HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - A 17-year-old Hillsborough High School junior and her 14-year-old brother, a freshman, have gathered together friends and their families to form a network that raises money and provides meals to medical staff at seven hospitals, other health-related agencies and police departments in New Jersey and New York.
In so doing, they're also helping support restaurants, pizzerias and other food establishments that have been hit hard by closures by the COVID-19 restrictions and must now rely on take-out orders.
And their network, which includes Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset, is growing to include other hospitals.
Having worked in Somerville as a volunteer at RWJUH/Somerset Navleen Boparai has seen first-hand the dedication and sacrifice of the medical team she works with in the Two West Cardiology Department.
Her brother, Raj, said he would be there too working as a volunteer but has to wait until he is 15.
Navleen's volunteer work has been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other things, like the junior prom at HHS, which was to have been last Friday.
Instead, she and her brother were watching TV and talking that night about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and how businesses and by extension, their employees, are suffering. She also thought about her friends at the hospital, the people she looks up to, and how hard they work.
They asked one another, "what can we do to help?"
They created a Facebook page - @mealsforheroes - printed flyers, and reached out to friends and family on Facebook with their idea, asking for donations to buy $10 packaged meals to be delivered to medical staff.
Friends and families - many of whom work at hospitals - ran with their idea, and have established relationships with other hospitals and police agencies.
The network includes:
Navleen estimates they soon will have delivered 1,500 meals with the $15,000 raised by the network; the siblings have been working with Manville Pizza to deliver pies to RWJUH/Somerset.
"We always want to continue helping nurses and doctors, whatever it takes," Naveel said.
Her brother encouraged others in high school to consider helping.
"Kids of our generation feel helpless, but there is work to be done and it's something our generation can do. It's a good opportunity to come together, unite and help these hospitals," Raj said.