Hampton Coffee’s Altruistic Recognition

This article originally appeared in the February 14, 2018 issue of The Independent Newspaper


The Ellen Hermanson Foundation will host its annual Denim & Diamonds event on Saturday, March 10, from 6:30 to 10 PM at 230 Elm Street in Southampton.

Proceeds will benefit The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton and Ellen’s Well, which provides crisis intervention counseling for breast cancer patients.

The team behind Hampton Coffee Company, including owners Jason and Theresa Belkin, will be honored for over a decade of involvement with the organization. Shirley Ruch and the South Fork Bakery and Dr. Louis Avvento of the NY Cancer and Blood Center will also be honored.

What began in 1994 as a single, small espresso bar in Water Mill, Hampton Coffee Company has grown into Long Island’s largest independent coffee roaster. With several locations on both the North and South Forks, including a Mobile Espresso Unit and Coffee Roaster, it still remains family owned, with a strong emphasis on the surrounding community.

The company helps out more than 100 organizations annually throughout the towns they serve. “We support things our employees and customers are concerned about,” said co-owner Jason Belkin. Charities it supports, besides the foundation, include the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, The Retreat, and the Water Mill Community Club.

“Sara Blue is amazing. She deserves an award,” Belkin said of the Denim & Diamonds event organizer, who also lends her time to Riverhead homeless shelter Maureen’s Haven. Hampton Coffee Company provides soup, chili, and bread to the shelter.

Open year round, the Hampton Coffee Company employs more than 60 local residents, with jobs ranging from baristas to executive level positions at its corporate office. Belkin said that helping the community is a value that Hampton Coffee Company shares with the Ellen Hermanson Foundation.

“We appreciate this organization so much,” said Belkin. “People have needs all year round. They’re here, like we are.”

Although not personally affected by cancer, Belkin admires the emphasis the foundation places on treatment availability, despite one’s ability to pay.

Native to East Rockaway, Belkin and his wife, Theresa, who originally called Ireland home, have raised their kids in Westhampton Beach for the past 15 years. They have witnessed the grueling winters where many businesses, and charities, struggle for support. “It’s always harder in the winter. Summer is so much easier for people to come out,” Belkin opined.

In addition to philanthropy, the company practices “keeping it green.” Solar panels sit atop the roof of its Water Mill café, and it uses energy efficient LED light bulbs company wide. Single cups are made in the U.S., producing 30 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, and its Java Jackets are printed with vegetable-based inks, making them recyclable and compostable. The company even manufactures its own K-cups, using recyclable material.

Jason and Theresa Belkin, along with 20 staff members from Hampton Coffee Company, are slated to attend the Denim & Diamonds event. Interested in attending? For more info, visit www.ellenhermanson.org.


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Daily Fitness: A Practice For Everyone

(This article first appeared in the April 12, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


My typical response to participating in a yoga class is “Namaste out of it.” However, it’s hard to argue yoga’s multitude of benefits, such as increased flexibility, muscle strength, circulatory health, and injury protection (among many others) that come with the practice.

Introducing a ground-breaking program on the East End that offers yoga classes to those battling cancer.

Yoga, unlike some other physical activities, can be for everyone including cancer patients. Yoga geared for those touched by cancer aims to increase lymphatic flow in order to optimize the immune system.

A primary difference between the practice for those with the ailment and those of healthier bodies is that many breast cancer patients practicing yoga have undergone a mastectomy or biopsy. This causes scarring of the breast tissue, which can cause stress when doing yoga poses such as downward facing dog or headstands.

As bone density could be lower in cancer patients, these classes alleviate pressure on the neck by keeping the head up.

Eric Pettigrew has been teaching yoga for 20 years and is a master trainer for Y4C (yoga 4 cancer), a program created by Tari Prinster. In addition, Pettigrew participates in the integrative therapy program Urban Zen and collaborates with the non-profit, Fighting Chance.

Through The Ellen Hermanson Foundation he also holds yoga at Southampton Hospital free of charge every Wednesday at 10:15 AM in the wellness center.

“We gain a sense of self of the body, to reconnect with balance . . . the benefit is to be joined, to be in a group. To know that you’re not alone . . . that there’s other people like you. You can go out of your house, to move and to feel good about yourself,” Pettigrew affirmed.

