The Hoboken Boathouse: Anchored in Community

Community can be hard to find, and amid a pandemic it can be nearly impossible. I moved to Hoboken in October of 2020 without a social circle in place. I arrived to the area at the tail end of outdoor events season, just in time for winter weather to set in, which meant buckling down until spring to create a community of my own. But once the iconic white trees of Hoboken began to show themselves I knew it was time I did the same. 

I combed through the Hoboken Business Alliance directory in search of local businesses I could connect with (to note, the directory is significantly outdated as many businesses have either closed or moved during COVID). That’s when I discovered the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse (@HoboCoBo), located on Frank Sinatra Drive and Maxwell Place. I learned that the boathouse is a 501(c)(3) organization run entirely by volunteers. Which means, the activities— kayak and stand up paddle board— are completely free. Without hesitation, I reached out to become a volunteer. In the 10 days since, I’ve already joined the Meetup group three times.

My second paddle, a 7 mile round-trip

Since it began 17 years ago, the Hoboken Community Cove Boathouse’s mission is to provide free access to the local waterways through open programs to the public. Over the years, it’s grown from a handful of annual kayak days to an average of 6,000 paddlers year-round. Upon signing a waiver, visitors (and their pets) can confidently paddle in the protected cove either solo (must be 16 years or older) or in a double kayak. Volunteers are on-site to greet, assist with equipment, and provide any help in the water. There is a courtesy time limit to 20 minutes when lines form, but on quiet days guests can enjoy the water for as long as they’d like. In addition to cove paddles there are public trips, those lasting several hours and go all around the area, which are held several times a month to those 18 and over and with proper training.

The boathouse and cove in the background

Oscar Hernandez is a Hoboken Community Boathouse board member, ACA Coastal Guide, and one of the volunteer group leaders. “While walking on the waterfront I saw the boathouse,” he recalled from when he first moved to Hoboken 11 years ago. “I remember looking at the beach. It was always empty and had a lot of scary signs.” 

The beach, and the Hoboken Boathouse, have come a long way since thanks to community support. Building maintenance and utilities are covered by the City of Hoboken but donations are what keeps the boathouse afloat— public donations cover the insurance and all equipment is donated by volunteers or other boathouses in the region, including a Ke Aloha Outrigger canoe.

Ke Aloha, Hawaiian for ‘love is all around,’ is part of the Polynesian culture that is anchored into the Hoboken Boathouse. The outrigger, donated in 2016, is “considered to be a living entity” that is cared for the same as a family member would be. 

Photo courtesy of Tamara Gill. The Outrigger Canoe

“Kindness, teamwork, support for one another, and appreciation of life became a really important part of everything we do,” Oscar explained of the diverse group of aquaphiles. “I know couples that met while volunteering and now are married. Many volunteers now bike, ski, and take go on trips together to paddle in different places…We have an amazing family.”

It’s easy to get swept away by the sense of community the Hoboken Boathouse provides, and one I’m grateful to have discovered. 

On May 13, be part of the virtual #HudsonGives movement and donate to the Hoboken Boathouse or any one of these Hudson County organizations.

UNJUMBOLD: Travel Local

With the new year comes new discoveries. So, while many of us are unable to travel due to the pandemic, taking flight only in our minds, one Hoboken storefront invites customers to explore products from all over the world.


UNJUMBOLD, located at 257 1st Street, has an eye for detail and a heart for the different. Customers can find everything across self-care, home decor, baby, pet, artwork (including Hoboken’s very own, Ricardo Roig)— as well as organizational services for hire (for that messy closet you swore you’d tackle in the new year). Peruse the shelves and notice items from Canada, France, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Turkey, and across the United States. If you cannot travel physically, UNJUMBOLD will take you where you need to go in spirit. 

Partners in life and business, Michael Knight and John Forslund opened UNJUMBOLD on December 4, 2020. Knight comes from a lifelong background in retail, starting as a sales associate before growing into a corporate role. “I took all my knowledge and picked out all the parts that I’ve really enjoyed in my career and placed it into the store,” Knight explained.

