NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – They’re being hailed as heroes, these doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals bravely entrenched on the front lines of the war against COVID-19.

Kathy Foley has been so moved by their courage that she wanted to pay some small token of gratitude to these indefatigable workers at Hub City’s hospitals, the ones working to save those who show up each day struggling to breathe, gasping for breath, choking back fear.  

Through the First Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) of Somerset, 50 sandwiches and 50 fruit cups prepared at Fritz’s restaurant on Easton Ave., will be delivered Tuesday at noon to nearby Saint Peter’s University Hospital.

Sign Up for New Brunswick Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Foley, a fellow nurse who works as a kidney transplant coordinator at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, has been collecting donations to purchase meals at New Brunswick restaurants and have them delivered to the city’s healthcare professionals.

Since the FLAG Facebook page was created on Wednesday, some 100 people have donated a total of about $5,000.

She’s in the process of organizing a similar delivery of food from a local eatery for the workers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

The food will provide nourishment on yet another grueling day – something convenient and tasty to pick up and quickly eat.

More importantly, though, the sandwiches send a message that others in and around the city are grateful for their heroism.

“We wanted to show them that people are thinking about them and appreciate everything that they are doing at this time,” said Foley, whose sister, Carol Negvesky, works as a communications coordinator at Saint Peter’s. “They donate through Venmo, and each time they donate, they leave a little message. Some are like, ‘Thank you for being heroes’ and ‘Thank you for what you are doing right now.’”

Foley has gotten a lot of support starting and organizing FLAG from three of her fellow parishioners from St. Matthias Catholic Church in Franklin. One worked to identify restaurants in New Brunswick to work with and another is keeping track of the donations.

Inspired by a FLAG group set up on Long Island, Liz Bernich created FLAG of Chatham and Madison. The group has raised more than $73,000.

While Foley has watched from the side, she can’t help but wonder if she will be called upon to help in a supporting role.

She said the scenes of people dropping off loved ones with COVID-19 are emotional to watch.

“I’m in a different part of the hospital (Saint Barnabas), but you see the doctors and nurses waiting out in front of the hospital,” Foley said. “It’s the same scene all day when someone arrives. We cried several times yesterday.”

“We saw a wife dropping off her husband, and they’re both in masks and wearing gloves. She can’t hug him or kiss him, so she blows him a kiss. He goes into the tent area in the parking lot to be triaged and it’s heartbreaking. If he’s admitted, she’s not seeing him again until he gets out.”

To donate to have meals delivered to New Brunswick hospital workers, visit FLAG of Somerset’s Facebook page.