A Long Island native who spent childhood summers in Mattituck and Greenport has returned to help Southold Town families in need.
Cathy Demeroto, an attorney with extensive experience in nonprofit work, started last week as the new executive director of Community Action Southold Town.
“This organization is really a staple for the community,” Ms. Demeroto said in an interview at CAST headquarters in Greenport. “I think it’s much needed and what I would like to do is just continue to expand on the great work that’s already being done here.”
The timing of Ms. Demeroto’s arrival also coincides with a new fundraising effort from the nonprofit, which helps feed low-income families and assists them in finding employment and educational opportunities. A “Blast for CAST” event will be held Thursday, July 13, at American Beech in Greenport and will feature an open bar with food and live music from local entertainers Gene Casey and Tricia Scotti.
“We find that a lot of people have heard of CAST and know of us but are not really clear on what we do,” said board member Robin Phillips. “We’re hoping to bring people to the party and talk about the services we provide.”
It will also be a great opportunity for the community to meet the organization’s new leader, she said.
Ms. Demeroto, 51, recently moved back to Long Island from Bethesda, Md., where she most recently served as executive director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. She previously worked for Catholic Charities and worked as an attorney at a small firm where she represented the families of children with disabilities, including pro bono cases.
“I always wanted to help people and I thought through the law I could … but then I had an opportunity to do advocacy in the nonprofit arena and that’s really where I found my calling and my passion,” she said.
A graduate of Boston College and George Washington University Law School, Ms. Demeroto was raised in Smithtown. She learned of the opening at CAST while vacationing here earlier this year and moved to Southold after being offered the position. She said it was always a dream for her to live full-time on the North Fork.
“It’s a place where I have very fond memories from my childhood of swimming in Peconic Bay, clamming, catching minnows and I just really love the community,” she said.
Ms. Demeroto said she’s looking forward to continuing the good work of CAST, which was founded in 1965, and is excited about the challenge of fulfilling the organization’s goal to make supported families self-sufficient.
“It’s not just providing the bag of groceries, but making sure they have all the government benefits that they’re entitled to and hopefully helping lead them to job opportunities,” she said.
Reflecting on her career, Ms. Demeroto said it’s the small wins that she remembers most fondly, like helping a family get electricity turned back on in their house or assisting with child services.
“[It’s all about] just knowing that they’ll sleep sounder and their daily life will be more comfortable,” she said.
Ms. Phillips said Ms. Demeroto is an excellent choice for the position.
“She has a great background for the job, having been a lawyer but also working with nonprofits as both a fundraiser and an executive,” Ms. Phillips said. “She has fantastic experience and connections to Southold.”
Ms. Demeroto said she’s looking forward to experiencing life in Southold Town — she pointed to walks on the beach with her two dogs as one highlight — but also helping improve the North Fork experience for others.
“We can work together to improve the lives of all residents, so the community as a whole can thrive and everybody can experience the vitality of the North Fork without having to worry about meeting their basic needs,” she said.
Photo credit: Krysten Massa