MILLBURN, NJ - Amidst the ongoing water crisis in Essex County's largest city, residents from all over are banding together to help its residents.
Sunday morning in Millburn, that effort continued with a water collection drive.
From 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, about a dozen residents came together to stuff a bus owned by the Essex County charity Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity (MEND), an organization that often works to supplement food requested by local pantries.
Now in the midst of the water crisis in Newark, the group has begun to collect water bottles to distribute to various food pantries around the city. As MEND's executive director Robin Peacock explained, nine of the food pantries the group helps support are located in Newark.
"With the crisis that's happening, we've had a lot of pantry managers reaching out how they could get some water for their clients," Peacock said. "So we decided to do a stuff the bus event. We did one last weekend...and we received over 7,500 bottles."
"We are doing it again this weekend because the need continues and is growing," Peacock added. "Some of the pantries are having trouble getting water, so we're just kind of helping out again."
Peacock also said that that seeing the outpouring of support from communities like Millburn/Short hills was amazing, but not surprising. She said there is a sense of community throughout the county and that the main push for the drive actually came from Millburn resident Regina Cariddi.
For Cariddi, the water drive was something she felt was helpful and that helped to continue her involvement with the organization.
"I've known Robin for some time and wanted to help get more involved with MEND," Cariddi said. "And I felt this was a good opportunity to raise awareness in the Millburn/ShortHills community about the needs of the residents in Essex County that are relying on these food pantries for basic needs.
"Now with the outcome of what's happening in Newark with the water issue...so many people in Newark need clean water for baby formula and for eating and cooking and drinking. I thought this was a good idea to raise awareness right here in our community."
At the end of the time span, approximately 5,000 bottles had been collected to be dispersed at the Elizabeth Avenue Food Pantry in Newark. As of press time, there was another water drive tentatively scheduled for mid-September in Maplewood, with more info coming shortly. Interested volunteers can follow MEND for more information.