WESTFIELD, NJ — Landscapes in Westfield lit up with glowing candles Sunday night in an effort to fight food insecurity.

Local nonprofits had sold more than $40,000 in luminary kits, raising over $30,000 for local hunger programs, said Deirdre Gelinne, executive director of the Westfield United Fund.

“The luminaries are meant to be a sign of support from our community for those who are suffering from hunger and food insecurity, as well as hope for a brighter future,” Gelinne said.

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Rev. Jeremy Jinkins and Amy Cummings at the Westfield Presbyterian Church spearheaded the effort, which involved dozens of volunteers, who assembled luminary kits and local businesses that offered support, Gelinne said.

The monies will go to the Westfield Rotary Club’s BackPack program, the Presbyterian Church of Westfield’s Agape Local Food Boxes, the Westfield Food Pantry serving people in Western Union County and the St. Joseph’s Social Service Center/Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, Gelinne said.

Organizers called the initiative “Be the Light.” It comes amid a 58% increase in food insecure residents in Union County, according to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

Liz Ensslin, president of the Westfield Rotary Club, said the program will allow the club to continue to provide weekend food for children who are food insecure.

“Food insecurity is a real problem, and many people do not believe the degree that some Westfield families are impacted,” Ensslin said. “No one should go hungry. Be the Light directly addresses the need and will help to sustain many people in need in our immediate and surrounding areas.”

As the luminaries lit up local streets Sunday night, Westfield resident and Goo Goo Dolls singer John Rzeznik performed a livestreamed concert from the James Ward Mansion, kicking off an auction in support of the effort to fight hunger.

“Help your neighbors out because that’s what’s going to make the biggest difference,” Rzeznik said at the show. “By sticking together, that’s how we’re going to get through this whole thing.”

In a Facebook post Sunday evening, Mayor Shelley Brindle thanked the donors.

“Thanks to everyone who lit up their homes and streets in support of our ‘Be The Light’ fundraiser for the Westfield United Fund to benefit the Westfield Food Pantry and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey,” Brindle said. “The holiday spirit was alive in Westfield tonight! #BeTheLight”

Gelinne also thanked the local businesses, which offered their support.

“We would like to thank Bartell's Garden Center for the use of their warehouse,” she said. “Special thanks to Westfield landscaper Craig Stock, who accepted the shipment of the luminary supplies for us and delivered them, as well as the sand, to our two distribution locations, the Presbyterian Church and St. Helen’s [Church].”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Tuesday, Dec. 1, with additional context.  Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net

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