When Richard and Lisa Israel moved to Greenport full-time in 1986, they quickly found a sense of community and immersed themselves in it.
The couple values volunteerism, which contributed to their selection as grand marshals of this year’s East End Maritime Festival.
In announcing its choice of the Israels, the East End Seaport Museum and Maritime Foundation, which organizes the festival, wrote on its website: “Their love of community, generosity of self, family-oriented personalities, and promotion of service are qualities to be admired.”
Mr. Israel, who grew up in Lawrence in Nassau County, has visited Greenport frequently with his family since 1970. He found a difference in the community compared to other parts of Long Island.
“When we came here as a young couple, they asked for your physical help to volunteer,” he said.
In his first act of volunteerism on the East End, Mr. Israel encouraged his eldest son to join the Cub Scouts and became a troop leader himself for more than a decade.
Before that, he and his wife were busy trying to establish their lives. Ms. Israel was busy raising her children at the time, but she wanted to do more.
“It wasn’t enough for me,” she said. “I needed to be able to do more to feel that I still had a purpose.”
Ms. Israel was involved in organizing a parent teacher association in Greenport, serving for three years before becoming a member of the school board for another 15 years. It was a way for her, as a parent of three, to know her children’s’ friends, make her own friends and become a part of the community.
The ability to help others and filling a need were the most rewarding parts, she said.
The Israels both belong to the Greenport Rotary and have supported the East End Seaport Museum and Maritime Foundation since around the time of its founding. An initial project Mr. Israel took part in was restoring the Village Blacksmith Shop after the original building was damaged by rough weather.
Volunteers were searching for a building close to the size of the original shop and one was located on a property in East Marion Mr. Israel was developing.
“I remember the day that we brought it down First Street,” he recalls in a video produced by Tony Bettler for the foundation. “It was pretty exciting. We closed down the street and here came this housing going down the middle of First Street.”
To make sure the shop was not an inactive structure, the Israels continue to donate funds to the seaport museum to keep a working blacksmith there to keep the history alive and show its connections to the waterfront.
The couple learned through their own philanthropic and volunteer work that the Greenport community steps up to fulfill needs, whether through donating time, money or both.
“You have to learn to make time for it,” Mr. Israel said. “If you want a community, you have to work for it.”
“It’s like having a friend,” Ms. Israel added, “You have to be a friend to have a friend.”
While the two were “delighted” to find out they’d been named this year’s grand marshals, they noted that they, along with the other volunteers they work with, do not covet attention for their good deeds.
“We normally wouldn’t want the attention,” Ms. Israel said, “We operate under the radar.”
To them, Greenport is special for its connection the water, and is a paradise that offered their children a safe place to grow up. Both said they are looking forward to being a part of the festival that celebrates their home. “It goes back to, it’s created by volunteers,” Mr. Israel said. “Everyone puts their heart into and it promotes Greenport.”
The East End Maritime Festival kicks off Friday night with a Land & Sea Gala and continues through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the village and at Mitchell Park and marina.