LIVINGSTON, NJ — Two members of Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors (LNHN)—one longtime township volunteer who recently died and another who recently announced her retirement from the committee—were honored for their contributions to “the betterment of Livingston” during Monday’s township council meeting.
Karen Garber, who primarily handled the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) food pantry on behalf of LNHN, died unexpectedly in September; and in lieu of flowers at the time, her family requested donations for LNHN. In addition to honoring Garber for her service to LNHN and CHOW, the mayor and council also recognized her for her volunteerism on the township recycling committee.
“She was a force on that committee [and] her personality was dominant,” said Deputy Mayor Shawn Klein, who worked alongside Garber on the recycling committee.
Klein specifically commended Garber’s efforts toward helping Livingston develop a solution for single-use plastics and for being instrumental in the township’s electronics recycling events.
“She just worked so hard, and she was trying to make a difference,” he said. “She certainly made a difference running all of the electronics recycling events and making sure the committee met on a regular basis and that the leadership on the committee made sure they took care of things the way that she thought they should be taken care of. I was very grateful to have her working and volunteering for this great town, and the whole council was very happy to have her assisting us.”
In partnership with the Livingston Township social worker, LNHN helps families in need through its emergency assistance fund based on certain parameters that have been established for crisis situations. The organization has also taken over the operation of the CHOW food pantry, which was formerly run by Sister Barbara and the Livingston Interfaith Clergy Association and is now located on the second floor of town hall.
LNHN Chair Stacey Rubinstein spoke during the meeting about Garber’s commitment to the organization and how much the community appreciated her work with the pantry.
“Karen Garber was the pantry in so many ways,” said Rubinstein. “When we started LNHN, we were never looking to run a food pantry; we were just emergency assistance. When Sister Barbara retired, we knew we had to continue that work; and so we kind of started the food pantry, but didn’t really fully know how to run it. And then, in came Karen—and she really managed that space…
“We’ve worked with 52 families since 2016. Those families are able to get what they need, and Karen really made that happen. Karen’s passing is a tremendous loss to us. We miss her dearly, and I’m so grateful that she’s being honored tonight for everything that she did.”
In memory of Garber and in recognition of her upcoming birthday, her husband, Michael, and their grandchildren will be collecting toiletries at Livingston Town Hall on Friday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to be donated to the pantry. Primary needs include toilet paper and paper towels, but all non-perishable items will be accepted as part of the newly dubbed “Kans for Karen” initiative.
“We’ll be the ones in the purple shirts with Karen’s picture on them,” said Michael, who accepted the township’s proclamation in honor of his wife.
The township also recognized LNHN member Trudi Federsdorf, who worked at the CHOW food pantry alongside Sister Barbara for nearly two decades prior to Sister Barbara’s retirement.
“Way back when, when I first met Sister Barbara, you were always there in the office, working in the pantry,” said Rubinstein. “You were her sidekick in so many ways, so it’s great to see you honored.”
Mayor Rudy Fernandez recalled Federsdorf and Sister Barbara as being a two-person team when CHOW was still headquartered out of St. Philomena’s Church, adding that Federsdorf was instrumental in “all aspects of what the program did.”
In addition to managing the storeroom, Fernandez noted that Federsdorf also personally made pickups and deliveries in Livingston and throughout Essex County.
Federsdorf thanked Rubinstein and LNHN for continuing the work at the pantry, stating that it means a lot to her and Sister Barbara.
As the council honored both LNHN members, Fernandez stated that LNHN “one of Livingston’s greatest organizations, encompassing numerous volunteers of all ages” who do “a tremendous amount of work,” said Fernandez.