‘We are teaching people about the poverty that exists out in the Hamptons, and that is part of the battle.’
“I was born and raised in Sweden and had never seen poverty there. When I moved out here with my husband and two children from New York City in 2015. I thought the Hamptons was a place where everyone was doing well.
“I quickly learned there are children who have nothing to do all summer and don’t have enough food at home. They’d spend summer in the back of their parents’ car waiting for them to be done with work or in front of the TV all day by themselves. This inspired me to start Hamptons Art Camp, a free summer camp for underserved children.
“My goal was and still is to give them opportunities typically only afforded by privileged children. The first summer, we hosted 40 kids. Last summer we had over 140.
“When the pandemic hit, I reached out to the different communities in which I work as a social worker and asked how I could help. I visited migrant camps, people living in the woods, people sleeping behind churches and reached out to community leaders, and all of them said they needed food.
“In 2020, I fundraised $250,000 and about $70,000 in food donations. I identified struggling restaurants and used the fundraised dollars to buy meals from them. We delivered 6,500 cooked meals purchased from restaurants, 19,500 pounds of fresh produce and groceries bi-monthly to 250 families.
“At that time, we morphed into Hamptons Community Outreach. Through 2021, we kept fundraising and received donations through grants, family foundations, clubs and individuals which totaled $690,000. With that money, we added on programs to help with needs that we discovered while delivering the food.
“People would ask me to see how they lived. They were living with black toxic mold, no heat, collapsing ceilings, without proper flooring. I was just appalled and horrified, so we started a housing repair program. Also, parents would tell me their children were falling through the cracks at school, so we started a tutoring program.
“People also asked for medical help, which made us start a medical program which pays for surgeries and dental procedures. We also added a birthday club to help children celebrate their birthday.
“We have kept growing and now have four programs: a food program that feeds 400 people a week; a mental health program; a crisis program that includes home repair, medical services and restoring vital services such as electricity and phone service; and a child-centered outreach program that includes tutoring for 36 children weekly, a birthday club and the summer camp.
“It also includes winter coat, clothing and shoe distributions and more to children in need. Hamptons Community Outreach only has two full-time employees, but we have contractors and a large, amazing group of volunteers.
Interviewed by Liza Burby