Growing Pains - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1810262

Growing Pains

I have served as program coordinator at Heart of the Hamptons for the last two years. Since 1980, we have operated out of the basement of the parish hall at the Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. This space has been provided rent-free — and I say that with immense gratitude. However, the Basilica now needs this space for its future plans. Additionally, it is no longer functional for our operations, given our growth this past year.

At a time of such instability and change, Heart of the Hamptons has remained a constant. We have stopped at nothing to serve our new and returning customers, through our food pantry, assistance program and clothing room. The food pantry has been open throughout the entirety of the pandemic and continues to serve thousands of registered community members.

Due to the dramatic increase in demand for our services during the height of the pandemic, and to keep everyone safe, we adapted our food pantry distribution to a drive-thru, which requires transporting 50 to 200 (depending on the season) pre-packaged grocery bags outside every Wednesday and Friday. Every day, our incredibly hard-working staff and volunteers shuffle food in and out of the basement. We receive two or three 5,000-to-10,000-pound deliveries a week that we unload and transfer to the basement. Trust me, this is not an easy feat.

Despite our constant adapting, we’ve been faced with countless logistical inefficiencies and roadblocks. We have very limited office space, have had to suspend our clothing room program, and had no place to meet privately with clients. It is very labor intensive for us to bring bags of food up and out of the basement, and it is not possible for most of our customers to travel down the stairs.

Heart of the Hamptons has been in search of a new home for some time, and last October that dream became a reality. We signed a license agreement with the Village of Southampton to occupy 44 Meeting House Lane and since then have invested time and money to move this process along. I have watched our board of directors and executive director work tirelessly to find and secure a new home. One silver lining of the pandemic was that community members stepped up to help our neighbors and, luckily, the village did as well.

For the past four decades, Heart of the Hamptons has looked out for our neighbors, and now I hope you will do the same for us. I ask that the village allow us to move forward with the space we were promised so we can put all of our energy back into serving those who rely on us.

Delaney Jones