WESTFIELD, NJ — A Facebook live concert featuring Goo Goo Dolls front-man John Rzeznik, luminaries and an online auction will benefit local and area food pantries as part of a slate of holiday efforts aimed at giving back, the town announced.

The efforts come amid a 58% increase in food insecure residents in Union County, according to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Statewide, the number of people who are food insecure is anticipated to increase by 56%, representing 431,060 people, according to Feeding America, a nationwide nonprofit network of food banks.

“This holiday season is going to be difficult for many families here in New Jersey, and I’m glad to be able to help raise awareness about hunger in the region,” Rzeznik said in the town’s release. “My hope is that we can make a real difference as a community by getting involved with this cause to provide help where it’s most needed.”

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Mayor Shelley Brindle noted the prior success of the We Love Local campaign, which Rzeznik, a Westfield resident, played a significant role in supporting. That effort, led by the Westfield United Fund in coordination with the town, aided local small businesses suffering from the impacts of the pandemic.

“This year, more than ever, it’s very fitting that we start the holiday season with a meaningful approach to help make an impact on hunger and food insecurity right here in our area,” Brindle said. “Our community has come together to be the light for one another in many ways during this difficult year, starting with the We Love Local campaign, in which John Rzeznik played a huge role to support our local businesses.”

Officials said the Sunday, Nov. 29, events remind members of the community that they can help “Be the Light” for neighbors in need. The events are as follows:

Luminaries Nov. 29 at dusk: All residents who purchased “Be the Light” luminaries — organized by the Westfield United Fund, the Presbyterian Church of Westfield and The Westfield Rotary Club — will light their candles in a show of unity throughout Westfield to support local hunger programs.

Livestream Performance Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.: The Town of Westfield’s Facebook page will host a special livestream concert with John Rzeznik, as he performs songs from the band’s new holiday album, It’s Christmas All Over.

Online Auction Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. — Dec. 18 at 11:59 p.m.: Rzeznik has partnered with the Town of Westfield and the Westfield United Fund to raise funds for the Westfield Food Pantry and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey to combat hunger for those in Union County facing economic difficulty and food insecurity this holiday season.

At 7 p.m., the online auction will open, where bids can be placed through Dec. 18 on the following items donated by Rzeznik, officials said:

  • A personal backyard performance (outdoors, maximum of 30 guests, with social distancing and all related COVID protocols in place, within Union County or 30 minutes of Westfield)
  • Rzeznik’s Taylor guitar used during the Nov. 29 performance 50 autographed copies of the new album It’s Christmas All Over. In addition to auction bids, donations will also be accepted.

An authentic autographed limited-edition Goo-Goo Dolls Crosley turntable will be given to the winner of a raffle prize for people who donate $25 and above to the cause.

The “Be the Light” initiative will also extend to Downtown Westfield, where the North Avenue tree will be lit on Nov. 29, followed by a menorah lighting on Dec. 10.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor gatherings, the community is asked to enjoy these events virtually this year on the town’s Facebook page.