2005-09-09 / Community

Doing What You Can: Community Rallies To Aid Hurricane Victims

by Roseanne Honan

The devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina has made a profound impact on residents of the Rockaways, and local business owners are working together to support the victims of this national disaster.

Two local businesses and a local charity in particular have spearheaded the relief efforts. A&J Jewelers and Brown’s Hardware, both located on Beach 116 Street, along with the great response from fellow businesses, are doing their part to bolster donations for hurricane victims.

The Graybeards are also working to collect money and clothing for those in need.

The Graybeards are running a clothing, water and food drive to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, primarily focusing their support towards the destroyed coastal town of Long Beach, Mississippi.

Every firehouse on the peninsula is a drop-off point for any donations Rockaway residents want to provide up to September 11.

In coordination with Rockaway’s Chamber of Commerce, collection jars can also be found in many local storefronts, and all proceeds will go to the flood-ravaged communities affected by the hurricane.

Arlene Augustine, co-owner of A&J Jewelry, walked to the boardwalk on Beach 116 Street to discuss the relief efforts she helped organize with Noni Signoetti and Liz Hanna of Brown’s Hardware.

The weather could not have been more picturesque. With the waves cresting against a backdrop of cloudless blue skies, Augustine remarked at how lucky we are to live in such a place as Rockaway. It was hard to imagine the striking similarities between towns in Mississippi and Louisiana to ours.

Long Beach, a peninsula coastal town just south of Gulfport, Mississippi, is geographically similar to the Rockaways. The hard-hit community is facing extreme devastation, and the Graybeards are collecting any donations of canned goods, bottled water and clothing for those in great need. They are planning on bringing the supplies to the town in the next week.

Augustine, a lifelong Rockaway resident, is not surprised that the community has rallied together in support of victims of Hurricane Katrina. When she heard about the destruction occurring in the South, Augustine knew what she had to do.

“I thought about 9/11 and Flight 587, and how devastated the community was. This time of year always reminds us of what happened, but we pulled together. We can understand the emotional aspects of what people are going through there,” said Augustine.

She immediately went to Brown’s Hardware, knowing that Signoetti and Hanna were always willing to help. They already started to label jars for the hurricane victims by the time Augustine got there, and now, along with other stores, they have banded together in the spirit of community compassion for hurricane victims.

The resiliency and generosity of the community is evident once again through local businesses and the Graybeards. Donations are coming in quickly; some businesses had to empty their jars out to make room for more donations. Yet the need for support and charitable contributions is still tremendous. Storeowners are giving 100 percent of the donations to the Red Cross Hurricane Katrina efforts.

As Augustine looked towards the ocean, she recalled the days of her childhood, before there was a bay wall. She remembered the hurricanes that would flood out homes of childhood friends’ basements. Now she can only focus on the effects of Hurricane Katrina’s magnitude and the countless victims of its fury. That is why she hopes her efforts, and the help of the community, will do some good in the lives of the victims. “You do what you can do,” she said.

For more information on the clothing drive, please contact the Graybeards at (718) 634-6812.

The Graybeards are also collecting monetary donations for Hurricane Katrina relief. Make checks payable to: Graybeards Ltd./Hurricane Katrina. Mail donations to: The Graybeards, 436 Beach 129 Street, Belle Harbor, New York 11694.

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