BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Berkeley Heights could use a little light these days.
To that end, the new volunteer group BH Neighbors Helping Neighbors, established with the help of the Township, is launching a #LightUpTheLights campaign.
BH Neighbors Helping Neighbors encourages everyone to put lights in your windows, or lights outside your home (Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali - any lights!), in a sign of solidarity with our community in the fight against COVID-19.
“People in Italy - a country extremely hard-hit by COVID-1- have been putting candles in their open windows," said Liza Viana, Township Administrator. "In some U.S. states people are cutting out hearts and putting them in the windows, while still others are turning to Christmas lights to bring joy during a really tough time for many communities. We wanted residents in Berkeley Heights to have the option of how they choose to shine their own light as our community battles this virus and shows support for everyone battling on the front lines. Because we are all #InThisTogether.”
John Leo, a lead volunteer in the group, knows first hand how difficult this post pandemic time has been for families with young kids. "The kid in me came out, and I thought Christmas lights would be kind of cool," he said."Everybody needs something to feel good about. It was an important week for this to happen -- when you see people close to us start dying, -- that was when we thought to light the tree."
The Township has lit the big tree in Peppertown Park as a beacon of light downtown. "We want to see lights throughout our town," said Viana.
About BH Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a surge in Berkeley Heights volunteer efforts and business delivery programs required some coordination to connect the people with unique needs and challenges to the services that might be available to them during the pandemic and its associated isolation protocols.
Volunteer groups or individuals throughout town are offering one-off delivery and moral support to residents, restaurants are firing up new delivery services and grocery stores are trying to keep up with new delivery demand. Benevolence groups, resident volunteer groups and small businesses are all offering some type of unique service to provide community support but it’s hard to seek out that information.
BH Neighbors Helping Neighbors provides this coordination effort with volunteers who are accessible by a phone forwarding service while staying abreast of services and their changes with an on-hand “guide document.” The Township provides the group with updated government information about grants, services or information that may be helpful to anyone who calls. The volunteers rotate the phone daily and often have a backup volunteer; all Township Council members take turns answering the phones. Voicemails are typically routed to an email where the volunteers can go back and return calls.
This group has connected with the following entities to help connect residents to services:
- Township of Berkeley Heights, Administration
- Berkeley Heights YMCA
- Berkeley Heights Public Library
- BH Helping Hands
- Senior Buddies
- Berkeley Heights Senior Citizens Club
- Berkeley Heights Recreation Department
- Berkeley Heights Office of Emergency Management
- Mayor’s Senior Advisory Board
- Mayor’s Wellness Campaign
- Sage Eldercare
- Berkeley Heights PBA
- & more
The service is available to any resident by calling 908-312-2066. An email is also available BhHelpingNeighbors@gmail.com.
“It’s a fundamental system in the airlines business,” said Leo, a lead volunteer of the group who is also a pilot. “There’s a single point of contact for any of the crazy things that happen in day-to-day operations - like a sick passenger during boarding - where a crew member could gain access to any company resource from one phone call.”
“We try to point residents in the right direction for what they need and if they require more we can sort that out too,” he added. The service also stays up to speed on state and local guidance on COVID-19 protocols and can help residents with basic questions.
The service is available during normal business hours via 908-312-2066 or email BhHelpingNeighbors@gmail.com. Facebook page is Facebook.com/BHHelpingNeighbors. Volunteers are also welcome if you’d like to be on call on a daily basis, provide phone support or provide one-on-one delivery services, which are strictly guided by sanitizing and physical distancing measures.