Project Pay It Forward Helps Sandy-Battered Businesses

Long Beach volunteers help local establishments get back on their feet.

Some West End businesses that have received assistance through Project Pay It Forward. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
Some West End businesses that have received assistance through Project Pay It Forward. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
Less than a year after they relocated to a vacant storefront at 949 W. Beech St., the owners of Seaside Celebrations are again reconstructing, this time after Hurricane Sandy battered their children’s entertainment center. Now, on the eve of reopening, they are particularly appreciative of the people who helped rebuild their business that otherwise would have been lost.

“If it wasn’t for the landlord fixing it out of his own pocket and the community that donated everything from toys, to furniture, to time, to painting, to their words of advice and encouragement, we would not be able to reopen,” said Kristina O’Neill, who co-owns Seaside Celebrations with Debbie Mantia.  

Among those that helped them recover is Project Pay It Forward (PPIF), a collaboration of Long Beach Surfers Association, Earth Arts, Swingbelly’s and local lawyer Janet Slavin, who volunteer to help storm-damaged businesses expedite their rebuilding. The past two weekends, PPIF volunteers were at the center painting and rebuilding benches and storage space with lumber and cabinets donated by Centre Millwork, a local lumberyard.

LBSA President Billy Kupferman spearheads Project Pay It Forward. He explained that volunteers work to restored one business at a time, after which they try to recruit each owner to assist them with future restoration efforts. O’Neill and Mantia, for example, have agreed to babysit the children of parents who attend PPIF’s second fundraiser at Minnesota’s, a West End restaurant-bar, Friday evening.  

“If everybody gets together and does a little work at a store, that may get that business up and running in a day instead of a matter of three weeks, which makes a tremendous amount of difference to a business owner who’s just looking to start to get some income again,” Kupferman said.

Toward this mission, PPIF held their inaugural fundraiser last month at the Saloon, another West End restaurant-bar, where some 200 supporters turned out. West End Chiropractic was the first business to benefit from the project. Swingbelly’s provided food and drink for the event, just as the barbeque restaurant will do at the fundraiser on Feb. 8. The fundraisers serve multi-purposes, in that they also financially assist the host establishment and Swingbelly’s, whose owners, Sean and Kelly Sullivan, still work to restore their West End restaurant.

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PPIF originated after Kupferman and Slavin had talked and found that they shared an idea to form an alliance to assist businesses struggling to rebuild after the storm, said Slavin.

“I think what’s unique about the founders of this group so far is that we all offer unique services,” she said.

Slavin cited her ability to provide legal assistance for business owners with issues related to landlords and insurance companies, and some surfers who can offer their carpentry and painting expertise.

Originally, Kupferman had learned that West End Chiropractic had suffered after the storm from mold and a leaky roof that needed to be replaced, and owner Jeff Stanger had troubles with his contractor. Word got out about the project, and soon after residents started to approach PPIF with suggestions about other businesses that could use their help.

O’Neill said that Michelle Kelly of Earth Arts, who recruits for PPIF, approached her about rebuilding her business. Seaside Celebrations used to babysit Kelly’s children, and she told O’Neill that many parents wanted to see the center return.

“Many people helped us to get our store open again,” said Kelly, who owns her arts and crafts store on West Park Avenue with her husband, Tim. “It’s the least we can do to help other businesses in Long Beach.”

PPIF is open to suggestions from the community about businesses that may need post-Sandy assistance, Kupferman said. He’s compiled a list of such businesses, none of the owners of which came approached him. He noted that typically they are initially resistant when the organization offers them assistance through a recommendation.

Where is Project Pay It Forward headed and for how long? And does Kupferman anticipate that demand may outdo supply of volunteers and resources? He said he’s concerned that PPIF may receive too many recommendations, but for that reason the project focuses on restoring one business at a time. He vowed, though, that the project would continue so long as there are businesses that need to recover.  

“It allows us to assess what we’re capable of in that time period,” he said. “It can be as big is it can be but we can’t do more than what we’re able to do. I never want us to bite off more than we can chew.”  

