North Fork businesses band together to help hurricane victims

Following the devastating natural disasters around the world this past month, including four major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria — that have hit Texas, Florida, the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and more, people are coming out in droves to help.

Although the damage is hundreds of miles away, that isn’t stopping some North Fork business owners from helping in any way they can.

Ian Wile of Little Creek Oysters and Chris Dowling of One Love Beach, both in Greenport, and Joe Flotteron, who owns Peconic Water Sports in Southold, have teamed up in the hope of creating a nonprofit that would donate items or money directly to businesses affected by the recent hurricanes and the earthquake in Mexico.

“We’re all attached to the water here and have ties to the Caribbean, being in the sailing and marine industries, so we wanted to figure out how to be effective,” Mr. Wile said. “We felt like if we raise money and send it to the Red Cross it’s not as directly effective as we’d like to be.”

With that in mind, Mr. Wile, Mr. Dowling and Mr. Flotteron have been in contact with people in the Caribbean and have identified about a dozen businesses that have very specific needs.

The friends hope to address those needs directly by providing either money or the exact items the businesses need in a more “business-to-business, person-to-person” type of interaction that supplies people with what they need rather than guessing.

“We were making good headway in terms of making contact with people in order to reach out,” Mr. Wile said. “When the second hurricane came through it knocked out communication with most of the people we were working with.”

They’re not letting that dissuade them, however, and began fundraising for their cause at last weekend’s Maritime Festival in Greenport. They are also hoping to create a GoFundMe page in the near future.

In order to help people in the short term, the trio also raised money for YachtAid Global, an organization that brings yacht owners, crew and industry professionals together to provide resources to those in need to of disaster relief, according to its website.

Mr. Wile, Mr. Dowling and Mr. Flotteron aren’t the only locals focused on helping those affected by the recent natural disasters.

Greenport dance studio owner Lucille Naar-Saladino is collecting dancewear to send to studios in Texas that were affected by Hurricane Harvey, in addition to her own personal clothing and baby item donations.

Ms. Naar-Saladino, who owns MainStage Dance Academy on Main Road, said she wanted to wait until more crucial supplies were sent to Texas before sending dancewear because she understands that dance lessons are not top priority.

“I decided that I would collected dancewear and shoes from my studio,” she said. “I researched the places that would need it and I found out that there are four schools that I know of that need goods, so I am going to divide everything between them and send them.”

She will be taking donations until Sept. 30. Donations will be sent to studios in Cypress, Port Arthur and Houston. She has already collected bins of tap and ballet shoes, along with dance costumes, unitards and CDs.

“After they get back on their feet, probably the last thing they’re thinking about is to take dance lessons, so I think that receiving some free clothing and essentials will help them move forward,” Ms. Naar-Saladino said.

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Photo: Ian Wile is raising funds with other local business owners for YachtAid Global to provide relief for victims of the recent hurricanes. (Credit: Nicole Smith)