SPRINGFIELD, NJ — For the Meyer-Graziano family of Springfield, the past several weeks have seen delivery boxes pile up by the dozens. But far from getting a head start on holiday shopping, the boxes contain supplies that will help them to put together supply bags to help the less fortunate.
Husband and wife duo Michael Graziano and Toni Meyer are joined in the annual effort by their children; daughter Shannon Meyer and sons David and Josh Meyer. While the work of donating food is only a few years old, the family's charitable roots go back much further than that.
"The food donation, we’ve been doing about eight years running now in Springfield," Toni said. "But this actually started way back in the early 90s, when the kids were little. We would collect their old toys and bring them to the battered women’s shelter for the children. And as they got older, we started collecting brand new toys, and we’d bring that with wrapping paper to the shelter.
"As they got older and there were no toys, we started doing the food donations. So we basically try and go, not to shelters anymore, we actually go with the food donations now and heavy coats, winter coats and blankets to people living in the streets that are actually on the streets."
Every bag of food packed by the family contains about one week worth of food and supplies, along with socks, hats, gloves, scarves and toiletries. In addition, this year's bags also include hand sanitizers, a sign of the times amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It’s a legacy I like to create my mother did it when I was little, and I never really got much out of it until we got a little bit older, and it’s a legacy I’m creating for my kids to carry on, and then maybe with their kids to carry on," Toni added. "We were always taught, when I was a child, to give back to the needy. Even though you have so much, always give back to someone who has less than you."
For Shannon, seeing Springfield residents come together to help with donations was an amazing sight.
It’s very nice giving to people who unfortunately don’t have what other people can have," Shannon said. "It’s very nice to see what residents […] give what they’re not using anymore, give it off to the next people who can use it. It’s [a grateful feeling] having everyone coming in and doing all that."
“The town really came together," Toni added. "The boxes from Amazon, every day were coming by the caseloads of food," Toni said. "It’s just incredible that we can supply a week’s worth of food to somebody in a bag and give it to them on the streets, and they just can’t believe that someone’s really out there doing this for them.”
One story Toni recounted that made her emotional was the night her family met a man during a donation run, sitting out under a thin blanket and holding a sign that read 'I might as well be invisible.' After chatting with him and dropping off a bag of supplies, they were on their way, but were touched y the connection they made.
She said being able to provide some help for that man, and others like him was something that brings her gladness, and helps her to see that she leaves behind the legacy of good deeds for her family's generations to come.
Last year, the Meyer-Graziano family packed over 70 bags, and are aiming for 80 this season. Those 80 bags will be individually packaged for a person or family.
The donation run is scheduled to take place in approximately the first week of November. Toni made mention that she is still searching for 26 more chunky style soup/meal cans with a flip open lid, as well as face masks to donate.