HAWTHORNE, NJ - Hawthorne resident Craig Cayetano was helping friends in neighboring Paterson with a group called "North Jersey Mutual Aid" delivering food to those in need and personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers battling around the clock against COVID 19.  From there, he was inspired to team up with Viviana Arias and take it a step further.  They established "Mutual Aid Passaic County" taking a cue from models in place in Morris and Union.

"A few other areas were starting to take off," Cayetano told TAPinto Hawthorne, "and I decided to start off the Passaic County one.  When you start these off you don’t know where it’s going to go, so I made mine pretty broad.  I was collecting and dropping off PPE, making phone calls for people who need to talk, and the big thing is trying to get goods and meals to people.  I was helping my friend in Paterson deliver meals to people for a few weeks—I’m still helping there—and I had another friend need help with driving and dropping off face shields."

Cayetano said that PPE was being made out of Montclair State and distributed to where it was needed.  "They literally started a little factory and distribution place, then they moved to another facility, and they’re making face shields to drop off to all the hospitals and healthcare professionals.  They need people to do the runs, because they can’t do everything, so I said I’d be happy to deliver.  I’ve been delivering face shields all over, now I’m starting to do the grocery deliveries.  I started that with my own money to get it started, since people don’t donate blindly, but I started visiting a few families in Paterson and Passaic."

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Cayetano described Sunday night as "a big one".  "Viviana had told me she was going to get baskets together and during the day we had a family in Hawthorne leave out donations of food, toilet paper, and paper towels.  Sunday we went to four families in Hawthorne, one in Haledon, one in Paterson, and four other families in Passaic.  So we delivered to ten families between the two of us."

To connect, Cayetano said that those looking to volunteer, donate, or those who are in need can reach out through their Facebook page.  "I have my phone number there," Cayetano said.  "Some people have volunteered to do drop offs, which is nice, but we really need physical donations of items like toilet paper, paper towels, and basic essential foods.  Or [monetary] donations so we can go buy the food.  We’re trying to work with local grocery stores that are willing to cut us a bit of a discount, smaller stores or bigger stores, to make this as affordable as possible."

Cayetano said that Arias has helped with Spanish interpretation and they are looking for help in producing material in Arabic as well, particularly for residents in Clifton and Paterson.  "The word is starting to get out."

"Everyone wants to take care of their own, but one hand washes the other," Cayetano said.  "One day we might do more deliveries in Passaic, but the next day we do Hawthorne or Haledon, it’s all going to work itself out.  We are using our personal money as best we can but we definitely need donations as well."

To help towards this end, they set up a GoFundMe page presently set with what Cayetano called "a modest goal" hoping that it can be met.  He said that every county's Mutual Aid group is different, and stressed that the Hawthorne-based Mutual Passaic County was hoping to get physical donations to help out the local communities as best as possible.  "We don’t know how long we’ll be in this.  It might be two weeks, a month, but there are people who are going to need help weekly."

"One lady said that this year they cut food stamps," Cayetano said, "so everyone’s allotment dropped.  So, now they’re getting less."  When asked how much of a decrease was in place, he said, "The drop depends per person.  About ten to twenty dollars per person, which doesn’t seem like a lot but it is a lot for those people, so they’re trying to stretch a dollar every which way.  There might be some products that we can’t grab but if someone has disinfectant or baby wipes.  I had one family that needed diapers.  We’re getting requests for all sorts of stuff.  We might need volunteers to drop off things but most importantly right now are donations of goods to try to help."

Mutual Passaic County can be found on Facebook here.

Mutual Passaic County's GoFundMe page can be found by clicking here.

Nuestra Comunidad Latina nos puede contactar al 973-433-6696 or nos puede enviar un correo electrónico a mutualpassaiccounty@gmail.com o a nuestra página de Facebook “Mutual Passaic County” .

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