paul.d.spellman February 06, 2013 at 05:33 PM
Kasey, "How people can be negative towards something like this"?? This is from the advertisement for the project one of this organization. "Jeff Stanger, owner of West End Chiropractic, entered into a contract with a local contractor last April to build a new building next to his current office. The building was supposed to be done by June. It was not. Just before the storm Jeff was told the project was days from completion. After the storm he found out the contractor had taken his money leaving much unfinished." You ask if it can be done for residents? The rubes who drove to the saloon that evening drove past countless homes that are in considerably more need than Dr Stanger and his contractor caused issue. Can you honestly say Dr Stanger was the best cause for this effort? He had the money 8 months ago and chose unwisely and now he should be the first rewarded? Think before you donate. Research before you speak.
Westie February 06, 2013 at 08:52 PM
So, it appears that the businesses that should be helped need to go through paul d. spellman first. Oh, wait, he's not part of a group trying to help people. He is just someone who has nothing better to do than complain on The Patch. Well, I AM involved in these projects. I will tell you how the "vetting" process goes. A business that needs help is thought of, and then we think of a way to help them. I'm sure you are going to come up with a theory about how Seaside Celebrations is actually a training center for kids to learn how to drink at bars in the West End. (It's not. It's a business that provides a necessary service to parents.) mr. spellman, (since you don't use capitals,) please go back to your comments about politics and leave the people that are trying to help this town survive alone. Or better yet, get involved. Post a list of businesses YOU think need and "deserve" help on this thread. Or drop the list off at Earth Arts with all the other donations that come in to be raffled off. Ask for Tim. He'd love to discuss this with you.
Billy Kupferman February 06, 2013 at 10:22 PM
This is the first time I have responded to a post on the Patch and I am hopeful that it will be my last. I feel a need to add my two cents as I have been a part of this initiative from the start. I want it to be clear that it was never stated that the purpose of Project Pay it Forward was to fix damage caused by Sandy. The mission is to help struggling business owners get their businesses back on their feet after the storm. Almost every businesses in town is struggling right now and could be classified as a "Sandy Battered Business". Like the rest of us, the owner of West End Chiropractic had to pick up all the pieces of his life and business after the storm. His office and home were both badly damaged. His income was limited. The negative experience with the contractor made things that much more difficult. We (the members of this group) saw this. We thought he would make a good first project. We felt that if we could help him address the immediate issue of this faulty roof, he would then be free to use his limited resources to get his business back in order. He never asked for a dime. He felt the money should go to someone else. We felt it important to help him, so we did. To imply that he in any way whatsoever was looking to take advantage of the community is wrong and outright ignorant. It bothers me to hear people speak negatively of this project that is meant only for good, especially when people can simply choose not to be a part of it. In the days after the storm Long Beach came together as a community. We helped people because it was what needed to be done. We did not question who was worthy of help and who was not. We did not compare the situation of one neighbor to that of another. We developed a sense of trust. We entered the homes of strangers. We let strangers into our homes. Out of devastation came an incredible sense of community. Have we lost that already? As we move forward should we tell the business owners we work with that we cannot help them unless we can see physical storm related damage? Is a business that is already up and running out of consideration for help? What if that business is already repaired, but needs a push to make it through the winter? Tough luck because we can't see an open wall or wet sheetrock? Sorry. This is not how it's going to work. We have a list of businesses who need help. Many of them are already open. Open doesn't mean everything is ok. If anyone reading this knows of a business that could use our help, please let us know. We are not asking the city to support our efforts with tax payer money. People who donate will do so voluntarily. We will continue to be completely transparent in stating where the money will go. You don't like it, don't donate but please don't say things that may be harmful to someone's reputation. If you can think of a better way to help, please do so and let me know. I'd be happy to lend a hand.
Dee February 06, 2013 at 10:44 PM
Pay it forward is a GREAT idea...members of our community voluntarily helping one another, well aren't we lucky to live in such a wonderful place. Thank you Billy & project pay it forward!!!
Westie February 06, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Thank you Billy, for putting this better than I could. I think my anger got the better of me in my reply. We need to keep this positive. You killed two birds with one stone on that post. ; ]
jetsboog February 07, 2013 at 06:05 AM
Well said westie and bill
jetsboog February 07, 2013 at 06:08 AM
Paul I will donate money in ur name this Friday towards my friend Debbie and seaside
paul.d.spellman February 07, 2013 at 07:21 AM
Mr Kupfreman, You are completely correct when you say "people can simply choose not to be a part of it", but those same people also deserve to understand where the money they are donating is going to, which you do, and how the organization chooses it beneficiaries. Your organization may have the best of intentions, but the result of your selection process does need some refining. You stated " The mission is to help struggling business owners get their businesses back on their feet after the storm", how would giving Dr Stanger money to correct the situation caused by his his poor selection of a contractor constitute "getting him back on his feet". It is more like lets take money from unsuspecting rubes and help Dr Stanger buy some new feet.
