KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO
Southold Sunshine Society volunteer Mary Leary at the storage shed in Southold where the group keeps wheelchairs, walkers and other medical equipment. They’re all available on loan to town residents who have a temporary need for such items.
You’re lying in a hospital feeling just a little sorry for yourself when a smiling lady appears at the side of your bed offering a box of tissues — but something more — a smile and a sincere wish that your health improves.
When she leaves, you find yourself smiling just because someone cares.
The woman is among 18 members of the Southold Sunshine Society, and her hospital visits are just a small part of what society members have been doing since the 1920s, according to the group’s president, Peggy Murphy.
She has been involved with the society, which primarily serves people in the Southold and Peconic hamlets, since 1990, and is spearheading an effort to increase the group’s membership.
“The age of volunteerism — I don’t know what’s happening to it,” she said during an interview at her Southold home Monday afternoon. While she acknowledged that North Fork residents are very generous with one another on a one-to-one basis, she said she wished more people would get involved with groups like the Sunshine Society to keep the tradition going.
When she worked as a Southold Elementary School teacher, Ms. Murphy “had to do my bit after hours,” she said. Now retired, she has found time to lead the Community Action Southold Town board of directors, organize Southold’s Summer Showcase Concert Series, until the end of this summer, and engage in numerous other community activities.
The Sunshine Society holds a special place in her heart, largely because of the simplicity of its mission, she said.
One service the Sunshine Society offers to all Southold Town residents is the loan of hospital equipment. Need a wheelchair, walker, cane or crutches? Call Mary Leary at 765-6748 and she’ll arrange to lend you the equipment.
The society also appreciates donations of equipment to replace things that occasionally fail to find their way back. Sometimes a recipient simply forgets; other times the recipient dies and family members don’t realize where the equipment originated, Ms. Murphy explained.
The society has two major projects a year. In the spring, members deliver potted daffodils to people on their list who are in need of a lift. They may be 80 or older, or people who have been ill. Member Pat Milford maintains the “cheer list” while Molly Gosner adds people when they reach their 80th birthday (but some people don’t want to acknowledge their age and be added to the list, Ms. Murphy said).
The daffodils are donated by Catapano Farms. Members gather at the Southold Town Recreation Center in Peconic to put decorative green sleeves on the pots and add cards identifying the gift as coming from the Sunshine Society and Catapano Farms.
In the fall, the society partners with Southold IGA, which provides produce at a low price, to make fruit platters to distribute to those who need a lift.
Once a year, members have a fundraiser at the Peconic recreation center, where guests can come for an afternoon of cards, chatter and lunch for $15. “It really is a fun thing to be a part of,” Ms. Murphy said.
Aside from that single fundraiser, the Sunshine Society has no source of income except contributions, she said.
Society members send out sympathy and birthday cards and just “Thinking of You” cards when occasions call for it. And they also deliver small bouquets on a monthly basis, thanks to Country Petals in Southold, which contributes the flowers.
To contribute to the society, send checks to The Southold Sunshine Society, P.O. Box 251, Southold, NY 11971. To join, call Ms. Murphy at 765-3598.