NEW JERSEY - The Franklin Township community continues to leverage its diversity to help their neighbors during the COVID-19 crisis.

On Saturday, May 9th at 7pm, the Township of Franklin and the Franklin Township Food Bank will offer a virtual Indian music concert to raise funds that will benefit the Food Bank.

 “Jwala 4 Jersey” will feature NJ-based band Jwala, the members of which will perform a live Bollywood and Indian multilingual music session along with a few songs performed in English. The concert will be livestreamed on Facebook Live on the Franklin Township Food Bank’s Facebook Page.

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“This concert is really meant to be a unity event … everybody will be able to tune in and enjoy,” said Councilman Sivaraman “Ram” Anbarasan, who has spearheaded the initiative alongside other Franklin Township council and community members.

Councilman Ram explained that the Food Bank has been experiencing a heightened demand for food from community members who have recently found themselves unemployed or have not yet received their stimulus check.

“For many people, the Food Bank is the only place they can get food,” Councilman Ram said. “The Food Bank is looking for more supplies and for more support from everybody.”

Councilman Ram is also the Chair of the New Jersey Tamil Sangam (NJTS), which started the COVID-19 Relief Fund for  the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and has been organizing virtual weekend concerts for the entire month of April. The initiative raised thousands of dollars, and he soon wanted to organize something a little closer to home.

Recognizing that over a quarter of Franklin’s population is South Asian, he believed an exclusive virtual Indian music concert might just be the perfect idea to help continue uniting the community during this time.

“Arts and culture can connect the people to their original culture, wherever that might be,” Councilman Ram said. “In our case, the concert is going to remind people of an Indian occasion or old times. It will help connect the people to their roots and bring joy to their heart.”

Councilman Ram encouraged kids to listen, as many young artists will be performing. He also believes that even those who do not identify as Indian or South Asian will benefit from tuning in.

“The arts and culture, in any form, brings joy to people,” Councilman Ram said. “It is one of those things that may get overlooked in good times … but when you’re locked in the house and have no other form of entertainment, arts and culture come to our rescue.”

In addition to the morale boost from this much-needed weekend family activity, the proceeds from all online donations will go directly to the Food Bank.

“We are very enthused about Councilman Ram’s fundraiser,” said Frank Hasner, Executive Director of the Franklin Township Food Bank. “All indications are that we will continue to see increasing demand for food assistance. Without community support the COVID-19 crises would be even more devastating, and it is inspiring to see our community rise up to take care of each other.”

Since the diverse set of performers from around the state and country will also be spreading the word through their own networks and communities, Councilman Ram is expecting donations to come in from outside of Franklin Township.

Businesses around Somerset County have already started pitching in. Bridge Development Partners, LLC, the company building Somerset County’s latest Amazon distribution center, already donated $5000 to the campaign.

“Bridge is honored to help support our neighbors during this challenging time,” a representative wrote on the campaign’s donation page. “Thank you to all First Responders and those on the Front Line.”

Groups or individuals looking to donate may do so by following the link to the Jwala 4 Jersey’s Click & Pledge page.

 “I would encourage everybody to come and participate, listen, enjoy and make a donation no matter how, “Even if small donation is okay. Every dollar helps.”

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