A little pasta dinner can go a long way. The Star of the East Lodge No. 843 presented the Rev. Steven E. Howarth of the Amagansett Presbyterian Church with a check for $8,729 at the Masons’ Toys for Tots Christmas party on Friday. The group had held a spaghetti-and-meatballs fund-raiser at the Amagansett Firehouse on Nov. 19 to help rebuild the church’s Scoville Hall, which was destroyed by fire on Oct. 15. The Masons were one of several community groups that used the hall for meetings.
“We presold 300 tickets, and then we had 225 walk-in tickets, and people donated money,” Alex Walter, a lodge member, said this week. “It was a great community response.” About 375 dinners were served, he said. “There was an influx of people overflowing the lobby. People were willing to wait a half-hour to eat. It didn’t seem to matter, everyone seemed to want to be there.”
“The Southampton local lodge is allowing us to use their place at no cost,” Mr. Walter said. “That just shows you that the entire community really rallies to anyone who is hurt in some sort of catastrophe.” The Masons lost furniture, fixtures, and memorabilia in the fire. “We saved a Bible we had since 1903, which also made it through a fire in 1978, when the lodge was housed over the old V.F.W.”
“They were wonderful,” he said of the Amagansett Fire Department. “We tried to give them a donation for use of the [firehouse] that evening, and they wouldn’t take it from us. They should be thanked.”
“The outpouring of support at that dinner was so heartwarming,” Mr. Howarth said. “It was standing room only at the firehouse, with people from various parts of the community and beyond our community. They made it a point to say, ‘We’re here because we want to be supportive.’ And that was just so encouraging.”
In addition to what came in at the fund-raiser, “We’ve received a surprising amount of contributions from the community, which was unsolicited,” Mr. Howarth said. “It started with a community member walking up to me and handing me $1,000 cash on the day of the fire. We’ve been receiving checks ever since.”
One donation made in the memory of the Rev. Clarence Scoville, whom the hall is named for, came from his grandson. A number of checks have come from members of the Alcoholics Anonymous group that held meetings in the hall.
“It’s one of the blessings that come out of a tragedy like this,” Mr. Howarth said. “You realize, one, what the ministry of the church has meant to the community, and two, what a warm, caring community we are fortunate enough to live in.”
As for the restoration plans, the church is still waiting to reach a settlement with the insurance company. “We’ve done our part. It’s not a quick process, but we can’t go any further until then,” Mr. Howarth said. The donation from the Masons will go directly into rebuilding.
The insurance money “will not be sufficient to build a new building, especially one that will meet the needs of the community for the 21st century,” he said. “In order to rebuild something that would work for the various community groups, we’re going to need more money than the insurance settlement.”
“We’re conscious of the fact that there is very little community meeting space here in Amagansett. We feel like it’s our responsibility to help meet that need for groups such as A.A., the Masonic Lodge, the food pantry, and the Hispanic Church of the Nazarene, who had worshipped there in the hall the last five years,” he said. “We’re looking to fund-raising, and the Masons’ dinner was a great first step to that.”
At the Masons’ Toys for Tots party, which was held at a member’s house, the toys taken in will be distributed to families in East Hampton Town, Tim Walters, master of the lodge, said. The lodge members also collected $1,500 among themselves for a couple of local families.