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Where Violence Ends And Hope Begins

Originally Posted: January 20, 2012

John A. Viteritti

Jeffrey Friedman and Richard Demato at a recent event for the Retreat. (Courtesy Photo: Demato)

Southampton - Two days after Christmas I met with Richard J. Demato at his unique (to say the least) waterfront home in North Haven.

Richard is a licensed real estate salesperson with Brown Harris Stevens in Sag Harbor, as well as owner of the Sag Harbor Gallery with his artist-wife, Harriet Sawyer. He is also Vice President of Development and on the Board of Directors of the Retreat, a non-profit organization with offices in Bridgehampton, a thrift-store in Bridgehampton Commons, and an 18-bed facility located on the Easthampton-Amagansett border which provides shelter to 19 families.

How did you become involved in the Retreat, Richard?

The Retreat Thrift Store is located in Bridgehampton. (Courtesy Photo: Demato)

RD: A neighbor, three houses away from where I now live, invited me to a fundraiser. I was immediately attracted to the cause. I had been involved with the Animal Rescue Fund, Fountain House in New York City, and other charitable causes.

What are the demographics of the Retreat Richard?

RD: Sixty percent of the residents are children who have witnessed violence. The other 40 percent are mothers who have been victims of abuse. Between them, we service approximately 150 women and children throughout the year. We counsel about 400 individuals a year through the efforts of our 30 full-time employees and 50 to 60 volunteers.

How do you compare the response of donors to the Retreat with the other charitable causes you have been involved with?

RD: It's much more difficult to involve people in issues of domestic violence as opposed to animals and education.

Why is that?

RD: It's an unpleasant subject, and people, generous people, don't like to have to think about it.

How do you compare the magnitude of the problem today as opposed to several years ago?

RD: Over the past couple of years we have had a 56 percent increase in requests for services; 40 percent this year alone. All of the factors that contribute to domestic violence - alcoholic abuse, drugs - have been exacerbated by the economic hardships that people have been suffering. But it's not just the poor who suffer. Abuse is all about power and control. It's not uncommon for children of wealthy people to be made to feel unworthy, and denied access to the family resources which keeps them dependent upon the abuser.

What are the sources of your funds?

RD: We have an annual operating budget of $3.3 million. About 50 percent of our funding comes from Federal, State, and County grants as well as private foundations such as the Long Island Community Foundation. Last year we received a three-year Federal grant, "Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood," in the amount of $800,000. The other 50 percent comes from individual donations, community events such as "Artists Against Abuse," and our retail store in Bridgehampton Commons, which is now self-sustaining and gives us great exposure in the community. Our store manager, Jessica Burdine, does a fantastic job. One of my biggest accomplishments was finding our current Executive Director, Jeffrey Friedman. Jeff has been on the job about three years and has done a fantastic job.

What do you sell in the retail store and how do you stock it?

RD: We sell clothing, jewelry, furniture - all donated by caring people. The store is open every day of the week from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Tuesday. It's located directly across from TJ Maxx.

How do victims of domestic violence find you?

RD: We man a 24-7 hot line where people call in. We have an excellent relationship with police officials and organizations who deal with domestic violence outside of our geographical area. One of the most important services we provide is to remove victims from the environment where the abuse is taking place. That might mean getting them into facilities in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. We do the same for victims from their areas.

It has been suggested to me by many who know you, that you are personally very generous in your contributions to the Retreat and other worthwhile causes. Would you please share with our readers what they are?

RD: Fortunately I am able to contribute all of my real estate earnings to charities - 50 percent to the Retreat and the rest to organizations such as the Fountain House in New York City which cares for the mentally ill.

Thank you Richard. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss your non-profit work with you.

Editor's Note: John will be teaching a 22.5 hours Real Estate Continuing Education classes at Long Island University in Riverhead on February 13, February 15, and February 15. For information and registration contact Rosemary Malone at 631-287-8334 or by email at rosemary.malone@liu.edu.

John is a St. John's University graduate, licensed Real Estate broker, lecturer, teaches real estate license classes at LIU, NYU, and Cook Maran Real Estate School, and is a well-respected consultant to the real estate industry. www.johnaviteritti.com

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