WEST ORANGE, NJ – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy stopped by the West Orange diner that opened its doors and its kitchen to students stranded on school buses during Thursday’s storm.
The Chit Chat Diner, located on Eagle Rock Avenue near the Eagle Rock Reservation, welcomed 11 buses full of West Orange students who were stranded for hours during the storm.
“I’m glad we got to help the kids,” said Leo Novakidis, a manager at the Chit Chat Diner. “They were a little stir crazy from being on the bus, a little cold and hungry. We were happy to get them. They were so grateful.”
The West Orange Board of Education president Ron Charles also expressed his gratitude.
“We thank the Chit Chat Diner for providing shelter, warmth and meals to approximately 80 children and the countless community members and parents who provided blankets and supplies,” Charles said.
Despite the frustration caused by hours-long commutes and gridlock, there was no shortage of good deeds in West Orange during the storm.
One resident, Tyrone Corbett, who lives on Eagle Rock Avenue near Mayfair Farm, reported that he took in a diabetic motorist. "A woman had been stuck outside of my home for a while. I went out to find that she was panicked and crying," said Corbett. "She is a diabetic and was badly in need of food and facilities."
The JCC on Northfield Avenue reported that they sheltered more than 100 children, two dozen senior adults well into the early hours of the morning when roads became too difficult to travel. The last infant was picked up at 2:58 a.m., according to Chris Strom, COO of the JCC Metrowest.
“Caring for the community is in our DNA, but last night was extraordinary,” Strom said. “We want to send a huge thank you to our staff and the community who got us though the evening safe and sound yesterday.”
Parents who were thankful for school officials who kept students safe, fed and entertained started a GoFundMe page with a goal of $500 for the Liberty Middle School staff.
“On November 15th, a snow storm stopped West Orange in its tracks. Many students were stranded at school. Teachers and administrators spent the night there and made sure that our children were well cared for, fed, and entertained. We want to use this money to show our appreciation for the staff, custodians, and bus drivers who took care of our kids during this time. Please contribute and help give our staff the giant thank you they deserve!”
The online fundraiser exceeded its goal within hours of its creation.