“We don’t want to come off like we’re able to do something we’re not,” Kupferman said. “We’re not an insurance company that can turn around and give you 60, 70, 80 grand. But within the means that we can provide, we’ll figure out a plan of action.”
The projects usually have two parts. The first involves raising money, and the second involves bringing in volunteers to do whatever manual labor is needed. The second part, Kupferman said, is essential. Providing a construction service to recovering businesses, he said, is one less thing they need to spend money on.
“We could keep raising money, but that’s not the whole picture,” he said. “We want to make that money go as far as we can.”
In addition to volunteers, Kupferman said that a number of loyal customers are always willing to help out and often direct the Project Pay It Forward team to businesses in need. The owners of those businesses rarely contact the group, he said, adding that most Long Beach businesses aren’t looking for help or don’t want to ask for it even when they need it.
For some, the reticence is because they don’t feel they deserve it, Kupferman said. But he insisted that there is usually more to the story, and that a business could still be struggling even though it is fully functioning.
“You can drive through town and see what’s not open, that’s very evident,” he said. “But the places that are open, you don’t know what’s truly going on on the inside. Just because the doors are open doesn’t mean that they’re back up and stable and running. Some may need a push to get through this tough time.”
Project Pay It Forward’s first endeavor was helping West End Chiropractic reopen its doors. On Feb. 15, the group held its second fundraiser at Minnesota’s to help Seaside Celebrations, which featured live music and raffle prizes. This Saturday, after weeks of rebuilding, the group will be on hand when J.W. Trainor’s bar and grill reopens, and it already has projects in the works for Shine’s bar, Swingbellys and the Long Island Toy Lending Center.
“We’re just going to keep going until we feel that there’s no one left to help,” said Michelle Kelly, co-owner of Earth Arts and a Project Pay It Forward organizer.