government for funding, we cannot depend on the towns and the villages to assist us. We do need their money, but East Hampton Town cut us out entirely and if we didn’t do something creative the agency could have really been hurt. Instead, we are doing seven television shows through LTV, which is something I would suggest to other groups including the new Southampton Animal Shelter. It is free, it reaches the East Hampton market and they will give you a copy of the show, which you can submit to other not-for-profit television stations.  As you raise awareness about your organization, as The Retreat has been able to do through the newspaper, you get more and more support. It is critical to clarify the purpose of your not-for-profit and bring awareness to the community and the return is you will find a group that is interested in your organization. And it’s not just financial interest. I have five or six friends that now volunteer for The Retreat. I want to hear what other groups have done and if each of us can pick up one idea, we win. This is only the tip of the iceberg for us. The Retreat is looking to start a program for men and boys. Right now, we can’t shelter men because our shelter is a woman-protected shelter, but we do get calls and we want to be able to address that need as well. That program would be comprehensive – outreach, prevention, education and counseling. We are also trying to take advantage of the housing market to look into creating transitional housing. The point is we are trying to do different things, but someone else might have another good idea. Creativity brings more creativity.

National statistics show that during times of economic crisis, domestic violence rises. Has The Retreat seen this statistic become a reality in the last two years?

We were at full capacity at the end of last year with a waiting list. We had to refer people to other organizations. The unfortunate fact is this puts pressure on individuals prone to violence and the police back us up on this point. There is a direct link to crime, to drinking and drug abuse during a recession. We have started small groups called SOS on Shelter Island because there was a need and I was there when [Shelter Island Police Chief James Read] spoke. He made it clear, the relation between loss of income, people being laid off, the increase of drinking and drug use and how that can result in violence. It is a tough time for a lot of people. I don’t think a lot of people understand how bad it is, particularly in the construction industry. On a positive note, a lot of people, including financial analysts are sating we are starting to come out of the downturn. The real estate market is getting busy again, the inventory of houses is declining.

After a tenuous financial hold in 2008, it appears The Retreat will be closing its books in 2010 in the black. What do you attribute this to?

Several things. I was fairly aggressive with the board of The Retreat and we came to the unanimous decision to assist the agency. We doubled [our contribution] as a group and that helped. One member bought us a new computer system. Another woman paid for a new person to work at the shelter and all that stuff comes out of the annual budget. It was good stuff. All the radio ads, the art gallery contests, the road rally, the wine tasting we did, each one widens our listening base and elevates the opportunities for us to get more assistance, whether its volunteerism or financial.

The Retreat is the only organization on the East End devoted to preventing domestic violence and helping its victims. How is the organization able to cover such a large area of need?

The staff is extremely focused as is our executive director and they all work 24-7, responding to e-mails and calls even on the weekends. We also opened a larger satellite office near the courthouse in Riverhead this year, which accomplished several things for us. When people hear we are from East Hampton, they assume we don’t need money. Roverhead offers a different economic perspective for people. I was talking to the head of a charity in Westhampton Beach that helps animals and they experienced the same problem because people could not understand that they help all the way out here. We also hired more people because the executive director and the staff wrote strong grant proposals that enabled us to have the funding to bring more people on board and we still finished in the black because people have donated their time to us. If we have three volunteers working, perhaps a staff member can focus on another area of need. No one does just one thing – our staff is versatile, taking on several different roles. I think it is that way at a lot of not-for-profits because you are not just working for the paycheck. There are emotional bonds and most of them appreciate the work they do. At a board meeting the other day, Jeff [Friedman] played a phone message – without revealing the woman’s name – from someone we gave a car to. We have been doing that more as we have gotten car donations as a result of the car rally and it just changes someone’s life. It gives them independence. A lot of people don’t understand why women don’t leave these bad situations and generally it is because they have no money, no car, nowhere to go. Just this can give someone the opportunity to go get work and have independence. It just can mean everything.

Is it your hope that other not-for-profits will be able to take similar techniques after Friday’s meeting in order to further their own work?

The whole idea is for us to be extremely transparent with all the non profits about what we have done, because if we are not I do not believe they will be comfortable sharing their own insights with us. The intention is to be completely honest and that I believe honesty is contagious. For example, we will tell them about the different grant opportunities we are looking at, how we were able to motivate our own board to help the agency more than they already had and I will explain how I plan to make it even better next year; although I will keep that to myself until Friday. But I do have some interesting ideas.

Outside of sharing ideas, do you see an opportunity for not-for-profits to connect over common goals during Friday’s summit?

Absolutely. That is exactly what I am hoping for. The reality is none of us can stand alone today. You simply cannot depend on outside financial resources – you have to find creative ways to involve the community in the work you do. I look at what is going on in Haiti and the success with texting donations. After seeing the impact that has had, I approached The Retreat and suggested we set up a similar system so people can use their phones to donate $10, $20 to our cause. You have to learn from everything around you, and on Friday, if we can pick up a couple ideas from one another, it will be a success.

Outside of not-for-profits, do you expect other guests to attend Friday’s meeting?

I believe Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman will be there as well as New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Is it your hope having government leaders there will help them to understand the level of need for local organizations on the East End?

I think being familiar and comfortable with one another and having them be aware of what we are doing will help ultimately with funding. We have to create ways for people to be involved with our organizations and for The Retreat, having Jay or Fred there goes a long way towards showing that men care about our cause as well as women and that is a major, major thing for us.

The Retreat has been a huge part of your life for a number of years now. What drew you to the organization in such a dedicated way?

Several things. First of all, I tend to get involved with anything I am committed to – it’s the same at my gallery [ The Richard J. Demato Gallery on Main Street in Sag Harbor]. I also have five younger sisters, two of which have lived the life of women we have helped at The Retreat. A neighbor sold me some raffle tickets one day and I went to the event. I saw I could make a difference. At the time they did not have anyone with a business background and with my knowledge of marketing and business it just was a perfect marriage. The Retreat has given me something to be proud of. This is a very special group of people. They are all little diamonds.

The East End Social Service Summit will be held at the Richard J. Demato Gallery, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor, from 5:30 to 7:30 on Friday, January 22. Registration is required and seating is very limited. To register call 329-4398 or e-mail Kathy@theretreatinc.org.