Michael Knight [left], John Forslund [right]

Forslund shares a similar start, starting at Eddie Bauer at only 16 years old. Except, unlike Knight, he transitioned over to opening bars and restaurants. “I grew up the son of an avid home decorator, and the son of a home builder, so opening a business is in my blood!” Together, the two took on all of the opening’s responsibility themselves, from the shelves to the items that now stock them.

It is the brands themselves that takes center stage at UNJUMBOLD. Knight and Forslund carefully vet each product they carry. They look at where an item is made and how it’s made, ensure a company is fair trade and gives back to their community, and that no item can be found on Amazon. 

Beyond authenticity, UNJUMBOLD places a strong focus on black, women, and LGTBQ owned businesses. “We are about equal rights for all. We want to empower local communities; we want children to grow up seeing successful entrepreneurs and a thriving community,” Knight said. As a white, gay couple, Knight and Forslund are dedicated to raising social awareness around marginalized groups. “These types of businesses aren’t given the credibility they deserve. They deserve to get the same exposure as other brands. That comes with setting the right example and doing everything in our power to pave the path for others who aren’t inherently privileged.”

Forslund continued,  “We’re hoping to build a place the community feels comfortable coming to, to help them with their everyday home and lifestyle. We’re spending the most time in our homes. It’s our safe space. We want that home to feel comfortable and we’ve curated a range of products and services to do that.”

Products to love right now:

Skin Gourmet – RAW PURE WILD so pure you can eat it… seriously. 

UNJUMBOLD Sheets – Designed by Knight and Forslund. 600 thread count percale sheets. 

Rock Dispensers– The coolest way to dispense your favorite alcoholic beverages. 

Chunky Knit– feel it and fall in love.

Amore Diffuser– a Nikki On The Daily personal recommendation

4 Tip For How To Organize A Virtual Fundraiser

A virtual fundraising event. It sounds easy right? There’s no need to physically show up somewhere on a specific day, at a specific time. It can be done from anywhere in the world. And, with the right publicity, it has the potential to reach a much wider audience of attendees, far beyond a limited geographic radius. 

Yes. A virtual fundraising event sounds easy. But, if you’re looking to plan one, don’t be fooled. Although the benefits speak for themselves, it comes with its own set of challenges. I should know, I just organized one.

I, alongside Tiffany Wagner from CIVIC Entertainment Group, co-chaired Veterinarians International’s inaugural Healthy Steps For Healthy Pets walkathon. The virtual fundraising event invited people from all over the world to participate in a month-long initiative to raise monies and awareness for animals in need of veterinary care across the globe. 

It launched in September with a brand new microsite and gave supporters a chance to order special walkathon swag. Then, on Saturday, October 3, the virtual fundraiser concluded as humans and their four-legged companions took to the sidewalks of their own neighborhoods as they walked 0.5 miles. Meanwhile, in East Hampton, an intimate group gathered at The Baker House 1650 for a celebratory, and CDC regulated, Healthy Steps For Healthy Steps in person event.

But, as with any first experience, there are lessons to be learned. Here are 4 things I learned about organizing a virtual fundraiser:

It’s Important To Set Boundaries

Now that the virtual fundraiser is over, I realize how much of my time I actually dedicated to it. All of it. Between working from home and everything being so easily accessible from my phone, I made myself available nearly 24/7. But it’s important, especially if you are volunteering, to block out designated time to plan the event. 

Schedule virtual meetings on a calendar, prepare social media days in advance, and keep as much communication as possible to emails and calls. Maybe some people enjoy doing business via text but, personally, it makes me nervous. Mentally, I perceive text messages as a social interaction rather than a professional one. I can’t keep track of text chains and they often go unanswered for hours. But in order to avoid falling behind, I was constantly looking at my phone, quick to jump when new information came in. 

