TODAY | April 29, 2013
>> head back out to the rockaways and willie.
>> reporter: thanks a lot. a lot of coastal communities were devastated by hurricane sandy. this is the rockaways , queens , new york , specifically. bell harbor. this is a lifetime resident here and president of a local charity called the gray beards. thanks for being with us. for people who don't know, besides being a championship basketball team which is what the t-shirt is for, what are you guys up to?
>> the gray beers are a group of guys connecting by basketball and we formed a not for profit in 2001 . our mission statement is to help our neighbors in time of need. prior to sandy, we helped several hundred families and we were in a position to have an impact on the community. thanks to generosity and thousands of people and publicity through tv, we were able to raise over a million dollars and we have given out to other people.
>> i'm amazed with the speed in which you moved this money to people. there is no burocracy.
>> pretty much everybody in the community can use something. we did prioritize certain things and looked at the elderly and the handicap and more need than others. everybody needed something, but they wrote in and told us their story. we met weekly and decided who would get a grant.
>> as someone who lived her his whole life, you all have taken gut punches over a few decades. 9/11 was cruel to the area and two months later the plane crash right behind us and now sandy. how do you hold up through all of that?
>> i don't know. 9/11 we lost over 70 people from this community. we lost five residents and hundreds of people on the plane. sandy, we lost eight people. thankfully we lost eight people. you would think with the devastation we would lose a lot more. ry lucked out that more people didn't lose their lives.
>> what do you want people to know that you are watching. what do you need?
>> the biggest problem we have here is when i talk to friends of mine who don't live here, are things getting back to normal? they are nowhere near normal. the economy is suffering and small businesses are really hurting. the people, everybody is fixing up homes. when you drive to the streets, they will be like all of this neighborhood is back the way it was. if you drive up and down the block, you see construction vehicles. on the beachfront, you see the destruction in the homes, but what we need is people not to forget us. we need people especially this summer, rockaway is on a big roll economically. it became a hot spot. we were in the news every week and i hope that momentum doesn't die. i want people to come down. it's not going to be the way it was this year, but we will have plenty to do. we have a beautiful beach and lifeguards will be back and the beach will be open and we will need people to come down and support us.
>> it is a big beautiful beach with great people. thanks for being with us. gray beards.com if you are interested in helping the people here in the rockaways . go there to help.