By Matthew Page | Dan's Papers

While the opioid crisis continues to claim victims across the nation, on Long Island, Gabriel’s Giving Tree is helping grieving families.

The group was founded by Paulette Phillippe of Mattituck, who lost her grandson, Gabriel, to overdose in 2010. Her family struggled to cover the costs of the funeral, leading to the creation of the foundation in 2020. The following year, the group partnered with the nonprofit Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD), and the groups have since raised more than $100,000.

“The grants provided by GGT only cover a portion of the expenses,” Phillippe says. “Fortunately, several Long Island funeral homes, including Fives Funeral Homes in Smithtown and Patchogue, work with the organization to help families struggling to pay for funeral costs stay within a budget.”

Recently, Gabriel’s Giving Tree and LICADD held their Peter Sweisgood and Gabriel’s Giving Tree Healing and Recovery Breakfast. The groups honored Sweisgood, a former LICADD executive director, Richard Buckman, founder of the Long Island Recovery Association, and recovery advocate Ed Olsen posthumously.

All told, the group has provided grants for nearly 30 families since the LICADD partnership began in 2021. Their continued efforts impressed Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who presented Phillippe with a certificate of appreciation.

“The support provided by Gabriel’s Giving Tree has offered families one less stressor in their process of grief, and for that we are very grateful and thankful,” Anker said.

The Giving Tree also opened the Memorial & Recovery Park at the Suffolk County Environmental Center at the Scully Estate in Islip, which the group says, “gives visitors the opportunity to heal and reflect.”

The Scully Estate is located at 550 S. Bay Avenue, Islip. For more information about Gabriel’s Giving Tree, LICADD and to donate, visit