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The Floating Hospital’s annual summer benefit is back—and better than ever.

After more than two years of quarantining and social distancing, it’s time to celebrate the love and care The Floating Hospital brings to New York’s most vulnerable families. Whether you’re a fan of the clinic’s work, or are a community or board member, a donor (or perhaps would like to become one), or a friend or family member of any of the above, the evening of Monday, June 13 is not to be missed. Called the Summer of Love, the event returns after a two-year hiatus to Current, the waterfront venue on Pier 59 at 23rd Street.

“What we’re tapping into with the Summer of Love theme is during that time in the ‘60s, there was a keen awareness of your fellow human being—reminding each other that there are others out there other than yourself,” says The Floating Hospital President Sean T. Granahan, Esq. “It was about the concept of others and how that concept grew … it was a counterpoint to the burgeoning culture of self-absorption and it spread like wild fire.”

“Having been locked down for the last two years, pushing the idea that our work about others seemed like the right way to go,” he said.

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Of course, that work was never on lockdown at The Floating Hospital. Indeed, it became that much more intense during the Covid-19 pandemic. The clinic was an early adopter in serving the immediate vaccination needs of its patient families, along with other physical and mental-health needs that the Covid crisis amplified. Also during this time, The Floating Hospital opened its new clinic in Long Island City, conducted strategic research for a Social Determinants of Health study, launched a teaching kitchen and dental clinic, and added more empowering educational layers to Camp Rise Up, its life-skills and leadership camp for homeless teens. Another layer was dealing with the “pandemic within the pandemic”: a rise in domestic violence in New York City and particularly families living in stressed circumstances.

“Schools and school structures are the largest reporting environment for domestic violence and child abuse, and that was shut down; it’s had huge ramifications that we haven’t even touched on yet,” Granahan says.

While the pandemic-related stressors affected everyone, no matter their socio-economic background, they were even greater for impoverished families who have even fewer resources. And, they are ongoing.

“The needs for our patients are far greater than they’ve ever been. Covid made that worse. From pre-Covid to today, we have an 8.5 % inflation rate, and who does that hurt the most? The poorest people with the least amount of money for food and essentials. That’s our patient base,” Granahan said.

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Since 1866, the work done by the staff and supporters of The Floating Hospital has been nothing less than an act of love, and celebrating that at an in-person event is long overdue. Forget the typical parade of speeches: This event will feel more like a fun, rollicking cocktail party thrown by a friend, with music by the Duke Ellington Legacy Band, led by the grandson of the legendary musician.

It’s also, of course, the chance to connect and meet with the people who do the on-the-ground work. “Our event is always about us and the work we do; it’s not about an honoree. That’s the distinctive, unifying factor—we’re inviting you to our house for dinner and supplying entertainment and talking about the relationship between you and us. And that’s why our event always has appeal and that’s why it’s so important,” Granahan says.

Nonprofit consultant Virginia Keim, who’s been working with the organization on fundraising strategies, says, “To meet the people who are running the programs and hear from them in an informal, individual way about why they got into this work and what it means to them, is a human experience … you build a collegiality that can’t be created on a Zoom screen.”

In addition to raising funds for the clinic through ticket sales, there will be a paddle raise with a range of items that directly impact the clinic’s patients: in-shelter therapy and counseling sessions, life-skills and job workshops, and meals for various workshop/community initiatives. The paddle raise offerings partially support salaries and training of key positions in the clinic’s new life-skills assistance program: two case workers who help women navigate the complexities of applying for housing and other benefits, and training so they may get their families on a stable path.

The benefit is especially critical after a pause from traditional fundraising events and at a time costs have skyrocketed in health care. “People think it’s just the supply chain and the micro-chips experiencing shortages, but it’s healthcare, too,” Granahan said. “With Covid not exactly over, the healthcare process is now more labor intensive,” he explained, “The basic economics of how we do things are different now, and everything from power costs to consumable supplies is vastly more expensive and more difficult to get.”

“A return to events like this gives us a chance to tell our story, which has taken on twists and turns over the past two years of a pandemic,” Granahan said, adding, “and now that story—a version of which we’ve been telling for some 155 years—is more critical to more people than ever before.”

—Amy Zavatto

Since 1866, The Floating Hospital has been the largest provider of healthcare and education to families living with homelessness. Based in Long Island City, it provides comprehensive primary, dental and behavioral-health services, and health-education to patients living in more than 300 shelters and domestic violence safe houses throughout New York City.

In 2021, The Floating Hospital moved into a new modern main clinic in Long Island City, and continues to support patients in satellite clinics at family homeless shelters and public housing complexes in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

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