GLEN ROCK, NJ — A virtual poetry slam hosted by a local writer raised $1,676 for the new grassroots group GRINS-Glen Rock is Never Surrendering. The group, founded March 28, buys meals from Glen Rock-area restaurants and delivers them to healthcare workers at Bergen County hospitals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The best feeling in the world is hearing the sound of happiness and gratefulness of the employees when you call hospitals to arrange meals for them," said Elizabeth Kramer Carr, who founded the group along with fellow Glen Rock residents Terry McBride and Brigid Nonas.
The group, which was organized on Facebook, has raised more than $30,000, largely from Glen Rock residents and has used that money to purchase meals from local restaurants. Volunteers load their cars on a near-daily basis to deliver those meals to Hackensack University Medical Center, Englewood Medical Center, Holy Name Hospital and Valley Hospital. Meals have also been delivered to the Marriott in Montvale, where many frontline workers are now staying.
The generosity of Glen Rock residents notwithstanding, continuing to raise the needed funds to continue meal purchases throughout the ongoing pandemic has been challenging.
Enter the virtual slam poetry fundraiser.
"I wanted to do something that would entertain people and could potentially attract money from outside the town," said Alice Gomstyn, who lead the event. Gomstyn, a widely published writer and journalist, organized the April 15 fundraiser as an hour long video conference call in which participants suggested subjects for rhyming poems that Gomstyn would quickly write and perform live, minutes later. The event was co-hosted by Glen Rock native Kyra Gilbreath.
"It was basically improv comedy in poetry form," Gomstyn explained.
During the fundraiser, laughter and cheers were plentiful as Gomstyn wrote and performed poems on subjects ranging from pets' reactions to their owners becoming homebodies, to the "joys" of children's arts and crafts projects. For the event's grand finale, Montclair resident Christina Joseph Robinson performed a song parody written by Gomstyn and inspired by The Sound of Music and current quarantine conditions.
Just under half of the event's $1,676 fundraising total stemmed from donors outside of Bergen County, with some contributing from as far away as Vermont, North Carolina and California.
"I hope that the success of this fundraiser inspires others to host unique, virtual fundraisers to benefit GRINS and other worthy causes," Gomstyn said.