The groups maintain a compassionate dynamic through the essential core commonality of the disease.

Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor offers a complimentary Therapeutic Yoga for Cancer class described as “yoga for hope, health, and healing.” Pettigrew and fellow instructor Hilary Chasin teach a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:45 PM. All classes average 10 to 15 people during off-season with more during the warmer months. Through the energized movement of these yoga classes, the form is gentle but works to increase blood flow, with a restorative cool down.

On Sundays at 2:30 PM a class is offered at Ananda Wellness Yoga in Southampton. The class is sponsored by Fighting Chance and is with intructor Karen Meyer.

As with any fitness routine, and with any individual body, strength is achieved through practice. Being healthy is about mentality as well as capability, and through that we all have the ability to achieve goals.

Who knows, maybe the next time someone asks me to take a yoga class I’ll remember all of the inspiring patients taking the step to better their lives and roll out the mat.

To learn more about Eric Pettigrew visit http://www.Holisticlifeworks.com or http://www.y4c.com.

Ellen’s Run: A Step in the Right Direction

(This article first appeared in the August 17, 2016 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


One step at a time is all it takes to change someone’s life or our own. At the twenty-first annual Ellen’s Run, held this Sunday at Parrish Memorial Hall at Southampton Hospital at 9 AM, hundreds will be running for a change.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015 close to 232,000 US women were newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and approximately 40,000 of those women will die from the disease. Statistics are now showing that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

As these numbers become harder to ignore, the Ellen’s Run 5K race raises money to support the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital. At this family event, runners of all levels and ages are encouraged to participate. A special prize is given to the first breast cancer survivor who crosses the finish line.

Julie Ratner is Chair of Ellen’s Run and the sister of the inspiration for it all, Ellen Hermanson. In catching up with Ratner the life of Ellen was revealed.

“She was an earth lover type, interested in everything around her. She was a voracious reader with a really present, sharp mind. The conversation was always interesting.”

Ratner, six years older than Ellen, described her sister as being “a great partner in crime” who would never rat her out. Ellen was the “perfect little sister” and acted as her little mascot, the younger, but wiser and smarter one, who she went to for advice.

An ambitious woman with big aspirations, Hermanson was a journalist who took a keen interest in the Middle East and Israel during the late 70s and early 80s. Her biggest dream came true with the birth of her daughter Leora.

Leora, a Hebrew name meaning “light onto me,” was only six months old when Hermanson was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 35. Due to the sickness, Leora grew up rather independently, often playing on her own with Hermanson sick much of the time.

Now at twenty-seven years old, Leora recently took the bar exam in North Carolina and is “Ellen’s finest accomplishment,” though her mother is not around to see her today. Ratner reminisced, “I can still hear Ellen say to me, ‘Could you believe how great Leora is? Am I bragging too much?’ As sick as she was, she would always bring up her daughter in discussion . . . through the pain you could feel this light in her voice.”

Hermanson’s voice is the positive memory, keeping her alive. It’s still heard by Ratner, “I hear it in my ear, that stays with me.”

After seeing her sister’s deterioration from the beginning to Hermanson’s untimely end, Ratner talks with women in the community aiming to give them advice that is helpful based on what she’d recommend for herself or her own daughters.

“I recommend the 3D mammogram. It’s more radiation, but it’s more accurate . . . Always get a second opinion. Find and learn as much as you can about your disease. You want to be a partner with your doctor to work with yourself.”

Proper education and support are crucial to the process of any disease because in the beginning it’s hard to be sure what the exact disease may be. Staying positive is also important to personal wellbeing.

To the women who have reached the final lap in their course of the disease, Ratner describes the end stages as humbling. Most situations have the capability of change, but accepting loss is final. “Spend time, hold that space, listen. It’s about the person dying . . . Be present and be attentive.” She emphasized being aware in the moment and making the most of the time that’s left. In quoting her sister, “[Ellen said to me] as close as we are you don’t get it. You haven’t walked in these shoes.”

For the patients, caregivers, or loved ones seeking emotional support there is Ellen’s Well. Established in May of 2000, Ellen’s Well provides psychosocial support for breast cancer survivors on the East End. Edyle O’Brian, an oncological social worker for over twenty years, facilitates these support groups. O’Brian is both wise and caring; a conversation with her can be healing.

