Maura Spery
Mastic Beach Development
April 2020
4 Min Read

A Community that Helps Others: Mastic Beach

I have lived and breathed the revitalization of Mastic Beach for almost 20 years. From the moment I drove down the blighted Main Street to the 6 miles of beautiful publicly accessible waterfront I was smitten. I couldn’t believe this slice of paradise was just a mere 70 miles from my Brooklyn home.

I planned to use this space to promote the unique opportunity for the comprehensive transformation of this low-income community. A community that has been ignored, dumped on and become the “IMBY” of the “NIMBY” of the rest of Suffolk County. I wanted to use this as way to help Mastic Beach rise up and realize it’s vast potential, not only for its natural beauty, but as an opportunity to help the less fortune, vulnerable residents; as well as keep our youth and working families here on Long Island.

But then everything changed.

On March 9, 2020 I went to my last business lunch. I did have hand sanitizer and wore some black nitrate gloves. I am paranoid that way. We didn’t shake hands. I was my usual Chicken Little self. I had just turned sixty in August and didn’t like what I was seeing about the spread of the virus. I saw its unstoppable trajectory and I felt like I was standing on Smith Point beach with a bunch of people, looking out at the ocean, not understanding what the dark black line on the horizon was. The giant slow-moving Tsunami that was heading our way.

I could see what was coming for my poor vulnerable low-income community. A tidal wave of pain. A collection of gig economy workers, under the table cash workers, illegal immigrants, young mothers on social service, the mentally ill, the disabled, drug addicts, squatters, parolees and the list goes on and on. As I said the “IMBY”of every other places “NIMBY”. But what I really saw was a whole lot of human beings that were going to need help. A whole lot of people who were going to be hungry and had no food and no means to get food.

On March 12th, as the Vice President of the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association, I reached out to Bob Vecchio, the William Floyd School Board President, to offer our clubhouse and parking lot to assist in distributing student meals should the schools close. 70% of the students in our school district qualify for free school meals. I got the call the next morning that schools were closing. The world was shutting down. We could all now see that it was a Tsunami and that we needed to run to higher ground.

Today, March 29th, a mere 20 days later it is a completely different view. I have been spearheading distribution of student meals and grab and go meal packs from LI Harvest and LI Cares. In two weeks we have given out 5,000 student meal packs and over 2,000 grab an go meal packs. The MBPOA donated hundreds of coloring/activity books, colored pencils, crayons, journals, gel pens etc. to dole out judiciously as the tedium and boredom of self-isolating sinks in.

I can tell you this, the kids are scared. I see it in their eyes. I try to reassure them that they will be all right, tell them that we will have food for them, that the world will go back to normal.  I do feel that we are on the frontlines in a war. Unfortunately, it is a constant battle down here. A battle against poverty, intolerance and indifference.

As always it is in these incredible times of crisis that I am amazed and heartened by the absolute generosity and compassion of my neighbors. I have never met so many people with so little who give so much. It goes beyond politics, religion, race and gets to who we really are as a people. I know that my heart was right, that when I first drove down Neighborhood Road I was in love and I had finally come home.

LI Harvest and LI Cares are accepting donations.

MBPOA Clubhouse is open from 3-5pm Monday-Friday at 31 Neighborhood Rd Mastic Beach.

All are welcome, anything is appreciated.