Paying it forward in Long Beach

Residents unite to help local businesses


While they wait for government aid or insurance money, Long Beach businesses have been languishing in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

“Technically, the powers that be — the government, the insurance — [aid] should be happening already. But it’s not,” said Billy Kupferman, president of the Long Beach Surfer’s Association. “So what are we going to do? Are we just going to watch that happen, or are we going to get up and do what we can?”

The Surfer’s Association, along with Earth Arts, Swingbellys and the Janet Slavin law firm, launched Project Pay It Forward in January, a collaborative effort aimed at getting storm-ravaged Long Beach businesses rebuilt and off the ground.

The organization helps one local business at a time by determining what it needs — be it a fundraiser or just someone to help put up sheetrock in a gutted space — and then organizing volunteers to help do the work, or host an event to raise money. The hope, Kupferman said, is that once a business is restored, it will “pay it forward” and help the group with the next project.

“No one is ever indebted in any way,” said Kupferman. “But we just hope that once we help one business, they’ll join on and help us with the next one.”

The group originally came together when people collaborated on a project during the holidays that involved buying gift cards from local businesses and then donating them to families in need. It was a “two birds, one stone” idea, Kupferman said, aimed at supporting local businesses after the storm while simultaneously helping local families. After Christmas, Kupferman explained, the group discussed ways in which it could continue to help the community.

Many businesses in Long Beach sustained significant damage in the storm, while others that have reopened are struggling financially due to the lack of customers.

Kupferman said that the group wanted to find a way to get local businesses what they needed to get back on their feet. Members decided to go to one business at a time, to make it more manageable. Once they determine which businesses to help, they speak to the owners and try to meet their needs. Some need help with something as simple as painting. Others need financial assistance, or even just a night of solid business.

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