The Graybeards are well known for giving back to the community. This Saturday, January 28, at their 16th Annual Dinner Dance, the charitable group will be honoring two well-deserving folks who have also done positive things for Rockaway. This years honorees are firefighter Pat Nash and former owner of Brown’s Hardware, Liz Hanna.
On Saturday night at El Caribe in Mill Basin, The Graybeards, a local charitable group that helps those in need in the community, will hold their biggest fundraiser of the year. The formal affair includes a cocktail hour, dinner, and plenty of dancing. Don’t let the “graybeard” name fool you. These folks know how to have a good time, and it will all be for a good cause.
“This is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Graybeards,” President Joe Keenan said. “The money raised at this dinner goes toward helping people in need in the community.” The money raised comes from ticket sales, journal ads, a Chinese auction, chances and more. Last year’s dinner, held at Russo’s, was the biggest yet, raising more than $71,000. “It was the most successful dinner we’ve had,” Keenan said. This year, they’re hoping for even better and with more than 460 tickets sold, that goal sounds promising.
Each year the Graybeards select special honorees for the annual event. This year, firefighter Pat Nash is receiving the Don DH Hart Award. Hart, now deceased, was a standout member of the Graybeards who often volunteered for different events and helped rebuild a church in Alabama after it was destroyed by a hurricane. “He was a very active member and did a lot of great stuff and helped a lot of people, so we give away a special award in his honor,” Keenan said. Liz Hanna is being awarded the Graybeards’ Special Recognition Award for her contributions to the community through the former Brown’s Hardware.
Many may remember the story last year of Nash’s selfless act of donating a kidney to Father Jim Cunningham of St. Francis de Sales. Nash knew Father Jim from his days as a young priest at Good Shepherd, where Nash attended grammar school. The late Timmy Stackpole, a local firefighter who passed on 9/11, had introduced them. When Nash found that Father Jim was in need of a kidney transplant, Nash was tested and found to be a match. They went through the procedure in March and have both recovered well. Nash explained his decision, saying, “Father Jim is a good person and he helps a tremendous amount of people, I figured that by me helping him, he could go on to help others. It’s a ripple effect. People reach out to Father Jim when they’re in their greatest time of need, so by me helping him, he could continue to help all of those other people.”
In addition to his selfless donation, Nash serves as president of the Captain Timothy Stackpole Foundation. Nash knew Stackpole from their days as young firefighters. Nash helps organize fundraising events for the foundation to help keep Stackpole’s memory alive. Nash, himself, has been with the FDNY for 16 years and works for one of the busiest firehouses in the city, Ladder 147 “DA PRIDE A FLATBUSH” in Brooklyn.
When he has some free time, Nash plays golf and basketball. He coaches the sport at Fontbonne Hall Academy and plays for The Graybeards basketball league. Although he resides in Brooklyn, Nash has family ties to Rockaway and recently became a member of The Graybeards organization.
For Nash, being honored by The Graybeards is humbling. “Being recognized by these guys that I have so much respect for means a lot to me. It’s a tremendous honor for them to go out of their way to recognize me when there are so many other worthy candidates that deserve this award.”
Liz Hanna, the former owner of Brown’s Hardware, is receiving this year’s Special Recognition Award. The Hanna family took over Brown’s Hardware in 1967. Liz grew up in the business, along with her brother, Joe and Brian, and her family, always went above and beyond to provide more than just tools and garden supplies. According to the Graybeards, Brown’s provided, “friendly service, DIY know-how, and a sense of neighborhood pride and accomplishment. Garden advice was free and useful even for us brown thumb types, and it was ok that you didn’t know a flathead from a Phillips head. They would make sure you left the store with the right screws for the job at hand.” Liz and her siblings took over the store after her father passed away in 1997. Her brothers moved on to other careers, and Liz ran the store along with her cousin, Noni. They fought through the recession and Hurricane Sandy, which virtually destroyed the business, but Liz refused to give up at a time where Browns was needed more than ever. She rebuilt after Sandy, but in August 2016, she decided to pass on the torch and sell the business to another brand that understands small communities, Mazzone Hardware. “Through it all Liz showed what it means to persevere and perform. She could have walked away after Sandy and left it all to memory and Rockaway nostalgia, but in the end she found a way to make it continue to live and thrive for the community, for decades to come,” the Graybeards said. Brown’s was a longtime supporter of The Graybeards and other charities within the community.
Since she sold the store, Hanna has been following her passion, working part-time at an animal shelter, but she will once again work in what was Brown’s, when Mazzone Hardware reopens around April. Hanna says the Graybeards award is a nice close to the chapter that was Brown’s. “It’s a very nice honor and it’s the icing on the cake. It’s like bringing everything to an end in a good way,” Hanna said. “This was a stressful summer with trying to put the business into the right hands. For The Graybeards to do this for me is nice, because it’s like a big party.”
Tickets to The Graybeards Dinner Dance are sold out, but donations are always welcome. To donate or find out more information, head to www. thegraybeards.com.
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