CHATHAM, NJ - It started out as a germ of an idea and seemed to spread faster than any virus.
Just 10 days ago, Chatham resident Liz Bernich posted an idea on Facebook that she learned from a friend in Huntington, Long Island, about helping feed health care workers on the front lines of the Coronavirus pandemic. Today it is spreading across the country.
FLAG - the First Line Appreciation Group of Chatham and Madison (partnered with Madison resident Gina Mcguire) has raised more than $73,000 in donations, which funds meals for health care workers at Morristown Medical Center and other facilities.
And FLAG supports local businesses that supply the meals at a tune of $2,000 a day.
"My friend told me about the Huntington Hospital Meals Group and I thought it was such a great idea that I posted it casually as an idea Thursday night (March 19)," Bernich said. "Two hours later, my phone was blowing up and I said, 'All right this is happening'. We got the money quickly and I called Anthony Pascarella (Pascarella Brother Delicatessen) because I knew he could handle it and he delivered 50 meals to the ER in Morristown (March 20)."
The total tally as of Saturday, March 28
"My husband (Stephen) is a teacher at Madison High and people from Madison wanted to do this, too. That's how we formed FLAG of Chatham and Madison Facebook."
On Saturday, Bernich received word that a FLAG had opened in Scottsdale, Arizona. It has also spread to Massachusetts, North Carolina and New York.
"Two-thirds of the economy is fueled by small businesses," Bernich said. "We have to do something to help those businesses, too. We rotate our orders to Chatham and Madison businesses."
According to Bernich, deliveries are made twice a day to Morristown Medical Center, the South Street Testing Center in Morristown, and the Summit Group Urgent Care in Florham Park.
"Today we had deliveries from the Chatham Sandwich Shop and Hickory Tree Pizza," Bernich said. "We're so excited to have so many chapters, but more people need to know about this."
FLAG Launches to date include - updated March 26
FLAG (front line appreciation group) of Summit (for Overlook)
Flag - Front Line Appreciation Group of South Orange/Maplewood (for Newark Beth Israel)
FLAG of Morristown/Morris Township (for Morristown Medical Center)
FLAG Front Line Appreciation Group - Hamilton
Wyckoff Helping Healthcare Heroes for Valley Hospital and Hackensack University Medical Center
Ramsey Strong, Supporting True Heroes
Millburn/Livingston Group (for St Barbabas)
Somerville Group (for Robert Wood Johnson) Shawn Temple
Food for the Front Lines in Essex and Bergen Counties Karen Sacks
FLAG (front-line appreciation group) of Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham (for Henry Ford West Bloomfield, Michigan)
FLAG South Brunswick launched 3/26!
Hoboken coming soon!