Ellen’s Run grows bigger every year, and this year’s attendance is expected to reach a thousand or more. Ratner notes that one woman recently stopped her and said “I have a t-shirt from every year at your race.” This was a heartfelt moment and reminder of how supportive the East End community is.

“It’s a great race with a lot of spirit and energy. We’re not just surviving but thriving,” she said.

The run is a fast course in the morning before the day’s heat kicks in. People often run for a good time. Plus, there’s no traffic!

Ellen’s Run is a way to honor and remember loved ones. Ratner encourages attendance. “We keep our money here. We believe in this community. We’re part of it and we are here to serve it.” Each step taken is a step in the right direction.

28 Days of Awesome: Find Your Local Adventure

Inspired by my Golden Birthday (turning 28th on March 28th), 28 Days of Awesome was created as a way to live local life to the fullest.


Initially, when a friend brought up that 2017 was my lucky turning of age, I envisioned a weekend away. Boston, upstate New York, maybe the Carolina’s. However, without a current substantial, steady pay check the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a small vacation conceptually created more stress than anticipation. On the positive side, no routine commitment allows me the flexibility to seek the unknown any time of day, spreading my dollar to daily, local activities. Thus, creating a ‘golden’ opportunity for an extended adventure (and blog series).

Eventually, as expected, planning something ‘awesome’ every day for four weeks became exhausting. By day 17 I started referring to it as the 28 Day Challenge but, in conclusion of it all, 28 Days of Eating would have been a more accurate description.

Amid my struggle to pull through to the end, a friend’s text message read:

“Isn’t that life? We start off doing something because we have a passion for it and it becomes a challenge to continue as each day passes. But that’s one thing you’ve proven me wrong on several occasions. You decide to do something because you’re passionate about it and you see it through no matter what obstacles get in your way.” – Anonymous Motivator

Without realizing it, my idea was spreading light to those around me. As though someone dropped a match in gasoline, the fire within me was reignited and I successfully accomplished something new every day for 28 days.

  • Finding Things That Are Free: In thinking up things to do I also needed to adhere to some sort of budget. Manhattan has dozens of talk shows that are free to attend. Be a part of a studio audience at no additional expense, just the transportation it takes to get there. On March 1st I sat front row at The Wendy Williams Show as a way to kick off my month long celebration. In a wonderful turn of events, they asked me to be on call for future projects. Still on a high from the previous day, I attended a press and industry event for the new Broadway musical Anastasia, courtesy of The Garden City Hotel, where I met several of the producers and cast member Derek Klena.
28 Days 8
Left: Derek Klena from Anastasia the Musical / Right: Wendy William
  • On a Budget, Coffee Coffee Coffee: There’s something to be said about a well crafted cup of coffee situated in an uniquely decorated shop. Independently owned coffee houses draw in personalities similar to the engaging atmosphere they provide. In addition, you know that money goes directly back into the local community. When it comes to ‘cawfee,’ I say- Go small business or go home. One day, I stumbled into Toby’s Estate Espresso Bar located in the Flatiron, perfectly situated in connection to a sub-location of Strand Bookstore. Isn’t that the ideal combination, coffee and books? Another, I sought out Bellmore Bean Cafe, a place I’d passed countless times but for some reason or another never took the time to go inside. As it were, it was comedy night but turned out the joke was on us (at that point I realized why they had alcohol on the shelves next to the beans brewing). I also made a point to attend the Coffee & Tea Festival in Brooklyn. It was something I never experienced but found myself tweaking out from too much caffeine in the end (basically Kramer from Seinfeld).

