By Steve Stathis, in The Wave, Rockaway's Newspaper since 1893
The Graybeards was founded in November 2001 with a simple yet effective mission statement: “to help our neighbors in their time of need.” We’ve been busy ever since.
On October 29th, 2012, Superstorm Sandy ravaged our community with unspeakable damage from floods and fires. When the storm cleared, we found that everyone, including the Graybeards, were in need.
Three weeks after Sandy hit, one of the Graybeards who works for NBC encouraged news anchor Brian Williams to visit Rockaway for a firsthand look at the devastation. After the tour, Mr. Williams said that he would be interested in doing a story on the efforts of the Graybeards.
Most of us were still in the midst of getting our homes in order, but we knew we had to take advantage of this opportunity. We had no idea how much of a role we would have in helping our community to rebuild, but as part of our donation to the community, the Graybeards Board of Directors met and agreed that all overhead and administrative costs would be covered by the organization so that 100 percent of Sandy Relief donations would be given directly to our neighbors in the most need. The Board also met weekly, instead of the normal monthly meetings, to insure the money got to the people as quickly as possible.
The NBC segment aired on November 20th, 2012 and the Graybeards organization was suddenly inundated with inquiries from charitable foundations, companies big and small and individuals from across the country and across the globe who were interested in helping us to get our community back on its feet. With our strong track record of community focused efforts, people were able to give with the confidence that their money would be directly funneled to those with the greatest need. Shortly thereafter, the donations started to pour in. Donations ranged from $4.84 from two 8 year old girls to $75,000 from the Robin Hood Foundation.
Since the establishment of the Sandy Fund, the Graybeards have distributed more than $1.2 million to more than 700 storm victims in our community.
Although members continue to have challenges as a result of the storm, the organization is as strong as ever. During the past year, the Graybeards have also been able to continue our regular fundraising efforts and community events. During this time, the Graybeards have been able to gift roughly $90,000 unrelated to Sandy Relief as a result of these efforts.
Thanks to the generosity of so many and the unwavering dedication of its members, the Graybeards will continue their commitment to support this community whenever the need arises.