“At my age, you make every minute count and I do,” said Rita Wasserman. At 87 years young, she will be accepting a Lifetime Community Achievement Award from the Ellen Hermanson Foundation at the In The Pink fundraiser on Saturday, March 30, in recognition of her service across the East End. “I’m a thirsty person to learn and to be involved,” she added.
As a Brooklyn native, which is heard clearly in her take-charge accent, Wasserman was an active member growing up in her multicultural neighborhood. By age 14, she accepted a medal for community service and, four years later, in high school, earned that same honor. It’s no surprise that today Wasserman remains active across various non-profits on the East End ever since her move from Westchester to Springs in 2000.
She became involved with Guild Hall, serving as a lead usher for over 10 years, and Bay Street Theater, where she began scheduling volunteers, in 2002. Additionally, her time is split between the Coalition for Women’s Cancers in Southampton, Defend H2O Organization in Sag Harbor, and the Hamptons International Film Festival. She also works with Susie Barry Roden on the annual Girls Night Out at Gurney’s Montauk to benefit The Coalition for Women’s Cancers.
Proving that age is just a number, Wasserman is a member of the Springs Citizen Advisory Committee and served on the East Hampton Democratic Committee for years as a poll watcher, and hosted meet-and-greets with candidates in her home. She is also an active supporter of the East Hampton Library, Slow Food East End, Wellness Foundation, and the Neo-Political Cowgirls.
Wasserman has tirelessly proven to be a true pillar in the community for the better part of two decades.
The Ellen Hermanson Foundation is unique in its commitment to helping breast cancer patients and their families cope with the physical and emotional aspects of breast cancer. No patient is turned away from the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital for lack of insurance or inability to pay for treatment. All services though Ellen’s Well, which includes breast cancer support groups, are provided free of charge.
Wasserman became familiar with the Ellen Hermanson Foundation as a breast cancer patient. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2003. “I had to go to Riverhead five days a week for six weeks and the foundation helped me with taxis, cleaning help . . . they were unbelievable,” she recalled. “I made up my mind then that I would do everything and anything I could do for them.”
Now cancer free, she continues to be involved in the foundation. “I’m so honored and beyond appreciative,” she added.
Cancer patients on the South Fork will soon no longer need to drive to Riverhead for treatment. A new state-of-the-art Phillips Family Cancer Center is scheduled to open at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. This much-needed facility will have full-service access to chemotherapy and cancer treatment.
Founder of the foundation, Julie Ratner, noted, “2018 was a wonderful year for us. We gave away $285,000 and it all stayed here in our community. We were able to make a wonderful gift to the hospital and a good portion to Ellen’s Well.” The foundation pledged 10 chemotherapy chairs to the new building at a cost of $10,000 per chair. “We wanted a significant role in the cancer center,” Ratner added.
In the Pink, which will raise money for both the Ellen Hermanson Foundation at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and Ellen’s Well, will be a multi-chef tasting featuring 230 Elm Productions, 1 North Steakhouse, Art of Eating, Cowfish, DeJesus Deli & Taqueria, Erica’s Rugelach & Baking Co., The Golden Pear Cafe, Hampton Coffee Company, Hamptons Farms, Julie Bakes, Poppin Patties, Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs, Saaz Indian Cuisine, South Fork Bakery, Stuart’s Seafood Market, and The Maidstone Hotel. Guests will enjoy an open bar and music by the New Orleans inspired party band, The HooDoo Loungers.
“The band is honored to be part of this wonderful benefit. We will do our best to make it a celebration to be remembered,” said Joe Lauro, manager and band member of The HooDoo Loungers. There will also be a silent auction and live auction led by Angela LaGreca, an award-winning comedian and Emmy award-winning television producer, as well as the new creative director of LTV in East Hampton.
“We’re always looking for ways to make our events new and exciting. The HooDoo Loungers are just infectious. They have such great energy and music. Everyone’s going to want to get up and dance and party. Rita Wasserman is the unofficial mayor the Hamptons. She’s so involved in the community. She knows everyone and has been a cheerleader for who we are and what we do,” said Ratner. “The mission is serious, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a drag to get there. Breast cancer is merely a word; it’s not a death sentence.”
In The Pink will be held at 230 Elm in Southampton from 6:30 to 10 PM. To purchase tickets, visit www.ellenhermanson.org.