MONTVILLE, NJ – Sometimes you just can’t keep the volunteer spirit of a family down.

Montville resident Armaan Gupta had been volunteering at Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair for several months when he was told in March he had to stop due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 15-year-old had been helping out at the front desk and transporting patients at the facility where his mom, Shibani also works. But when the world shut down, Armaan still wanted to help out as he saw the events around him unfold, and his brother Arjun, age 8, and his sister Ananya, age 7, were right there behind him.

The three siblings created a video fundraiser asking for donations to provide fresh meals to frontline workers.

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“Our dad helped us with the script and we spoke from the heart in our video,” Armaan said.

Late in April, the siblings began their program – and within two weeks, they had raised $5,000. Soon, they were delivering hot lunches to frontline workers in Montville, Passaic, West Caldwell and Newark.

“Our main goal was to provide meals to our essential workers while supporting local restaurants, because the restaurants had a lack of business because of the crisis,” Armaan said. “First, we started locally with the Montville Township First Aid Squad and the Montville Township Police Department. Then we went to Mountainside Medical Center for Nurses’ Day. Then we picked St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic because my dad is an attending there.”

“We tried to keep it local to the Montville community, and keep it connected,” Shibani said. “For example, we chose Overlook Hospital because a nurse in town works in the anesthesia department there. We also brought meals to Vanguard Medical Group in Montville.”

The family also brought meals to Hackensack Meridian West Caldwell Care Center in West Caldwell, which is a nursing home that was hit hard by the crisis, they said. A local nurse works there and was pretty much living there to help out, they said, and Armaan’s father, Vikram, is a physician for the facility. The family also brought meals to University Hospital in Newark.

The family wanted to utilize local restaurants, so they supported Gencarelli’s in Pine Brook, Spice Grill in Parsippany, Asin Filipino Cuisine in West Caldwell and Al Basha in Paterson. They said they wanted to provide a variety of foods.

Armaan remembers fondly one Friday night that they collected meals from several local restaurants and delivered between 80 and 90 meals to nurses, EMTs, doctors and police officers in town.

“It was a really fun night, seeing all the happy faces on our local Montville community members,” Armaan said.

“It was a lot of stops,” Vikram said with a laugh.

Younger siblings Arjun and Ananya have definitely been pulling their weight in the project.

Arjun said that it was lots to deliver – the family has delivered about 1,000 meals – but he has liked meeting people at the hospitals and in the community. The kids go to each location they are bringing food to, in order to meet the first responders and healthcare workers and thank them for their service, Shibani noted. Ananya said she loved participating in the deliveries, and she made drawings, such as pictures and cards for the people that the family delivered food to.

“Her pictures are still up at Mountainside,” Shibani said.

Armaan said he can’t wait to get back to volunteering at the hospital and he hopes he’s able to do that this summer.

Part of beginning the project, which is now coming to a conclusion, Vikram said, is that he asked the kids, “What feels better – giving a gift, or getting a gift?”

“I was surprised when the kids said to me, ‘It feels better when we make others happy,’ so I said, ‘Then why don’t we do it?’” he said. “So part of this fundraiser idea, while Armaan was cooking it up, was these two little ones saying ‘Let’s get started right away!’”

Editor's Note: Vanguard Medical Group is now named Changebridge Medical Associates.

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