Stacey and Kevin Kotler founded Hamptons United during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, creating a platform to give back and donate to reputable charities that serve the East End community. The foundation now supports 24 foundations throughout the community. We caught up with Stacey and Kevin to learn more.
What inspired you to start Hamptons United?
SK: After relocating our family from New York City to the Hamptons in March of 2020 due to Covid, it became apparent very quickly that the local, year-round community on the East End of Long Island was significantly suffering from the pandemic’s reach. My husband and I knew that we couldn’t just sit around and not help those in need, so we began to do acts of kindness for those close to home in Southampton who needed immediate assistance.
KK: The just shut down of my healthcare-focused investment company dovetailed into the early days of Covid. I was looking for opportunities to leverage my experience and to work on public good-type issues. The idea was to first work to help the local community, and we procured 10 oxygen respirator systems and related disposable sets to treat 100 Covid patients at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. These systems were significantly less invasive and safer than the ventilators everyone else was using. Second, we purchased laptops for university students who were stuck in their homes with no library or wifi access to help them finish up their school year online. But we knew we needed something formalized…
SK: After speaking with Mayor Jesse Warren who said people like us wanted to help too but did not know where to donate, the idea for Hamptons United was born. In three weeks, the platform was up and running. A website highlighting local charities, where you could read about what they do, how they have pivoted in Covid, and how you could immediately donate. We launched with nine non-profits, and two years later we now have 24 member organizations, and became 501c3 certified.
Tell us about some of the local foundations you support and work with.
SK: Well, because we are trying to represent the entire Hamptons community — hence the name “Hamptons United,” we work with diverse types of charities. We are proud of the areas we are able to serve. For example, Heart of the Hamptons, a local food pantry, was the very first place we called. Food insecurity became such a problem during the early days of Covid, and people who had never needed food were lining up to receive food packages. Who would have thought… in the Hamptons! But this is the reality here that nobody is talking about. Kevin and I wanted to not only talk about it, we wanted to address it, and help to resolve it — one step at a time.
Other non-profits we work with include OLA of Eastern Long Island, Hamptons Community Outreach, The Retreat, and Supplies for Success, to name a few. We organized volunteers to purchase and deliver food to Hispanic families who had no access to transportation or employment, purchased and filled over 250 bags of groceries with food staples, donated dozens of bags of clothes to families all across the East End, delivered computers and printers to those organization lacking in technology, and planned several backpack-filling events to fundraise for necessary school supplies for underserved youths on the East End. If we look at the full spectrum of donations over the last 24 months through all of our non-profits as well as direct to Hamptons United, we calculate that about $375,000 has come though our efforts.
You launched Hamptons United during the early days of Covid-19. How has the need for non-profit support been amplified since Covid hit?
KK: The long-term impact to the East End because of Covid is definitely still felt today, and sadly, it has gotten worse. Food insecurity, homelessness, domestic violence, evictions, unemployment, illness, mental health, daycare, basic needs, abandoned animals — the list goes on and on. Non-profits continue to adhere to their original mission statements, but have been forced to stretch themselves to do much more with smaller budgets and less staff. For example, OLA historically never dealt with food insecurity, but with Covid, they put together a task force to help families who had no food on the table! Can you imagine? People who frequent the Hamptons from New York City only on the weekend will go out and have no trouble dropping $200 or more on a dinner for two on any given day. That same $200 could feed an entire family for two weeks. Think about that. OLA did… and so did we. Our volunteers delivered dozens of bags of groceries, and fed the families in the most dire need. It takes a village, and there is much more that needs to be done.
Tell us about the documentary film you’re involved in.
SK: This is really exciting! Right when Hamptons United was formed I was on the call talking about how the “invisible” in the Hamptons need to be “visible.” The public must be educated and understand the plight of low-income, immigrant, and underserved families living on the East End. I said, “What we really need is a documentary film!” Fast forward to today, and a film working to shed some light on the problems facing immigrant children on the East End of Long Island is in its final editing phase, and should be released at some point in the fall. I can’t talk about all the details just yet, but an incredible team worked tirelessly to make this happen, and Hamptons United is honored to be partnering with them to help get the word out about this important endeavor.
You now have 24 non-profits under Hamptons United umbrella. What do you see for the future?
SK: To keep growing! We want to increase the number of eyeballs on local non-profits who may not get the attention they deserve. If we can help one additional student attend their high school prom, send one additional child to summer camp for two weeks, one more meal served to a homebound adult, or one more set of school supplies delivered to a preschooler who cannot afford them, then we have made a difference. It is a combination of acts of kindness, organizing, and executing these efforts, and raising money to make it all happen. People want to help — but somebody has to connect those who “can do” with those who “cannot.” That is what Hamptons United is all about.
Our tag line is — “Give where you live.” People who moved from New York City to the Hamptons full-time plus those who come seasonally need to start giving now more than ever. The Hamptons is everyone’s happy place. Let’s work to keep it that way long-term.
Any other upcoming events or partnerships you’d like to share?
KK: Yes. Our most recent partnership is with Union Square Play based in New York City. This unique play space for toddlers with several Manhattan-based locations, opened two summer pop-ups in the Hamptons, and a percentage of all profits of their Bridgehampton Summer Series will be donated to Hamptons United. Our missions are truly aligned, and USP is focused on giving back locally. We are thrilled to be working with them.
Our next big project will be organizing a Hamptons United Non-Profit Round Table where we connect representatives from each of the non-profits on our platform to share ideas on how we can all be working together more efficiently and effectively. There is a lot of overlap, and the hope is to work as a cohesive group rather than individual silos.
We really are a united community, and we look forward to more collaborations like this in the future.