NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - In early April, Councilwomen Nadine Geoffory and Michele Matsikoudis got together to come up with a way to help local businesses and show their gratitude to front liners and first responders. Their research led them to a great initiative in neighboring towns called FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) and thought that the program was a great fit for New Providence.  

 The coucilwomen reached out to FLAG founder and Chatham resident, Liz Bernich as well as FLAG branches in neighboring towns of Summit and Berkeley Heights. They then decided to partner with the New Providence Education Foundation, an existing non-profit that agreed to collect donations on the group’s behalf. Currently, leading the FLAG of New Providence effort is Anne McClane and Gene and Michele Castagna. “They have been working tirelessly to help achieve success,” said Matsikoudis. In the first 24 hours the group raised over $2000, to date they have raised over $12,000 and delivered nearly 1,200 meals from New Providence restaurants.  

FLAG New Providence has made deliveries to New Providence EMS, New Providence Department of Public Works, New Providence Dispatch, Mountain Valley Emergency Communication Center and New Providence Police Dept, Overlook Medical Center, Trinitas Regional Medical Center and Atlantic Ambulance with the help of many volunteers, Senator Tom Kean and local restaurants. 

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“We are proud that we have touched every open restaurant in New Providence,” said Matsikoudis. Participating restaurants include: Avenue Deli, Bacci, Bagel Cafe, Barth's Market, Bellariva, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Chopt, Coppola Restaurant, Dunkin', Fan Bistro, Harlees Tap and Grille, Jersey Mike's Subs, Jose's Mexican Cantina, Latin American Deli, Moe's Bistro, Noah's Bagels, Old Glory Restaurant, Paolo's Kitchen, Providence Bar and Kitchen, Smashburger, Subway, Szechuan Delight and Tables for Two.

“FLAG New Providence has done a fantastic job coordinating fundraising efforts, the community was immediately supportive, and both local restaurants and frontline workers have been helped tremendously during this unprecedented strain," said Don Burkitt, owner of Harlee's Tap and Grill. "It has been an entirely rewarding experience working with the FLAG New Providence team and seeing the New Providence community come together to help others during this time. We are blessed to live in such a giving community." 

If you would like to contribute to FLAG New Providence efforts, please visit the NPEF website: npedfoundation.org or Venmo @ NP-EdFoundations.  Checks are also being accepted, please contact annesmclane@gmail.com.