paul.d.spellman February 07, 2013 at 07:38 AM
Mr Kupferman, I also commend you for speaking out on this forum, that being said, I still think you, your organization and Dr Stanger are still 100% wrong for directing any money to his ill fated attempt at building (rebuilding?) his new office using the hard earned money of the rubes who attended your benefit. Yes the rubes did attend and give freely, but they may have not known the exact details of your chosen beneficiary, which you did clearly state. Most probably did not read the flyer and just assumed that your organization was diligent in its selection process, which even yourself must admit should have been handled better.
paul.d.spellman February 07, 2013 at 07:39 AM
Tonto(aka man of Many Names), Did a post get deleted, what does this have to do with the Army Corps of Engineers project?
Tonto Hertzberg February 07, 2013 at 08:13 AM
Many of my neighbors blame ONE person for organizing a campaign of lies in conjunction with scare tactics that ended with the Army Corps 2006 beach protection plan valued at 75 MILLION dollars in Fed money being rejected. The REAL reason for killing the plan? It would have MAYBE changed the wave pattern and the surfers didnt want that. In addition, some neighbors say, they enlisted a small by highly organized and vocal group of eco-lunatics that they used as cover to mask their real agenda. Maybe someone who was there at the meetings can identify that person
John February 07, 2013 at 08:24 AM
Paul, from day one, the project was crystal clear as to where the money was going. the situation was laid out on the flier promoting the event. like you, I didn't think it was the best choice, so opted not to participate in this one, but you can sure as heck count on me for others. you were, as they say, "owned" in Billy's response to you. best to just go quietly lick your wounds in a dark corner somewhere and leave this one alone moving forward.
paul.d.spellman February 07, 2013 at 08:40 AM
John, The only people in this who were "owned" are the rubes who donated money for Dr Stanger's new building. You yourself know it was not the right choice, as you opted to not participate. I would venture that most who did attend were under the impression they were attending a Sandy related benefit. (yes it was on the flier, but most were probably told. come lets help this guy out) If they made such a bad choice on this project, what is to say the selection process for future beneficiaries will be any better. Each person must make that decision, but they do need to know the fundamental issues with the selection process.
Kelly Sullivan February 07, 2013 at 11:57 AM
I would just like to say THANK GOD for people like Billy Kupferman. I can't even begin to describe how wonderful of a person he has been for the community and for me personally. He has helped us all to keep our heads up and lead us in moving forward. At some of my weakest moments since the storm, Billy and the crew have been the first ones there to help. Like many others in Long Beach, my husband lost his business due to Sandy and we were forced to move out of our home. Billy has done nothing but help us stay positive and try to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am absolutely disgusted with some of the comments on here. I respectfully ask that any of you who do not want to participate in what Project Pay It Forward is doing, please just leave us alone. Or better yet, why don't YOU do something to help. Until then, keep your negativity to yourself. If you've got a better plan, go for it. I'm not trying to start a fight here so please don't be nasty... I just ask that you stop with the mean remarks about the people who are just trying to help get Long Beach and it's people back on their feet. I for one don't know what I would do without them. Thank you.
Beachguy February 07, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Paul-- I'm sure that you have devised and implemented a much better plan for helping your neighbors. Could you please give us all the information so we can join you in efforts. Thanks
paul.d.spellman February 07, 2013 at 12:33 PM
Kelly, There is nothing negative about my comments. I have only spoken about this organization's selection of Project One, I have said nothing else about it and I said it before and will say it again. Dr Stanger should be ashamed to take any money to repair his roof and for any organization to raise money for such a worthless cause is ludicrous.
Beachguy February 07, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Ty-- obviously you saw through this insidious plot at the time. That being the case, I'm certain that you rose up and strongly counseled the Council and other City officials not to be hoodwinked. Could you please provide us all with a transcript of your remarks and also your written submissions which refuted the flaws in the arguments against and exposed the dangers involved in rejecting the ACE " take it or leave it" plan. Thanks so much.
Smiley Jo Hansen February 07, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Mr. Spellman or may I call you Paul? Project Pay It Forward was established to help local businesses get back on their feet after Sandy. West End Chiropractic is one of those businesses that need help to get back on their feet. On a side note, Dr. Stanger for years has helped and supported many local organizations in their effort to better our city, help our schools, raise funds for to combat pediatric cancer , aid in the research, and support families that are experiencing tough financial times in regards of dealing with family members that have cancer just to note a few things Dr. Stanger has been involved in. So I take insult in the way you say, "he should be ashamed to take any money to repair his roof and for any organization to raise money for such a worthless cause is ludicrous." Paul what have you done recently to help this community except for continuing to add to the NEGATIVITY. We should be all promoting POSITIVE COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT in which the City of Long Beach Residents are famous for and look for ways to help each other out. This is an open invite for you to attend this Friday's 2nd Project Pay It Forward Project 2 Event at Minnesota's from 6-9 and I'll pay for your entrance. I'll be the one hold the sign saying, "I'm a Rube, Sorry for Caring."
