When locals learned that Robbie Badkin, who lives on Lazy Point and has worked as a welder in Montauk for 30 years, was facing life-threatening illness, they opened their hearts immediately to help.
Badkin's nephew, David Elze, set up a Go Fund Me page, with an inital goal of $10,000. While that goal was reached in two days, the need was even more urgent than initially believed, he said, and the goal was raised to $25,000.
"We had to raise the goal to $25,000 after my mother spent several weeks tracking down all of Robbie's bills and back taxes. It looked like he had a year's worth of unopened bills as he tried to keep working after Hurricane Sandy, but just couldn't keep up. We are at just over $16,000 right now. More than halfway there."
A fundraiser has been planned for Inlet Seafood Restaurant on March 30 from 4 to 8 p.m. The event will include a silent auction. The cost of $30 includes sushi and appetizers; a cash bar will be available.
Local businesses including Hildreth's of Southampton, Riverhead Building Supply, and Amagansett Lumber, as well as Blackwell Plumbing, Ace Hardware, and others have opened their hearts to pitch in.
"I think we will get enough to do a proper renovation to the house," Elze said; the home was damaged during Sandy and mold is a huge issue.
To that end, a local company called Mold Buster is donating a non-toxic citrus-based mold killer, he said.
The community outpouring, Elze said, has been overwhelming, with scores of volunteers stepping up. Elze has reached out to World Cares, a group that organized volunteers for Sandy clean-up efforts.
Elze said donations would still be greatly appreciated; the initial funds were to help meet expenses including mortgage, utilities, taxes and medical bills.
Additional funding will be used to completely rehabilitate Badkin's home.
His uncle, Elze said, is well-known and loved in the community. "He's worked on almost every commercial fishing boat there is in Montauk," he said.
The road back from critical illness will be long, Elze said; his uncle suffered from blood sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome. He was in an induced coma for two weeks, with only a 10 to 20 percent chance that he would ever awake.
"He was deathly ill. We were prepared to lose him," Elze said. "But he came out of it. He's a very tough, stubborn man. He's very independent, and has been working for himself his whole life."
Badkin is currently at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing where an extended stay and extensive physical therapy are necessary for his rehabilitation. In the coma he lost 70 pounds and his muscles atrophied.
Badkin turned 51 last Saturday; the family gathered in the hospital to celebrate his life.
During Sandy, Badkin stayed at his home despite the flooding; he brought his generator to relatives' homes so they could save the food in their freezers.
On the Go Fund Me page, Elze thanked the community for their tremendous outpouring of love.
"You have made it possible for us to get down to the business of renovating his house so he has a clean and healthy place to come home to with out worrying that it will be taken away by the bank," he wrote. "We raised our goal in such a short time that it was hard for me to keep up with all the thank yous. I had set the goal of $10,000 knowing that we needed a lot more, but thinking that it was a lot to ask of people. I see now the power in numbers that a hard working community can bring to a personal cause."
He added, "Someone responded to my plea for help with this quote, 'We can't help everyone but everyone can help someone'. And you have. Robbie still has a long way to go and his GoFundMe will keep going."
Still needed, Elze said, is help from carpenters, to help level the floors in his uncle's home. Anyone who can help is asked to call 631-875-9622 or by sending a message to his uncle's Facebook page.
"Thank you again to everyone in this amazing community," he wrote.