Local nonprofits gather together to grow stronger

Local nonprofits gather together to grow stronger

Local nonprofits gathered in East Northport to share ideas and network. Photo by Kevin Redding

A community bank and a financial education group recently partnered up in an effort to help local nonprofits thrive.

On March 25, the Equity First Foundation, an organization that primarily works with small businesses in financial distress, hosted a community breakfast for nonprofit organizers and supporters at Investors Bank in East Northport.

The networking event gave the crowd of good-hearted people who advocate for important causes across Suffolk County a rare opportunity to exchange business cards and ideas with one another.

Equity First Foundation Founder and President Rhonda Klch, a Rocky Point resident, speaks to local nonprofits during a community breakfast. Photo by Kevin Redding

Representatives from a wide range of volunteer organizations — that help everybody from families to children to veterans — bonded over their shared interest in providing a service to those who need it most.

Priscilla Arena, executive director of Suffolk Asperger-Autism Sport and Information, a Mount Sinai nonprofit that serves the needs of the autism community throughout Long Island, said the event benefitted nonprofits far better than social media ever could.

“There’s nothing better than a face-to-face meeting with anyone, with any decision makers,” Arena said. “And here you have a room of decision makers and people that make things happen. You have the right people in the room, it’s communities helping other communities and it’s fantastic.”

Communities helping other communities is exactly what pushed Investment Bank Branch Manager and Miller Place resident Amanda Seppi to pursue the idea of the gathering with her frequent collaborator Rhonda Klch, a Mount Sinai resident and executive director of the Equity First Foundation.

Seppi, whose bank is geared toward community grassroots organizations and overall community giving, said she wanted to bring nonprofits from the local area together to network with one another and potentially help strengthen their individual causes.

“I was finding that nonprofits don’t necessarily interact with one another to develop strategies to grow, and I figured it was a win-win for everybody to be able to learn about one another,” Seppi said. “[Ultimately], I want them to be able to reach a wider audience, to be able to raise funds in order to escalate and continue to do the good they’re trying to do for the community.”

The nonprofits don’t have the exposure they deserve, she added.

“I’d like to bring as much attention to the people who are doing good for nothing, it’s important to me to have them grow and do well,” Seppi said.

Klch agreed, feeling as though the nonprofits could use all the help they could get in terms of funding, which all nonprofits rely on to survive.

Through Investors Foundation at the bank, nonprofits can receive grants and scholarships.

Members of local nonprofits share ideas and network. Photo by Kevin Redding

“With a lot of changes happening in the economy, a lot of grants are no longer available, qualifying for funding is much more difficult and even your local business community that would normally support different fundraising initiatives, because of their own setbacks, aren’t able to provide as much,” Klch said. “What we’re looking to do is have nonprofits partner and work uniformly. If I have money or resources coming into my organization, I can offer it to somebody else.”

Klch presented “The Haven,” a beachside retreat that nonprofits can offer to clients who may be facing economic hardships caused by illness, death and addiction. The retreat would serve as a mental reprieve for individuals and families, as well as a sponsorship opportunity.

Among some of the organizations at the gathering were Youth Directions & Alternatives, a community agency that serves youth and families in the Northport-East Northport-Elwood-Harborfields school districts; Maria’Z Hope Foundation, a group made up of women dedicated to providing support for those seeking an alternative approach to medical healing; and East Northport-based General Needs, which helps homeless Long Island veterans and their families through charitable donations and support.

Lonnie Sherman, founder of General Needs, started the group 10 years ago when he realized there were 5,000 homeless veterans on Long Island without basic necessities like socks, underwear and boots. Today, the group takes care of about 3,000 of them, cooking food, helping to treat those suffering from PTSD and delivering hundreds of pairs of boots so they can get jobs.

A recent grant from Investors Bank allowed the group to help veterans get apartments.

“When I go to an event like this, I want to walk out having had a conversation with one person that’s going to listen, so we get the word out … ultimately that’s going to make a difference,” he said. “We [nonprofits] are the ones who can make a difference.”

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