I didn’t set boundaries, for myself or for others. It’s important to clearly define what mediums you’ll be communicating through and time frames you’ll be doing it. Otherwise, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed and create a burnout feeling.

Images and Copy Matter

In person events leave little room for interpretation. When you’re speaking to a room you have numerous cues that aid in your message: your tone of voice, your body language, the decor, even the crowds energy. When you host a virtual fundraiser you only have two things—images and copy. And they are interdependent.

Images and copy go hand in hand to tell a compelling story. They help each other convey a message and act as the two most important tools to achieving a fundraising goal.

Think of images as the door to your event. They attract supporters to explore a website and learn more. You need visually appealing photos that are welcoming and accurately capture the organizations overall mission. Now, think of copy as the key to your door. It is what turns a potential supporter into an active participant and unlocks your fundraisers potential. Without the door and key, your supporters are left on the outside. 

I wrote 95% of the copy for Healthy Steps For Healthy Pets. I write for a living, so it made sense to put most of my efforts there. While it was time consuming and tedious, all the editing and rewriting, it not only attracted new awareness but created a critical dialogue.

Engagement Is Key

Virtual fundraisers are just that, virtual. So, keeping participants engaged is perhaps the most important part. Since you don’t have the ability to go up to your supporters and thank them in person for “showing up” keeping a steady flow of communication goes a long way.

Social media is typically the first thing that comes to mind to engage a virtual audience. Post pics, create a hashtag, tag others, comment on everything. While that is a large part of it, do not underestimate the continued power of email blasts. When someone signs up for a fundraiser that means they are interested in a cause. Tap into that.

When our microsite launched on September 3 engagement was initially kept to social media. Then a lightbulb went off. Why not send a daily email to our supporters with fundraising tips, facts about where the money goes, and a personal story relating to the cause? So, I sent out one every day when the 10-day countdown arrived. It not only engaged our audience by connecting them to the organization on a heartfelt level but it encouraged them to go the extra mile with raising money.

Whether a participant is competing for the top prize or simply joining for fun, engaging an audience from the moment they sign-up to the event day itself can turn them into long-term supporters.

You’ll Never Regret Doing More

I truly believe I did all I could, and more, for the virtual fundraiser. But, a few weeks before October 3, an intimate, CDC regulated, in-person gathering was organized for event day. It took place at The Baker House 1650 in East Hampton where the local community and their pups enjoyed a much needed stroll to the beach and reception that followed. Originally, I was unable to attend. But as co-chair I made sure to be there. It was beautiful and well thought out.

It was here that I made my biggest, and perhaps only, mistake. Since I wasn’t part of the planning of the in person event, or the email correspondence that led up to it, I went from actively spearheading the initiative to being a passive participant. While the in person event was a success, I can still recall all the little ways I could have helped but didn’t think to in that moment. The attention is in the detail and I let my attention slip. As a professional, whether it is something I agreed to do or not, that should never happen. 

And so, the biggest lesson learned here is actually the final one. Always follow up with anything and everything that your name is attached to.  You might regret not doing enough for a fundraiser, but you will never regret doing more. Push beyond the exhaustion, physical or mental, until you cross the finish line. 

Fundraising events act as a lifeline for many non-profits. They raise necessary financial support in order to carry out the organizations mission. Plus, they draw in new potential donors through entertainment, engagement, and live auctions. Although the pandemic has cancelled most to all in person events, fortunately, virtual fundraisers took their place.

Virtual fundraisers might be the new normal for a while, but that doesn’t make them any less effective. Get creative and get excited! The potential is literally endless with what you can do.

If you need help with your virtual fundraiser reach out to me on LinkedIn at Nicole Teitler or email me at 

Hamptons Gala Season Gone?

The Hamptons has a world-wide reputation for being a location of means. On the outside, it’s seen as a place of luxury homes and fancy parties, lined by beautiful beaches and noted celebrities. But those on the inside know that part of what makes the Hamptons truly special is its philanthropic community.

