EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - I had a phone conversation with Mayor Brad Cohen on March 15, 2020 and was deeply shocked by how badly both the East Brunswick community and adjacent medical facilities are impacted by the coronavirus: some people suddenly lost their jobs and have no money to pay for their daily needs including food; police officers are on their duties exposing themselves to medically hazard situations; and doctors are working without proper protection gear which could make a bad situation even worse.
As a resident of East Brunswick, I felt that I was obligated to do something and strongly believe the Chinese community can come out to contribute as much we can. I immediately made a call to Frank Shen, an East Brunswick Human Relations Council member, to explore the ways we can help. Fortunately, Frank had the same vision. We decided to form a committee and go fundraising in the East Brunswick Chinese community.
A group of East Brunswick residents answered our calls ,and a working group was formed. We had our first committee phone conference on March 16, 2020 and decided to start the fundraising on March 17, 2020. We posted our petition in several chat groups and asked the Chinese community to stand up and help our own East Brunswick. I am so fortunate that I have Leslie Huang and Laura Tang as the bookkeepers to record every single donation. Frank Shen, Dr. Junchao Xia, Simon (Xiaowu) Zhang took the hardest job in this campaign: shopping for available personal protection equipment for best quality and lowest price.
Tracking all donations via PayPal and personal checks is really not an easy job. Some people pledged but sent the fund under different names, then Laura and Leslie had to call to verify the donor’s name and the amount of donation, which is very time-consuming. I am very proud to say that our bookkeeping can sustain any audit.
Due to the short supply, finding good PPE turned out to be extremely challenging. There are all kind of fraudulent websites with various misleading information. Frank, Dr. Xia and Simon spent quite a lot of effort to screen all possible online suppliers, call the manufacturers, track the providers, verify FDA Certificates, compare the price, and confirm the delivery time. I should say that nothing could be done without their great effort and full heart devotion.
In order to spend the donors’ money right, we had telephone conference every night to discuss the progresses we made, decide which way we should go and how to get the merchandise with the best quality and cheapest price. Finally, we locked into a large China PPE export company. When the CEO of this company realized that we are doing this to help our community, he decided to give us the masks at their lowest price without making any profit. Luckily, this CEO allocated us the first batch of surgical masks in the amount of 10,000 from a pharmacy in New York City. On Saturday, March 21, 2020, Dr. Xia drove to the City and pickup up the masks. At that time, NYC already under lockdown status, both the Lincoln Tunnel and Holland Tunnel were closed to all traffic. Amazingly, Dr. Xia made his way back to East Brunswick safely.
In order to help the family in needed, we decided to buy gift cards from our local grocery stores which was impacted too. We bought $900 gift cards from ShopRite, another $800 gift cards from Stop&Shop and $800 from Aldi. We really hope that our purchases gave our local business a little bit of help and these gift cards can provide a brief release for our fellow East Brunswick residents.
Although our fundraising is closed to the public on March 22, 2020, the job is not done yet. We are working to get more PEPs and more gift cards for our East Brunswick.
As East Brunswick residents, we are proud. East Brunswick is our home. The Chinese Community treated East Brunswick as their home, the place to raise their children, the place to enjoy their lives, and the place they are willing to do everything to make East Brunswick better. This is the only reason why the Chinese community raised almost $18000 in just five days.