LIVINGSTON, NJ — More than five months after the Township of Livingston saw its first local case of COVID-19, nonprofit organizations throughout the community continue to find ways to serve others who are in need of a little extra assistance during these challenging times.
In addition to the many projects highlighted over the last few months—including recent endeavors like the Livingston Fire Department’s drive-through donation event for the local food pantry, a student-led videogame fundraiser to help feed the workers at Saint Barnabas and another group of youth volunteers helping to deliver groceries to elderly neighbors—previously established nonprofits such as Jersey Cares, the Jewish Learning Center and St. Philomena’s Church are also doing their part to give back to those in need.
Jersey Cares Establishes Assistance Programs for Multiple Populations
As part of its COVID-19 response, Livingston-based Jersey Cares has formulated a multi-prong approach to assist various populations during the crisis.
The first project launched was a virtual service called the Jersey Cares Senior Pen Pal Program, which helped senior citizens cope with isolation by providing virtual human interaction with Jersey Cares volunteers.
“We quickly recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic created situations of extreme isolation for many senior citizens with most senior homes on complete lockdown,” said Meagan Mulligan, Senior Manager of Service Events.
According to Mulligan, the six-week electronic letter writing initiative for seniors in the tri-state area created invaluable connections for both parties.
“I originally signed up for the Jersey Cares Senior Pen Pal Program to help a senior citizen who may be lonely during the pandemic,” said volunteer Suzanne Armstrong. “However, I have found that our letter exchanges are helping me through this time as much as it may be helping her.”
Jersey Cares also partnered with the New Jersey State Department of Human Services and other organizations to grocery shop for elderly residents, individuals with special needs and those afraid to visit public areas during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Another Jersey Cares initiative to collect diapers for those in need resulted in the donation of nearly 30,000 diapers to 31 agencies in 11 counties throughout New Jersey.
“Collecting diapers for our community has been a bright light during these uncertain times, and the gratitude of our community partners has been overwhelming in the best way,” said Mulligan, adding that Jersey Cares recognizes the need for this expensive product and plans to continue the diaper drive due beyond the pandemic.
In conjunction with The Common Market—a values-based food distributor that connects local sustainable family farms to communities—Jersey Cares also established a Healthy Food Delivery Program aimed at delivering meals to public school lunch-distribution sites, food pantries, shelters and other community organizations with assistance from various corporate partners.
Jewish Learning Center Joins Forces with LNHN for Local Food Drive
Livingston’s Jewish Learning Center (JLC), a Jewish learning institution for people not affiliated with a synagogue, recently joined the efforts of Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors (LNHN) to collect food for those in need by having its members bring donations to the JLC Purim Parade.
“The mitzvah (commandment) of Gemilut Chasadim, ‘giving of oneself,’ is one of the most important lessons I teach at the Jewish Learning Center,” said JLC founder Barrie Halpern, adding that the school regularly collects funds, food, clothing and more to be donated to a charity selected by students at the end of each school year.
Last year, for instance, the funds were distributed between three organizations: Trial Blazers for Kids, which was established in memory of Livingston teen Jake Kestler in an effort to improve treatment options for pediatric cancer; Sharsheret, a Jewish organization that offers programs for breast and ovarian cancer patients); and Lone Soldiers Center, which assists Israeli soldiers who have no family members in Israel.
Halpern noted that Kenny Whang, a 12-year-old student at JLC, was instrumental in the success of the recent food drive.
In addition to retrieving donations from cars while wearing a mask throughout the six-week collection, Whang also helped sort the food and loaded a portion of the donations into LNHN member Nick Santinelli’s car to be delivered to Newark pantries and soup kitchens.
Halpern expressed gratitude toward Whang for volunteering at the height of the pandemic, stating that his efforts were “extremely admirable and appreciated.”
She also announced that JLC plans to begin collecting food for the local community again in August. Click HERE to learn more about JLC.
Students at St. Philomena’s Church Sew Masks for Firefighters
As part of their confirmation project, more than 20 catechism students at St. Philomena’s Church in Livingston recently sewed more than 100 protective masks that were donated to Jersey City firefighters after teacher Maryann Chorba discovered that they were running low on personal protective equipment.
Although the ninth graders are required to perform community service projects in order to be confirmed in the Catholic Church, Deacon Mike Wojcik explained that many siblings and parents also became volunteered to assist in this year’s mask-making project.
Noting that student participants wrote about their experiences in a booklet, Wojcik said that many expressed pride in being able to help protect others in this time of uncertainty. He added that the activity was a “self-esteem builder” for the teens, who realized that “they could do something really important to help.”
Wojcik also assisted by purchasing materials for the students to use when they were having trouble locating their own.
Like JLC, St. Philomena’s also coordinates other community programs throughout the year, such as making cards for homebound individuals, hosting food drives for various benefactors, participating in Livingston’s Martin Luther King Day of Service and more. Click HERE to learn more.
To read more about what Livingston community members have been doing to give back during the pandemic, click on the headlines below:
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