paul.d.spellman February 07, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Mr Voice or Can I call you The, You say it was held to get businesses back on their feet AFTER Sandy and that is an admirable and worthwhile cause. From the description of Project One, Dr Stanger was in his situation BEFORE Sandy, is that not a truth?
Kasey February 07, 2013 at 02:20 PM
regardless-Dr. Stanger had damage AFTER the storm and needed help getting his business back up and running. Take the roof issue out of the picture and he still had damage caused by the Hurricane and if not for those funds he might not be up and running.
jetsboog February 07, 2013 at 02:53 PM
i am a double rube because i donated money for paul for the saloon benefit and weather permitting will do so again friday.
Beachguy February 07, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Paul. - please. Come on. Let us all in on all the work you and your organizations have been doing since the storm. We know you shun the spotlight but we think in this case you should share your achievements with us. BTW-- what's your next project?
Beachguy February 07, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Ty : Search as I may I can't find any record of your incisive warnings to everyone about the plot by the surfers and the environmental people a few years back. Please share them with us so we can expose the culprits and their malign plans.
Pork Chops February 07, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Hey guys - Just to clarify a few things - 1) Swingbellys doesn't have an apostrophe in the name 2) Swingbellys BBQ is owned by myself and my business partner Michael Bonino 3) the kitchen at Minnesota's is open, and they will be providing the food for tomorrow's benefit. And I gotta say, wow, paul d. spellman, what a jackass. but let's really look at paul's situation, here's a guy who sits alone in the dark waiting for another article to be posted on the patch so he can bitch about it, and hopefully, if he's lucky, make enough noise that someone pays attention to him, if only for a moment. paul you're a sad man. What would you do if nobody ever responded to another post of yours. For the record, Jeff Stanger never asked for anything, we forced our help on him, and judging by the huge turnout we had plenty of people were happy to help. the same way that plenty of people were happy to help seaside by painting, building or because they're going to show up tomorrow night. the same way that people were happy to help Swingbellys BBQ by purchasing the tee shirts that Billy Kupferman, Tim Kelly and Vinny Leis put together. The same way that people will be happy to help with all the other projects that will come up in the future. The idea of Project Pay it Forward it to help as many businesses as possible get back on solid ground. Solid ground not open. Solid ground not rich. Just back to earning a living. Paul i realize this all seems foreign to you, but maybe you should get off your ass and get involved in helping rebuild this community. If you did, you would find that it's much more rewarding than how you currently spend your time. Sean Sullivan Swingbellys BBQ
paul.d.spellman February 08, 2013 at 07:41 AM
Mr Chops, Is that all you have? I question the selection process for Project One and all you can respond with is name calling? I raised valid questions about this organization's selection process, valid enough that they felt a need to respond. And while their response was well thought out and presented, although I still think it was a wrong decision, their response was handled in a forthright manner. You resort to name calling because you are unable to formulate a rational response to my questioning of the selection process for Project One. Could Project One benefit have been run in September, since the contracting process was already a mess? Would the turn out have been so great? Did most of the people at the Project One Benefit think they were helping a business recover from Sandy related difficulties?
jetsboog February 08, 2013 at 08:27 AM
paul my group of 16 people knew of dr stangers situation pre sandy and still found it within reason to donate 40 bucks . you might find it hard to believe but we did and the majority of people there appeared to have had either a friend or patient relationship or both so i am only assuming that the turnout still would have been great. good things happen to good people and dr stanger is one of them as are the owners of seaside
jetsboog February 08, 2013 at 08:34 AM
and swingbellys !!!
Kasey February 08, 2013 at 09:37 AM
Paul give up the damn pre roof issue-do you honestly believe that Dr. Stanger did not/would not have sustained any damage to his building as a result of the hurricane if he didn't have the pre existing contractor/roof problem? Take a look at the other two businesses next door-they had over 3 feet of water flood their buildings and had to rip everything out. So why can't you jsut accept that even if people knew of some pre issue, that money that was raised for Project 1 went to help fix damages caused to Dr. Stanger as a result of the hurricane itself.
Bill C February 09, 2013 at 03:17 PM
I would like to say job well done to the Project Pay It Forward group. You should all take great pride in the assistance you are providing local residents and business owners. You are all changing lives for the better while returning our town to what it once was. Your message is clear, the services you are providing cannot be replaced, and it is your decision to make on which businesses you decide to help and in which order. Anyone who does not agree with your choices has this gift known as freedom to start their own organization and help those who they feel are most deserving. Imagine that..... groups of people gathering together to help one another rather than putting each other down in a time of need. What a world we would live in if someone would just do that. Oh wait.... the Project Pay It Forward already did! Your are the people who inspire others to return to Long Beach and rebuild. Stand tall and proud, do not let anyone's comments ever bring your down.
barry greene April 27, 2013 at 09:18 PM
I can understand the need to be selective, but come on already people, this is great work. if my business was blitzed by the storm and these people offered to help me, I would probably be jumping for joy. thank you to PPIF. a group in LB that finally gets it right and answers only to their conscience. well done Bill!


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