BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Saturday, May 16, 2020, marked the last delivery from FLAG Berkeley Heights. A bittersweet moment after 54 harrowing days of delivering meals, snacks, drinks and hand warmers to Front Line and First Responders.
FLAG Berkeley Heights started fundraising on March 24, 2020, raising $51,370 which was spent in its entirety at Berkeley Heights restaurants. According to Peggy House, who played the role of the group’s treasurer reports that 80 percent of the donations came from residents and 20 percent from local businesses and corporations. The first delivery was made on March 31st to 15 employees at Summit Medical Group Urgent Care in Berkeley Heights. Community donors purchased 5,059 meals to the front line and first responders coordinated and delivered by volunteers.
The group, lead by Mara Cruwys, Lucinda Hayes, Peggy House, Julie Lloyd, Jodie Pelinsky, and Pam Yoss, juggled coordinating orders with local restaurants, delivery volunteers, the receiving facilities and departments as well as coordinating deliveries to Overlook Medical Center with groups from Mountainside, Westfield, Union, New Providence, Summit, and Warren. At the peak, local groups, collectively, were delivering enough meals to cover almost the entire hospital day and night shift, which is over 600 meals a day.
In addition to Overlook Medical Center, FLAG Berkeley Heights made deliveries to Summit Medical Group Berkeley Heights Urgent Care, E-Medical Urgent Care, Atlantic Ambulance at Overlook, Union County Drive Through Testing at Kean University, VA Medical Center-Lyons Campus, Elizabeth Fire & EMS with FEMA, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Berkeley Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Berkeley Heights Police Department and the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad. Out of area facilities were included in these generous donations as a nod of appreciation to Berkeley Heights and Mountainside residents that work at these locations, including Carlos Gomez (Elizabeth Fire & EMS) and Diehnee Hogan (Atlantic Ambulance, Livingston).
Ralph Acquaviva partner at Delicious Heights said, “FLAG Berkeley Heights reached out to us to provide lunches to Overlook and honestly it could not have come at a better time. It was at the very beginning of the stay at home orders and the community’s donations helped us when we truly needed it the most. We were able to keep our guys busy and any profit that we made enabled us to buy PPE to keep our staff safe.” Other participating restaurants included Charkoal Portuguese Grill, Clemente’s Pizzeria, Cousin’s Deli, DiMaios, Domino’s Pizza, Goodman’s Restaurant and Deli, Grain & Cane, Kawee Thai Cuisine, La Rosa Chicken & Grill, Neelam Indian Cuisine, Pastrami House, Proud Thai, Sam I Am Bagels, Seoulites, Station House Cafe and The Sub Zone. A sign up genius was also created so residents could cook and bake for Berkeley Heights resident Lori May and her coworkers at Atlantic Ambulance at Overlook who received a steady flow of meals and treats for weeks.
In a post on the groups facebook page they shared, “There is no way to thank everyone individually, so many people contributed in so many ways. Thank you to everyone who donated, drove, baked, managed sign up genius lists and coordinated. Special thanks to The Connell Company, Hall's Garden Center & Florist, Berkeley Heights Youth Soccer Club, Mike Skara Backyard Run, Berkeley Heights Girl Scouts, Berkeley Heights Education Foundation-BHEF, Berkeley Heights Education Association BHEA, Berkeley Heights Board of Education, Pomptonian Food Service, The Rotary Club of Berkeley Heights, Friends of Berkeley Heights Recreation Commission, FLAG 2020 - Front Line Appreciation Group. You made a REAL difference in the world!”
FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group), was founded back in March by Liz Bernisch of Chatham and Gina McGuire of Madison. Now over 100 branches of the organization have popped up nationwide.