MONTVILLE, NJ - An idea that started in Chatham has spread to Montville, Denville, Mountain Lakes, Boonton and Boonton Township: a grassroots group that is raising money to provide meals for healthcare workers caring for Coronavirus patients at area hospitals.
FLAG – short for Front Line Appreciation Group – began March 20 after Chatham resident Liz Bernich saw on social media that some healthcare workers’ spirits were raised by a meal delivery. Within hours of asking for donations on her community’s Facebook page, 50 meals were delivered to Morristown Medical Center. She then teamed up with another mom, Gina McGuire of Madison, to create a group that has raised a staggering amount: more than $100,000 in its first two weeks, according to the group’s website, delivering meals to hospitals all over the county. In that two weeks, the number of groups has exploded not only in NJ – with 24 FLAGs and an additional five, similar groups – plus FLAG groups in 16 additional states.
Mountain Lakes resident Shari Walker’s daughter is a nurse at Morristown Medical Center.
“Hallie’s floor, the cardiac unit, was converted into a COVID unit,” Walker told TAPinto Montville. “They can’t leave the unit, so she asked if I could send in dinner, so I agreed. Then she told me that she had seen a woman on Facebook who had started a FLAG group. I contacted her and found out how to start a group and it took off from there. This is great because it benefits both restaurants and frontline healthcare workers.”
The FLAG of Mountain Lakes, Boonton Township, Boonton, Denville and Montville she started was the fifth FLAG group to be started, Walker said.
“The Facebook page went live March 27, and the first meals [delivered through the group] went out on March 28th to Morristown Medical Center,” she said. “It’s amazing how everybody wants to help.”
Walker said that as of April 6, $26,000 had been raised and 558 meals had been delivered. Only $5,200 of the funds has been used so far as several of the restaurants have insisted on donating their deliveries. Meals are being delivered at St. Claire’s Hospitals in Dover and Denville, plus Morristown Medical Center.
Anthony Franco’s Pizza, Denville Pizzeria, Don’s Sandwich Shop, El Mejicano Tex-Mex, Fasil, The Great Wazu, Hapgoods, Il Torrente, Jeremiah’s, Minuteman Smokehouse BBQ, Mountain Lakes Bagels, Pizza Cucina, PlantedEats, Red Barn Restaurant, Roma Pizzeria, Scoops, Sergio Co., Starbucks, The Station and Tito’s Burritos are currently participating in the deliveries.
“So many people have reached out to me – it definitely takes a village to coordinate all this,” Walker said. “My friends have been so supportive, and this has reconnected me with people I haven’t ‘seen’ in a while. Now we talk multiple times a day.”
The group’s Facebook page (FLAG(FRONTLINE APPRECIATION GROUP) Mtn Lakes/Bntn Twnsp/Bntn/Denvl/Montvl) is the primary spot for information on the group, such as how to donate, bake for the group, and how to purchase the “Thank You Healthcare Workers” signs that have become a fundraiser for the group. Montville resident Shari Feinstein’s business, Sign Your House, is providing the signs. So far she has sold 1,100, Feinstein said.
“Mountain Lakes, Denville, Kinnelon and other surrounding towns are selling our signs as well,” Feinstein said. “We have been in touch with the Atlantic Health Care System and will be putting them up at all local hospitals too.”
Walker said that Hallie has expressed that all of her colleagues have been so appreciative of the community support and the rallying behind healthcare workers.
“They go to work and they see all kinds of support, like these signs, and the giant sign out in front of Morristown Medical Center,” she said. “I got a text from her the other day that said, ‘The community is like the wind beneath our wings.’”
TO DONATE TO FLAG Mountain Lakes/ Boonton Township/ Boonton / Denville / Montville:
Paypal link: PayPal Venmo: @shari-Walker-1
TO PURCHASE A “Thank You Healthcare Workers” SIGN:
Venmo: @sign-yourhouse and put your name and address in the comment section and the sign will be delivered to your front lawn.
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