North Fork Animal Welfare League looks for volunteers in Riverhead


The North Fork Animal Welfare League has run Riverhead Town’s animal shelter for the past two and a half years. But members of the group’s board said the organization wants not just to serve the community, but be a part of it.

“There’s a big need for us to be in Riverhead,” said Dennis McDermott, a local restauranteur and the NFAWL board president. “It’s about being part of the community.”

The non-profit — which also runs Southold Town’s shelter and has been based on the North Fork for years — is making a push to involve Riverhead more in its leadership and its volunteer base. Mr. McDermott said the board is looking to add at least four Riverhead residents to its board to include their ideas and relationships with other members of the community. The board has started alternating the location of its meeting between Riverhead and Southold.

“We need to get active involvement in Riverhead,” Mr. McDermott said. “We’re going to try to do as much as we can to create awareness.”

Anthony Pollina, owner of the newly-opened Hydrant Hotel in Riverhead and Dog Town in Southold, joined the board about eight months ago. The former Southold resident is Riverhead’s representative on the board for now.

“We’ve been very Southold-centric for a very, very long time,” he said. “We’re learning to expand and we could use some help.”

Both Mr. McDermott and Mr. Pollina said the board is looking for members that could bring new talents to the board, like marketers, events planners or those with deep connections in the Riverhead community.

“We’re looking for people that can contribute that have a good network of people they can bring to the table or bring a relationship to the table,” Mr. Pollina said. “This is a board of a nonprofit. No one gets paid. We’re all here to give back a little bit and enjoy our communities.”

The group has an uphill climb ahead of them. They face competition for attention from more entrenched charities like Kent Animal Shelter, SAVES, and the newly rebranded civic group Riverhead Making Towns a Success. But Mr. Pollina said there’s enough work to be done caring for animals that the charities can all accomplish their missions.

“There is plenty to do for multiple groups in the rescue world,” he said.

Another goal of the organization: find more donors in Riverhead.

“There’s a lot of money that’s needed for these rescue organizations to do well,” Mr. Pollina said. “You really need to be seen and heard to make that happen.”

The group says it needs donations to help cover the cost of running the Riverhead shelter, as well as pay for a $1 million project to fix up a Calverton building as a new shelter (Both Mr. McDermott and Mr. Pollina said the current shelter is in bad need of an upgrade).

The group has already raised more than $500,000 for the project; Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter’s funds — about $80,000 in total — will go towards a town-owned “welcome center,” MTAS board member Lindsay Reeve said.

Mr. Reeve said he hopes NFAWL is able to reach out to Riverhead residents more.

“If they’re going to be fully involved in the working of the town’s animal shelter … they really do need to be more in touch with the town and the locals,” he said. “That’ll be great … We’re all after the same thing.”

Those interested in volunteering can contact the NFAWL at [email protected] or by phone at (631) 765-1811.

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