For decades, Memorial Day weekend has meant the kick-off to roaring summer nights spent gala hopping or cheering former presidents and Hall of Famers from the bleachers at the Artists and Writers Softball Game. Each event raises funds for a charitable cause, some local, some national, sprinkling in the magic of the season and an influx of tourism. As COVID-19 devastates the East End, perhaps one of the hardest felt hits in its wake will be the reality of a socially distant summer. Gala season has been canceled.

“We are still on and eager to do our part for our charities. We’re holding out hope that we’ll be able to gather in one way or another. This is the worst rain delay I’ve ever sat through,” said Benito Vila, president of the Artists and Writers Softball Game.

The famed AW Softball Game is typically held at the end of August, distributing funds to several charities. While outdoor sporting events are still up in the air, many nonprofits have been forced to cancel.

“What we will miss most is the chance for our animals and supporters to come together at our events,” said Scott Howe, executive director and CEO of Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons. “There is always such joy at ARF events. Having our animals there makes our mission tangible to people, and they allow us to thank our community in person. That personal connection is what I will personally miss, but we are already making plans to communicate in new ways while, at the same time, our work continues and evolves to help people and their pets impacted by COVID-19 and all the ways it has changed our lives.”

Elka Rifkin, director of The Watermill Center noted that it’s closed for the foreseeable future. “It is our great hope to re-open as soon as possible to continue to provide time and space for international, national, and local artists to create new work. We are grateful to those who have helped to support us in the past and during this difficult time.” Other canceled events include the Sag Harbor Historical Society gala, Breast Cancer Research Fund Paddle for Pink, and The Surfrider Foundation’s One Ocean Montauk benefit.

Zooming Into The Season

Some organizations are making adjustments rather than pulling the plug entirely. For example, The Surfrider Foundation is taking a unique approach to its 18th Annual Surf Movie Night, typically held at Guild Hall, by considering a potential drive-in movie experience. Others have decided to go completely virtual.

“We decided to pivot very early from an in-person event to a virtual event because we are truly an essential service. Canceling was not an option, as we are still providing all services to victims of domestic violence and have no choice but to raise money to help our clients continue their path toward healing,” said Ellie Kurrus, vice president of the board of directors at The Retreat. She is also the event chair for The Retreat’s All Against Abuse gala. This year, the gala will open up bidding on Friday, June 12, at 12 PM and it will remain open until 5 PM on Monday, June 22. On Saturday, June 13, at 6 PM will be the special Zoom Cocktail Party where bidding will be allowed on premier auction items.

Loretta Davis, The Retreat’s executive director, said of the organization’s largest fundraising event, “We are so excited to share this incredible experience with our guests. This is a new frontier for The Retreat and we have beautifully enhanced the journey. For the first time, access to the gala will be open to people across the nation. We have some superstar guests who will share their experience with The Retreat and some awesome auction items.” Guests are welcome to party in their pajamas, but gala attire and champagne glasses are encouraged.

The American Heart Association’s annual Hamptons Heart Ball will also be held through Zoom on Saturday, June 20.

“Through the Hamptons Heart Ball, we have been able to raise funds to further research and education here on Long Island. Of course, there will be a different feel to the event not having it in person,” said event chair Cristina Civetta. “The details really mirror the program portion of how we do our live event. All of our honorees, speakers, emcees, survivors and event chair will all be dressed in their best Hamptons chic and will provide you with a captivating evening that will encompass the mission of the American Heart Association. We are so excited to be having a live auction that evening also.”

A Means For Survival

For the vast majority of nonprofits, the summer galas are more than a reason to celebrate — they’re a means for survival. “The Parrish acted swiftly on modifications to the schedule of several events,” said Susan Galardi, communications director for the Parrish Art Museum. The nonprofit adapted quickly to its digital platform with online programming. While the Summer Family Party remains on schedule for its August date, the highly popular Midsummer Party and Late-Night Party, the museum’s most important fundraiser, has been canceled for July, and it has not been rescheduled at this time. “Despite the achievements in continuing to serve the community, the museum’s closure has led to a 75 to 80-percent reduction in resources, both staff and revenue,” Galardi added.

