MONTVILLE, NJ – When Facebook sits up and takes notice of the group you started on their site to help local restaurants, maybe you’ve done something right.

Montville resident Roberta Ginsberg saw a TV news story back in May describing a grassroots effort to help restaurants by posting on social media a call to show up en masse at a specific restaurant on a specific day in order to help small businesses thrive during the pandemic. It has been difficult for restaurants to get by without diners in-house, so Ginsberg floated the idea on local social media to see what residents thought.

Fellow resident Shari Seffer thought it was a great idea too, and the pair collaborated on a Facebook group they called #EatLocalMontville-NJ. The idea was to give local restaurants a clearinghouse to advertise their specials, and encourage locals to try new places and come out to help these businesses.

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“At first, the group was supposed to be just Montville,” Ginsberg told TAPinto Montville. “Some had already closed and were not interested. We sent out emails and eventually went to neighboring communities. Shari made a flyer and asked restaurants to join. Within 24 hours the group was growing as members started posting more and more. Then the group started growing to the Lincoln Park/Mountain Lakes/Boonton area. Our goal was to have them stay busy and stay open. What we found was that people started using restaurants that they hadn’t gone to and revisit ones they hadn’t gone back to in a while.”

Ginsberg said that the Facebook group, which has more than 1,900 members and 70 restaurants according to Seffer, has really benefitted the restaurants.

“Some of them have really gotten a lot out of it,” Ginsberg said. “People have been really amazing, building up the places they’ve visited.”

Touria Doukkali, owner of Burger IM in Parsippany, said that the site has really helped her business, which is new.

“I really feel thankful for these groups and the community,” she said. “With the current situation with Coronavirus, we would have tanked, but we get so much business. Seeing so much support has been amazing.”

Doukkali said that she posts coupons and specials at least two to three times a week on the site and it’s “been a huge success.”

“A lot of people in Montville and Pine Brook didn’t know we existed, but people say ‘I heard about you from #EatLocalMontville-NJ,’” she said. “They also say this on our Facebook page. ‘EatLocal’ has been a huge help, with lots of exposure. We just hired two new cashiers due to  their moms seeing our ‘ad’ on ‘EatLocal.’

“And it’s not just the page. Roberta is constantly reaching out to us business owners to ask if she can help. She helped me with the hiring brochure out of the goodness of her heart – I think that’s huge! Plus – she’s a really good customer!”

And as Seffer says, you never know what a difference your actions may make.

In July, the pair was approached by a casting producer in Los Angeles, who was hired by Facebook to spotlight Facebook groups that are supporting their communities in various ways, as part of the “More Together” campaign.

“The ‘More Together’ campaign, launched this fall, highlights several Facebook Groups geared toward the discovery and support of small businesses,” said Michelle Chidoni Gray, a spokesperson for Facebook.

The producers found #EatLocalMontville-NJ and were intrigued, Seffer said.

“Several people contacted us to learn more about the overall goals and objectives for the group,” she said. “They had selected many groups to learn about, but after hearing our story, they created a pitch and presented our story to the Facebook team, hoping it would be selected for the campaign! They felt strongly that #EatLocalMontville-NJ was a valuable source of information, providing meaningful connections that benefit the community. It was kind of surreal; neither Roberta nor I could imagine how our little group was selected, but were thrilled nonetheless!”

As part of being considered for the campaign, the pair received $2,000, which they decided not to keep, but to give back to the community. To that end, they purchased $1,000 in ShopRite gift certificates, which was donated to the Montville Senior House for families impacted by these challenging financial times. An additional $1,000 is being donated to the Montville Kiwanis Food Pantry, Seffer said.

“That’s what this town is about,” Ginsberg said. “People like to help out. It’s pretty heart- warming. People come out of the woodwork to help in Montville – they get it. We didn’t [start the Facebook page] to get accolades. We did it because it seemed like the right thing to do.”

“We’re thrilled that such a simple concept has been embraced by so many Montville residents,” Seffer said. “The community has come together to support our own residents. To have such validation during a health crisis is life affirming. Contrary to what some may say, we can all come together for the common good. And, everyone should know they can make a difference.  Receiving the money, which we were able to donate, is just the icing on the cake.”

During the month of October, the pair is collecting non-perishables for the Kiwanis Food Pantry at 8 Lorraine Dr. (Pine Brook) and 53 Davenport Rd. (Montville). Desired items include cereal, oatmeal, farina, pancake mix, maple syrup, apple juice, cranberry juice, powdered milk, apple sauce, peanut butter, grape jelly, strawberry jelly, tuna, salmon, canned fruit/vegetables, canned soup/stews, boxed rice/potatoes, canned spam/chicken/sausage, tomato sauce, pasta sauce, Chef Boyardee, macaroni and cheese, and pasta. Please check the expiration dates.

Find the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/EatLocalMontvilleNJ.

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