EDISON, NJ — Edison’s Hands of Hope, based at the St. James’ Episcopal Church, hosts a food distribution event every month. When Rajaraman (Raj) Nagarajan, founder of Wake Up Edison, discovered that Hands of Hope has been collecting and giving food to people in neeed for 28 years, he wanted to help.

Nagarajan said, “I was inspired by Freeholder Charles Tomaro. He’s been distributing food to those in need for two decades.” Nagarajan is also impressed that Tomaro hands out the food personally. Hands of Hope provides food to 500 local families.

Once a month, Nagarajan and his band of volunteers sit at a table in front of Tip Top Beauty Salon, next to Apna Bazaar on Oak Tree Road. The volunteers take shifts, and Natarajan is always thrilled and grateful that the empty table is full after several hours.

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Nagarajan is very happy when young children participate in the cause. Once, when Nagarajan was minding the table, a compassionate eight-year-old girl donated a bag of popcorn after hearing about the group’s efforts to feed families.

Nagarajan was also very moved when a six-year-old and two eight year olds baked goodies prior to a food distribution day. They showed up unexpectedly and sold their baked treats, then donated the proceeds to buying canned goods. Nagarajan found the children’s kindness heartwarming.

According to Nagarajan, “Wake Up Edison is a non-partisan movement, community and platform” through which he educates residents about candidates running for the Board of Education, taxes, the school system and other local issues. The group was formed in September of 2019 with the motto of “We the people serving we the people of Edison.”

Nagarajan has personally been assisting others for decades. He moved here from India 20 years ago. While in India, he founded a nonprofit organization, built toilets in remote villages and helped set up 32 schools with potable water.

Nagarajan explained, “We all come into this world and then leave. Your life should be spent helping others.” His motivation to assist people comes from Guru Raghavendra Swamiji, for whom he created a website in 1996.

Nagarajan began following Raghavendra when he was 17 years old. Nagarajan was living in India and suffering from an illness that ten different doctors were unable to diagnose.

Nagarajan promised Raghavendra that if he survived the malady he would devote his life to the guru. Finally, the 11th doctor diagnosed him with malaria and treated him. Nagarajan has kept his promise and continues to serve others.

He mentioned, “Karma and making a positive difference in other people’s lives” inspire him to continue his efforts to help. He shared that his “parents’ spiritualty led to his activism.”

Nagarajan also hosts a radio podcast that features music, devotional time and interviews.

The September 19th and 20th food drive will be at 1700 Oak Tree Road in Edison.

Wake Up Edison’s food distribution in September coincides with Hunger Action Month. Two other local organizations, Mcfoods Network and Feeding Middlesex County, fight hunger year-round and have been working hard during the pandemic and on #HungerActionMonth.

According to its website, Mcfoods is a “nonprofit government agency working to end hunger by servicing some 100 food pantries, soup kitchens, and social service agencies.”

Feeding Middlesex County supports 120 emergency food providers in all 25 communities in Middlesex County via the county food bank. They assist in 130+ food pantries and food banks in Middlesex.

Click HERE for more information about Wake Up Edison.