Diana Aceti, director of development at South Fork Natural History Museum, noted the museum’s gala, which celebrated 30 years last July, raises two thirds of the organization’s operating budget. “It is extremely important to raise necessary funds for environmental programs, initiatives, and operational costs.” At present, the annual SoFo gala is scheduled in-person for August 15 with social distancing adjustments in place, but Aceti acknowledged the possibility of having to go digital. “If we host an event online, we will include special surprise guests and other special surprises so that guests can enjoy a dinner, drinks, and a concert. We are brainstorming ideas daily,” she said.

The option to go to digital is giving The Ellen Hermanson Foundation a chance it otherwise may have lost — an opportunity to celebrate 25 years. “Twenty-five years is a big achievement and we do not want to let this pass without acknowledging that this is a very big deal for us. We know it is disappointing to have to cancel our in-person fundraiser, but we are confident that we will be able to create a fun, creative, and interactive event while bringing in much needed funds for The Ellen Hermanson Foundation,” Julie Ratner, president of The Ellen Hermanson Foundation said of both the summer gala and Ellen’s Run.

“We are grateful for all the professional, courageous, and compassionate heroes who keep us safe while combating COVID-19 on the front line and we are proud to be part of our strong caring and resilient community pulling together to face this challenge with love and support for each other,” added Ratner.

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s annual summer benefit is scheduled for August 1. Barbara-Jo Howard, the hospital’s director of communications and marketing will share news about the gala soon. However, she announced, “Later this year we look forward to beginning the largest campaign in our history; a campaign to build a new state-of-the-art community hospital. With lessons learned from the COVID-19 environment, this will undoubtedly be among the first post-pandemic new hospitals in our nation.”

Tom Dunn, executive director at Southampton Arts Center, said SummerFest is still in development, “We’re thinking about alternatives, maybe a smaller gathering and some other ways to come together safely as a community.” An announcement is coming in the next few weeks.

Looking At Other Options

The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation is looking into other options for its annual Hamptons Happening fundraiser. “To date, the Hamptons Happening raised more than $5 million for the SWCRF and its innovative research that is uncovering why cancer develops and how to treat and prevent the disease that affects 1.8 million Americans annually,” Samuel Waxman, M.D., founder and CEO, Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation said of the event that has been held for 15 consecutive years.

“This year, the SWCRF is working hard to create an exciting event that will observe social-distancing measures while bringing the community together. It is grateful to the many chefs, restaurants, wineries, distillers, and fine food purveyors for generously donating their specialties each year, and stands by these businesses and everyone affected by COVID-19 during this difficult time,” added Waxman.

The LongHouse Reserve’s summer gala, themed “Exotica,” has been pushed back “until the first possible moment when it’s safe to have it.” Dianne Benson, LongHouse board chair informed that a silent art and design auction will be available in July, “with a portion of the proceeds shared for the first time with participating artists” who have been hit noticeably hard by the pandemic. Other events pushed back to September include the Southampton Cultural Center’s 5th Annual Wine and Roses Gala and Southampton Historical Society’s 11th annual Insider’s View.

Some groups have made the difficult decision to cancel their events for 2020 and postpone to 2021: St Judes Hope in the Hamptons and the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation’s Unconditional Love Gala. “While we were all looking forward to celebrating the 11th Annual Unconditional Love Gala, we have decided to cancel. We feel that this is the responsible thing to do. The health, well-being, and safety of our guests is our top priority. We thank you for your continued support and look forward to making our 2021 celebration even bigger and better,” said Katie McEntee, SASF’s director of adoptions and public relations and junior chair of the gala.