28 Days 5

  • Take Time to Disconnect: Tending to my physical health and disconnecting became important on my list. After hearing the benefits of floatation therapy, I did a 60-minute float at iChill. I’d been to the Dead Sea years ago and had an idea what floating felt like. What I didn’t foresee was the hurdle of mental disconnection. At Hand & Stone I requested my first male masseuse.
28 Days 9
Left: iChill Salt Float / Right: Hand & Stone Massage
28 Days 6
Left: Zumbathon for Make-A-Wish / Middle: New York Blood Center / Right: Denim & Diamonds
  • Carpe Diem: When I was running out of ideas I stopped thinking and let the day progress naturally. I stumbled across a new Zumba instructor I hadn’t taken before, went to see a movie for the first time alone, received my debut article for Luxury Living Magazine and saw my friends acoustic session at Craft Kitchen (a place I see every time I ride the LIRR but hadn’t yet tried).
28 Days 3
Up Right: New Zumba Instructor / Up Left: Beauty & The Beast /     Down Right: Luxury Living Magazine article / Down Left: Craft Kitchen
  • Give & Take: Not everything panned out as planned, like a two hour wait for indoor go-karting (which I’d never done on Long Island). While we took a great picture the real experiences were exploring local bars, rather forgetful in documenting the ‘awesomeness.’ Luckily, some things are easy to rely on, like a complimentary pilates class for new students. Though I am a self-proclaimed fitness foodie, this was my first pilates experience.
28 Days
Top: Pilates / Bottom: Indoor Go Karting
  • When in Doubt, Eat…: Never one to turn down food, the easiest thing to do was discover new places to eat or drink. Grindstone in Sag Harbor had long been on my must-see list since its opening in summer 2016 as was The VNYL in NYC (complimentary Irish Coffee on St. Patricks day). Piecraft was a unique option for a late night dinner with a craft-your-own-pizza attitude and Kinha proved to be a good sushi option for a friendly catch up. Yet, when ‘snowstorm Stella’ came to town I had to prepare for things to do at home, and a new bottle of Natura Malbec wine tipsyed the scale in my favor.
28 Days 7
Up Left: Grindstone / Up Right: Kinha Sushi / Middle: Natura Malbec / Down Left: PieCraft / Down Right: The VNYL
  • …And Eat Some More: As mentioned, not everything went as expected. As a backup, I revisited Bellmore Bean Cafe and tried their dessert with some Irish coffee (it was acoustic night, which was a nice change). But nothing, aside from my actual birthday, beat my final day of being 27 on the 27th. I waited three years to experience Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar as part of birthday celebrations and that dream finally came true. My admiration for the brand and love for polo made it an experience I hoped for and one that finally became a reality. Dream, dress, and dine like a Lauren!
Left: Bellmore Bean / Right: Ralph Lauren Polo Bar
  • Every Day is a Day to Celebrate: Having never been to a brewery before, and admiring local craft brews, I did a tasting flight at Port Jeff Brewery (their Cold North Wind Barleywine was especially delicious). Finally, after a prior failed attempt, I made it to Crown Steakhouse where I sampled several of their nearly 200 different types of whiskey with the owner, Gerry (‘un-lushing’ my inner Irish).
28 Days 4
Top: Crown Steakhouse / Bottom: Port Jefferson Brewery
  • Spontaneity Works: Alright, so having brunch at Jam or attending a Paint Nite was planned in advance. But spontaneously trying on Victoria’s Secret Angel wings directly off the mannequin was a spur of the moment decision. On my 28th birthday the store lent me them so I ‘could fly.’ Sadly, they were too heavy, so I requested a photo op instead.
28 Days 2
Left: Victoria’s Secret Angel wings / Middle: Paint Nite / Right: Jam on Park

3 Things I Learned:

You Don’t Need to Travel Far to Get Away

Local adventures have the ability to shape our day-to-day lives. Over the course of 28 days my appreciation grew for my hometown and the surrounding areas. By committing to step outside my usual routine each day, even if for a moment, I discovered an unknown and felt a new sense of happiness.

Expect Less, Receive More

Money and people, two things where the more I rely on it the more disappointed I become. The value of an adventure isn’t measured by its price tag but by its impact. Free to low cost activities had a greater affect on me because I had low expectations, and if it wasn’t ‘awesome’ than I didn’t break the bank testing it out. The same went with friends. Over the course of 28 days I tried to involve as many people in my life as possible, to share in the experiences. Unfortunately, quite a few times I was let down and made to do things on my own. From disinterest in what I was doing, life getting in the way and even just flat out ditching me. It was when I committed to an idea, be damned who came with me, that others eagerly joined in. The less I asked the more I received.

Doing Things Alone is Awesome

I think I have an awesome array of interests, an awesome outlook on life, and an awesome ability to meet people anywhere I go. So why should I worry about doing things alone? Since I love who I am and what I am, doing things solo eventually became easy. As I mentioned in my blog about solo travel, doing things alone allowed me to be selfish and ignore other peoples noise.

Stay Golden!