FAIR LAWN, NJ - Along with selling bracelets to support nurses, a local businessman is helping to bring meals through Playa Bowls and The Salad House for inner city nurses and support staff with the help of customer donations.

Francesco Stillitano, a self-employed accountant and entrepreneur with an office on River Road in Fair Lawn, said he wanted to use his "industry knowledge to create an avenue to raise money for nurses who need it most, quickly and in a way that could appeal to many and create a fun impact on families staying home together."

Website to purchase bracelet: www.shslmovement.com 

Stillitano said "all of the proceeds will go to the ANF/ANA (American Nurses Foundation/American Nurses Association) with a COVID-19 designation to help get much-needed supplies now."

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Stillitano said the funds raised will not only go to resources needed but for the mental and emotional health of the frontline workers that "sacrifice their lives to help in every way." 

"With financial uncertainty ahead, many people want to help and this provides a low cost means to do so and also serves as a memento to what we all are experiencing globally," Stillitano said. "I hope to lead the charge and donate $1,000,000 dollars over the next couple months!"

If the pandemic is ended quickly, which Stillitano believes is not likely, "the funds will go to help create an infrastructure, so we are better prepared for the next round."

So far, he has raised $2,000. The project launched on Thursday, April 9.

Stillitano is working another avenue to help nurses through his Bergen County restaurants, Playa Bowls.

He is one of two partners who own the Bergen County Playa Bowls locations in Franklin Lakes, Englewood and Ridgewood.

Tim Banos, who works for Playa Bowls, is facilitating donating funds to purchase food for the hospital workers through the stores.

"This initiative that has been well-received in the local community that benefits Health Heroes in Paterson," Banos said. "Many residents are sponsoring meals for frontline workers. It has been amazing."

However, Banos said, it was brought to his attention that the nurses and hospital support staff in inner city neighborhoods were not receiving the same level of appreciation and support through donations as their colleagues working in hospitals in and around high income areas.

"We set out to change that as they are doing the same work and are equally exposed to this horrible virus," Banos said. "This is why we are raised funds through our guests to help us deliver our nutritious, which was another need, and wholesome meals to St. Joseph’s Regional in Paterson."

Since then, Banos and his team have been coordinating meal drops with Janine Llamzon, who is the Director of Nursing and Clinical Operations: Emergency Service at St. Joseph’s Health.

"She has been wonderful to collaborate with!" Banos said.

Last week, Mayor Frank Bivona of Franklin Lakes did a drop-off with Playa Bowls in support of the initiative.

"So far we have raised funds to bring out about 450 meals from our two restaurant brands, Playa Bowls and The Salad House," Banos said. "It really is amazing that our guests have rallied behind this mission to help show our inner city health heroes some love, too!"