LIVINGSTON, NJ — In order to give back to their community during the pandemic, Livingston High School students Michael Gassman, Zoe Bustin, Brandon Guttenberg and Ethan Krull recently founded a Livingston chapter of “Night Bites,” a multi-state organization that collects donated baked goods for hospital night shifts.
Last week, the four 17-year-olds delivered their first two trays of brownies (from two separate donors) to the workers at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.
Bustin explained that Gassman’s out-of-town friend Harry Schwartz founded the now-nationwide organization at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the Night Bites website, Schwartz was “moved by the brave and heroic efforts of our community’s medical staff during this time of crisis [and] decided to found the non-profit organization to do [his] part.”
Schwartz, a resident of Franklin Lakes, began recruiting people to set up “Night Bites” chapters throughout New Jersey, and there are now chapters in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee and California in addition to the New Jersey chapters in Bergen, Essex, Monmouth, Union and Camden counties.
When Schwartz reached out to Gassman and Bustin to ask whether they would be interested in setting up a Livingston chapter, Bustin said they immediately agreed to participate.
“We wanted to be involved in the organization and give back to the hard-working nurses,” said Bustin.
Gassman also mentioned that the timing was serendipitous.
“My friends and I were trying to think of what we could do to give back to our community and show our appreciation for all of the frontline workers,” he said. “So when Harry reached out to me and asked if my friends and I wanted to head up the Essex County chapter, we jumped at the opportunity.”
Gassman and Bustin enlisted Guttenberg and Krull to be part of the Livingston group, and the four began posting about Night Bites on various social media platforms while also texting their peers to volunteer. With the help of their mothers, the teens received responses from many Livingston residents offering to donate baked goods and from medical professions willing to help deliver the donations to the hospital.
“I love helping out the community,” said Gassman, adding that he finds volunteering for Night Bites very rewarding. “I felt that during this time, being involved in Night Bites would be a great way to show our appreciation for how hard these COVID-19 nurses are working.”
Bustin agreed, noting that it is “important to give back when you can.”
“Nothing is better than helping others, and it feels amazing to do this,” she said. “It’s the little things that matter the most sometimes.”
Their success also stems from the fact that all four teens are already seasoned volunteers.
Gutterberg and Krull have previously assisted at the Friendship Circle, while Bustin has donated her time to “Zooniverse” and the Jewish Relief Agency. Gassman has been involved in A Family’s Promise as well as PB&J Drives and Lancers Against Cancer at the high school.
Those interested in donating to the local chapter of Night Bites are asked to provide chocolate chip cookies or brownies that are either homemade or store bought. To donate or volunteer, click here or text 973-715-4382.
Click here for more information about Night Bites.