Apple Honda general manager Bill Fields presented a $400 donation to WRFD Dec. 18 as part of the dealership's First Responder Fridays program. Courtesy photo.

A Riverhead auto dealership is doing its part to boost local charitable organizations working to serve the community despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Earlier this year, Apple Honda launched an initiative called “First Responder Fridays.” Every month, the dealership donates $50 for every new vehicle it sells on the third Friday, to a local organization.

Apple has for the past eight years run a similar program every October to benefit North Fork Breast Health Coalition. The dealership has raised more than $65,000 for the local organization, which assists breast cancer patients and their families with free services and cash grants.

When the dealership reopened its showroom after the COVID crisis struck, its returning sales staff suggested starting a similar program for other organizations struggling during the pandemic, said Apple Honda general manager Bill Fields.

“We recognized the great work at the hospital,” Fields said. “And we also recognized that a lot of organizations we count on as a community often go overlooked, especially when businesses that supports them are hurting,” he said.

This month’s recipient is a good example, Fields noted. The dealership on Dec. 18 presented a $400 check to the Wading River Fire Department for its annual Stuff-A-Bus food drive.

“We heard they were having challenges,” Fields said. “They couldn’t set up in front of the King Kullen because of COVID. So we asked their permission,” he said. See prior story: With annual ‘Stuff-A-Bus’ food drive upended by COVID-19 Wading River FD seeks donations at its headquarters this year

Apple always asks permission in advance, Fields said, to make sure the organization is agreeable to being chosen as a First Responder Fridays recipient.

Other First Responder Fridays recipients include Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Bread & More soup kitchen, Flanders-Northampton Ambulance, Riverhead Fire Department, and Beacon House. January’s recipient will be the Riverhead Police Athletic League, which runs programs for Riverhead youth.

Wading River Fire Department used the donation to buy food for Stuff-A-Bus, its food drive to collect nonperishable donations for local food pantries.

“On behalf of the WRFD I would like to personally thank Apple Honda and Bill for choosing us as the first responder of the month and the contribution to the Stuff-A-Bus campaign,” WRFD ex-chief Randy Hintze said in an email.

“It’s really a humbling experience when we deliver the check,” Fields said. “We hope that the small dollars we raise not only go to a good cause but also buoy their spirits a bit, knowing that there are people out there who recognize and appreciate what they do,” Fields said.

Apple Honda has a tradition of giving back, Fields noted. Company founder, the late Irwin Garsten, was a big donor to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where he was a board member, and was deeply involved in nonprofit organizations such as United Way, Rotary and Boy Scouts.

Correction: This story has been amended to correct a misstatement about the fundraising campaign. The dealership donates $50 for every new vehicle sold on the designated “First Responder Friday” date, not for the entire prior month, as previously stated.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.