Diamond’s Oak Island relief gets Grammy boost

Diamond’s Oak Island relief gets Grammy boost

By Dave Rogers

Published February 6, 2009

OAK ISLAND ? Entertainer Neil Diamond is building homes in Oak Island. And soon.

Eddie Shauberger, Oak Island Baptist Church pastor, said the first phase of the project will begin later this month when representatives of the so-called ”Jewish Elvis” arrive in the Chambers County community to begin signing up people whose homes were destroyed last fall by Hurricane Ike.

”Everybody keeps asking about Neil Diamond. ‘Is that a hoax? Is that really real?’ ” said Shauberger, who, with his wife Cindy, has headed up hurricane relief efforts in the town of 500 south of Anahuac.

”It’s really real. Neil Diamond is coming through with his promise. We’re in the implementing stage and, obviously, everybody is excited.”

Diamond has been raising money for Oak Island since he toured the storm-shattered fishing village in October, donating (and sometimes matching) receipts from his concert merchandise sales.

He also maintains a link for donations to the Oak Island Relief Fund on his official Web site, www.neildiamond.com .

Shauberger said he’s been told there is about $1.5 million to be spent on housing in the first phase of Diamond’s effort to help Oak Island rebuild.

”We’re calculating that will repair or rebuild about 24 homes,” the preacher said.

And he expects the new construction to be just the tip of the iceberg.

”I think when we see those homes start going up, it’ll be a national story and create an impetus to raise more money,” he said.

Diamond and Oak Island will be in the national spotlight this weekend. The MusiCares Foundation will honor the singer for his philanthropy as its ”Person of the Year” at a gala being held tonight in Los Angeles as part of Grammy Week.

Also, Shauberger said Diamond?s publicist told him that Diamond will make a special red-carpet appearance prior to Sunday’s Grammy Awards so that he can talk about his Oak Island project on national television.

”He wants to try to raise some more money and get some more stars involved,” Shauberger said. ”He hopes to raise enough money to rebuild a lot of homes, maybe up to 80.”

Registration for ”Neil Diamond homes” will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 21 at Oak Island Baptist Church, Shauberger said.

There is a set of criteria for applicants and then a priority list will be established.

”The basic rules to qualify,” Shauberger said, ”are you have to live in the Oak Island voting district (Chambers County Precinct 9); the home that was destroyed has to have had a homestead exemption in 2008; and the property needs to be in the name of the recipient.

”If you meet those three criteria, the three (top) priorities are: senior citizens, which they categorize as people 62 and older; families with disabilities; and low income families.”

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