The Winter Benefit in Southampton raises funds for homeless outreach

Maureen’s Haven Warms Hearts As Temps Drop

Maureen’s Haven will host its inaugural Winter Benefit on Saturday, December 1, from 6 to 9 PM at Seasons of Southampton. Once known as the North Fork’s Reason to Wine event, it has changed names and is now on the South Fork for the first time. Guests will enjoy an evening of light bites, wine, silent auction, and dancing to music by DJ Michael and East End Entertainment.

This year’s location was chosen by board member and event chair Russell Blue. “I have been trying for several years to have an event on the South Fork,” he said. “It’s been a while in the making, and we are lucky to have it at such a magnificent venue. We hope that the local community will come out and support us with an overwhelming turnout, and make this a successful fundraiser that will become a tradition in our neighborhood.”

The benefit raises awareness and funds for Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach program, the East End’s sole homeless advocacy group that spans both forks. The hub is located in Riverhead, with over 20 participating houses of worship from Westhampton to Montauk, Riverhead to Greenport. Together as a community they provide shelter, meals, clothing, supportive services, and altruistic care for those in need — collecting donations, setting up cots, cooking homemade meals, and more.

At the Kay Kidde Achievement Center in Riverhead, named after board member emeritus Kay Kidde, the homeless have access to year-round services such as food, toiletries, clothing, use of restrooms, phones, and TV. In addition, there are a variety of programs offered. Guests can obtain GED preparation, computer skills, learn how to manage finances, get job training, and receive mail.

Executive Director Dan O’Shea noted, “On the case management side, we help on an individual basis. We do an intake and ask them what’s the goal. Everyone has a different goal and we try our best to meet that need.” The staff and volunteers help those in need navigate situations that can be very difficult to do without proper resources, such as obtaining housing, medical insurance, or scheduling a job search. “At the end of the day, we’re all supporting a great mission.”

With licensed social workers and a mental health counselor on staff twice a week, the center is the first of its kind in Suffolk County. There’s even a foot clinic on Wednesdays, in partnership with the Eastern Suffolk BOCES nursing students.

Emilia Klonowski has been Maureen’s Haven chair for three years. “I’ve always been a patient advocate and homeless advocate,” she said. “I had worked with homeless men that were mentally ill in graduate school and I always said one day I am going to give back. Everybody says they don’t have enough time but I said I am going to make the time to do this,” she explained.

Klonowski envisions a transitional house as part of Maureen’s Haven’s future. “They come in from very different circumstances,” she said of the program’s clients. “Each of them has basic needs but they all have their unique circumstances.” It’s up to the staff to evaluate each client’s need. “That’s what we’re best at. We have a compassionate team; we’re a smiling face,” she said.

The Maureen’s Haven Program was created in 2002, modeled after the Room In The Inn program in Nashville, TN, meeting the needs of homeless men and women during the coldest months. In winter, Maureen’s Haven sees up to 30 people a day. Last year, the winter shelter program saw over 100 individuals and over 2400 used the program’s resources during the season. It is sometimes the only place people have to go during the harshest weather of the year.

“A guest was here last season, in between jobs before moving down south,” O’Shea reminisced. “He had about two weeks while the move was going on with some time on his hands and he was in here every day helping out.” O’Shea takes pride in watching his staff aiding those in need directly. “I joined the organization like many other people, feeling that this was the place I could make a direct impact. The thing I noticed about Maureen’s Haven is that once you become a part of it, whether you’re a guest, volunteer, or staff member, you tend to get very attached to the organization and the folks.”

Everyone at Maureen’s Haven humbly thanks those who have helped in all of its efforts, from this year’s event sponsors to the volunteers and its staff who have become the beacon of hope for so many.

Tickets to the event are $50 per person. For more information, or to see how you can help, call 631-727-6831 or visit www.maureenshaven.com. Seasons of Southampton is located at 15 Prospect Street in Southampton.

nicole@indyeastend.com