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Editorial: Two community groups doing exceptional good work

Maureen’s Haven, based in Riverhead, operates on a slim annual budget of about $325,000 and with it — supported by numerous volunteers — helps thousands of North and South fork residents each year. 

We were reminded of the group’s good work this week by a Suffolk Times story about its decision to step up and meet increased demand by making overnight shelter at Greenport’s shuttered St. Agnes elementary school more available to those in need this winter. 

During previous winters, about 30 people would normally spend two nights a week in the former school’s large auditorium. But the COVID-19 pandemic changed a whole lot on the North Fork, and Maureen’s Haven saw the need to allow people to stay over at St. Agnes for up to five nights, no questions asked.

This put a great burden on the long-closed school’s plumbing. Its two bathrooms were badly out of date, as was the plumbing connecting the building to the village sewer system. 

Dan O’Shea, director of Maureen’s Haven, approached St. Agnes parish administrator Father Piotr Narkiewicz, formerly of St. Isidore R.C. Church in Riverhead, about the need for a major upgrade. The priest wholeheartedly agreed, saying he wanted to help as many people as needed it — again, no questions asked.

Mr. O’Shea next reached out to Denis Noncarrow, Southold Town’s government liaison, with the idea that money needed to be raised to dramatically upgrade the bathrooms and install new shower stalls — all ADA compliant.

Mr. Noncarrow, in turn, contacted a donor who agreed to put up $60,000 with, once more, no questions asked. We want to thank this person, who wishes to remain anonymous, for such generosity at a time of great need. You are doing good where good is much needed.

Maureen’s Haven volunteers are essential for its mission. From November to April it operates 14 homeless shelters in Southold, Riverhead, Southampton and East Hampton towns where people can have a meal, sleep and take showers.

Each of those shelters needs volunteers, not only to transport people and provide them with food but also to stay overnight to supervise. Going from two nights to five nights at St. Agnes meant even more volunteers were needed, which placed added strain on an already strained safety net.

Another very positive development this week was the news that Community Action Southold Town is in contract to move from its cramped offices on Front Street in Greenport to the former Southold Opera House on Main Road in Southold hamlet. 

There, the organization, whose mission is to help those who need it the most, can stretch out and continue its very good work. Last summer CAST tried to relocate to the former Methodist Church on Main Street in Greenport, but the neighbors organized and shut that plan down.

The commitment CAST and Maureen’s Haven have shown to those who need help — with food, clothing, furnishings, a place to sleep and more — is extraordinary. 

Their work makes Southold and Riverhead better places to live. While we, as a society, argue over everything these days, and demonize the side we don’t like, it’s the work of these two organizations that makes the North Fork exceptional.