Community

Thousands of plants grown for annual garden festival donated to East End hospitals

For 25 years, the annual East End Garden Festival has become an unofficial marker of Mother’s Day weekend.

The annual fundraiser, which has supported both Peconic Bay Medical Center and the International Surgical Mission, could not take place this year due to concerns over the coronavirus, but nearly two dozen growers have teamed up to keep the tradition alive.

In lieu of the festival typically held at Tanger Outlets, thousands of plants were donated to hospital workers across all three East End hospitals.

In lieu of the festival typically held at Tanger Outlets, thousands of plants were donated to hospital workers across all three East End hospitals.

Mr. Garay said the plants are providing some well-needed morale to the staff, who gathered Thursday evening for a private candlelight vigil to honor patients they’ve lost to COVID-19.

“Things are doing better at the hospital too, so there’s hope on the horizon,” Mr. Garay added, alluding to a regional trend that indicates hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are slowing.

Among the hospital employees selecting plants in Riverhead was Maureen Stefanidis, nurse manager of the Intensive Care and Progressive Care units at PBMC, who said the annual garden festival is always an event she looks forward to.

“It’s such a sweet gesture,” she said as she picked out plants alongside fellow nurses. “So many people have done amazing things in the community and it’s finally getting better. Staff on the unit are finally able to laugh, take breaks. It feels good.”