By Kyle Barr and Sara-Megan Walsh
The current government shutdown became the longest running federal closure in the nation’s history as of Jan. 12 — and there’s no clear end in sight. It’s estimated more than 800,000 government employees are either furloughed or are continuing to work without pay. By this publication’s press time, the shutdown has been ongoing for 34 days.
Several North Shore businesses, residents and other nonprofit organizations are doing what they can to aid those individuals who are anxiously awaiting their next paycheck.
Prism Wellness Salon and Spa, St. James
Janine Arguila, owner of Prism Wellness Salon and Spa in St. James, announced Jan. 16 via Facebook that her business would offer free haircuts to federal employees with a valid government ID through Feb. 26, or when the shutdown ends.
“We cannot end the shutdown but we can help those affected!” reads the Jan. 16 post.
Additional notification was also sent out via email to her clients on the company’s mailing list. Arguila said the public’s reaction to her offer was immediate and overwhelming.
“We’d had people saying, ‘Thank you so much, I’m not even a government employee and I think this is amazing’,” she said, noting thousands of likes and shares the announcement quickly garnered.
The salon owner said she came up with the idea after reading a friend’s social media posts about how her husband serves with the U.S. Coast Guard and was not sure when he would be able to subsist without a paycheck.
“A lot of people are government employees, or it’s their family, and we don’t even realize it,” Arguila said.
The first to accept the offer of a free haircut was a regular customer, according to Arguila, who thanked her after stating that her husband is a government employee and is working unpaid. She expects her salon will provide free services to many more as the shutdown drags on.
“I’ve had my success is by giving back,” the owner said. “My mother taught me to do the right thing no matter what it is. It’s always worked for me in every way.”
Del Fiore Italian Market, Rocky Point
Del Fiore Italian Market, located on Broadway in the Rocky Point Business District, starting Jan. 17, gave out two-person meals to government employees throughout the weekend. By Jan. 22, the store had gifted meals to more than 200 people, some of whom traveled from as far as Nassau County. Each meal included a box of fresh cheese ravioli, a quart of meat or
marinara sauce and a loaf of bread valued at $18. The owners said they gave out close to $800 worth of food. After the weekend the business gave out bags of house-cooked pasta until Jan. 24.
“When something’s wrong, people eat, so when something’s wrong you give people food — that’s what we do, we Italian people,” said Camille Pabon, who helps run the family-owned Del Fiore with her sister Lorian Prince.
While its costly to supply these meals, Pabon said other patrons were quick in supplying the business some money to help pay for the lost revenue. She received promises from those who accepted free food now would come back later as full-paying patrons once the shutdown is over.
Sassy Salads & Bagel Lady Cafe, Shoreham
Those who give food now know there is no hint yet when the shutdown could be over.
Linda Winter, the longtime owner of Sassy Salads & Bagel Lady Cafe, located in the Shoreham Plaza along Route 25A, announced Jan. 17 she would be giving out a complementary dozen bagels to those government employees who walked through her door. Over the weekend, Winter said more than 80 individuals came in for the bagels. Overall, the store handed out over 100 bags of a dozen bagels. She was astounded by the number of people who came in looking for help.
“We didn’t refuse anybody,” Winter said.
The deluge of people coming in for bagels was so much she said there were wait times for regular customers as they needed to keep baking new batches over the weekend. On Jan. 24 she announced she would have to limit the bagels to five dozen per day as well as limit the area to Mount Sinai through Wading River, though including Ridge.
“Here I am nearly 29 years in this location and the community has supported me for all those years, so I felt it was the right gesture,” Winter said. “I can imagine it’s a scary time for them … they are singled out, and they need to know people care about them and what’s going on in their lives right now.”
More organizations offer help to government workers in need
Other businesses and organizations from Port Jefferson to Huntington have been stepping up to offer aid to those government workers affected by shutdown:
* Blue Salon and Spa in Stony Brook is advertising a free blowout and haircut to those affected by the shutdown.
* On Jan. 18 Wahlburgers in Port Jeff Station announced it is offering a free burger, side and soft drink to individuals who could provide a government identification, ending sometime around Jan. 23.
Manager Adam Subbiondo said they have already seen more than 300 people ask for a meal since they started providing them.
“You can only imagine what its like to not get paid and go on to live their lives with their families, mortgages and kids,” he said.
* Teachers Federal Credit Union announced Jan. 14 a number of programs to assist those affected, including being able to skip payments on credit cards and loans up to $5,000 for immediate needs.
*Other organizations like the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been giving out free pet food for those who can’t afford it.
* The United Studios Progressive Martial Arts studio, with locations in both Rocky Point and Port Jefferson Station, is having a food drive over the weekend to help those affected.
“We believe, as martial artists, in humanitarian efforts,” said Blake Wolfskill, the chief instructor at the Rocky Point location. “We see people suffering and we have to do something.”
* The Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs, which represents more than 20 boat and watercraft organizations, announced Jan. 10 a gift card donation drive to help the U.S. Coast Guard personnel who safeguard the waters of the Long Island Sound. In addition to gift cards, the boating council will also accept monetary donations or check made out to “Chief Petty Officer Association” with Shut Down Fund CT-NY in the memo line and mailed to: P.O. Box 2124, Halesite, NY 11743.
*This post was updated to reflect Winter’s new bagel policy