Prioritizing the safety of others, East End Hospice is encouraging supporters to host a Pig Roast Picnic and dress up for a summer gala at home while donating to their cause. “Many long-time supporters of these events, as well as new donors, have stepped up to make their gift a straight donation this year. Some have even increased their support because they know the need is urgent right now. Other longtime event supporters are pivoting to support our COVID-19 Response Fund or make in-kind donations of much needed PPE and other essentials for our staff,” said Mary Crosby, East End Hospice’s president and CEO. The annual Box Art Auction has been pushed to October, following state and Centers for Disease Control recommendations. 

The famed fireworks over Three Mile Harbor are still planned for July. The Clamshell Foundation’s Great Bonac Fireworks and sandcastle contest are both scheduled and the organization is hopeful that they will go on. “We have the permits. However, the safety and well-being of all is our top priority. We are putting 100 percent of our focus and funds into those in need right now, but remain hopeful the wonderful tradition of the fireworks and sandcastle contest will both happen,” said the foundation’s president, Kori Peters.

Founded in 1901, Southampton Fresh Air Home has been through worse than COVID-19 — it endured two world wars, the Spanish influenza, and the Great Depression. For 32 years, the nonprofit’s Grucci fireworks have been a signature touch to its annual American Picnic fundraiser, an event that typically raises over 25 percent of the organization’s annual operating revenue toward programs for physically disabled youths. While the picnic is packed up, the show will still go on. “Thanks to our rich history and continued support by our community, we continue to adapt and persevere during these trying times. We are currently offering virtual programs and activities which provide for a great distraction and socialization for many,” said executive director Thomas Naro. The annual Decorators, Designers, and Dealers event has been postponed to Saturday, August 29.

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper.

Approaching Wildlife With Rachel Nuwer

Award-winning journalist and author Rachel Love Nuwer dives deep into the underbelly of the illegal wildlife trade in her new book “Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking.” She visited 12 countries, including the United States, to explore the depths of the multi-billion-dollar contraband industry responsible for pushing many species to the brink of extinction.

Within her book, animal trade dealers in Vietnam are compared to the drug dealers in New York City, common and commonly disregarded. Nuwer said she was in a restaurant and a man put a rhino horn on a table while patrons and servers casually walked around. “It just shows how little threat criminals actually face getting caught and prosecuted for their crimes,” said Nuwer.

Vietnam leads the illegal rhino horn trade. China is known for its elephant poaching for ivory. Unlike drugs or human trafficking, wildlife trade is shrugged off, so criminals aren’t concerned.

As society grows more aware of the elephant, rhino, and tiger trade crisis, very few are knowledgeable how expansive the problem is. Poachers target hundreds of lesser-known species, such as pangolins. Wildlife trafficking also happens in our own backyard, as the U.S. remains a huge consumer of exotic pets from parrots to small animals.

“These pets are sold legally; this isn’t usually a black-market thing. Through whatever means, either by corruption or incompetence, they are given a legal pass by getting official paperwork in those countries of origin saying they were bred in captivity, therein making them legal. When those animals show up here, U.S. border, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents, even if they are pretty sure they came from the wild, have to let them in, because of the paperwork from that country. And they can’t say that country is wrong,” said Nuwer.

For her book, Nuwer tried to include as many perspectives as she could. From the hunter, to the officials setting rules and not enforcing them, to the trained scientists aiming to educate the public for future generations.

With an original deadline of only a year, in hindsight, Nuwer wishes she could have included a chapter on wildlife in the communities, about those living around the parks and how the animals play a natural role in their protection or destruction. The indigenous people need to kill these animals for food and poaching is taking away their survival.

“It’s by no means a perfect project, but I think it gives a very good snapshot, an overview of the main forces of play in terms of people carrying out illegal wildlife trade and the causes of demand that fuel it. And the people who are trying to stop it,” she said.

Some of Nuwer’s recommendations for organizations making a difference are Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund, the only group working to conserve the Iriomote wildcat; African Parks, which takes over management of national parks from African governments; Traffic, which investigates wildlife trade globally and produces important data; and Wildlife Direct, which provides conservation education and legal reform of wildlife laws and prosecutions in Kenya.

With Rachel (center) and the rest of The Independent Newspaper team


This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper.