SOMERVILLE, NJ - The heartfelt benevolence demonstrated by borough residents is helping to keep restaurants afloat with their donations to buy prepared meals for the doctors, nurses and medical staffs at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset.
An upstart organization, FLAG of Somerville (Front Line Appreciation Group) - organized by Shawn Temple - has been soliciting donations online and by word of month to underwrite the expense of the prepared meals.
This week, Temple will spend $4,350 that has been received from close to 100 donors.
There are several other FLAG initiatives across the state assisting hospitals throughout New Jersey.
The FLAG website also includes a link to Sign Up Genius - Food for RWJ/Somerset - where those who can afford to spend larger amounts can donate and specify what restaurant they want their donation to go to, according to Temple. Most of the hospital units have 20-25 members, and some donors want to donate meals to the entire unit, she explained.
Downtown businesses, families and individuals, as well as churches and other organizations continue to make donations, according to Temple.
Other restaurants in surrounding towns are also involved in the outreach.
Temple posted an update on the FLAG website late Monday afternoon:
"This week, we begin deliveries from FLAG of Somerville, as well as, from individual families in the community
"The RWJ staff will receive food deliveries from: Carnitas Taco Factory, JP's Deli, Chimney Rock Inn, Alfonso's Somerville, Joe's Meat Market, Court House Sub Shop, Salad House, Mannion's Pub & Restaurant, and Project P.U.B./Tapastre.
"Thank you to all of our local businesses who are helping US make a difference. Hope we helped you a bit this week too!"
Temple is scheduling deliveries from each of the restaurants for every day of the week.
Restaurant owners are grateful for the outpouring of support.
"We're all trying to help out one another, so how do we it? People donate money to the Salad House, which goes directly into paying for the meals," said Dave Delinko, owner of the Salad House, 58 W. Main St. "That means sales for us, we coordinate with the hospital, they get free meals - we're all in this together, it's a way for everybody to help each other, but most importantly, the doctors and the nurses benefit," he added.
The Salad House had been sending meals to the hospital with the support of its customers before linking up with FLAG; Delinko has subsidized some of the expense himself.
"They're on the same track as we are," he said. "But this helps all the restaurants across the board; sales in the restaurant business are down 70 percent because the customers that normally come here aren't working because their businesses are closed."
Delinko has been preparing $10 box lunches supported by the donations received by the Salad House.
Mike Proske, owner of Project P.U.B. and Tapastre restaurant at the corner of North Bridge Street and West High Street, has also been sending meals donated by his customers for the past few weeks. He, too has absorbed some of the expense, and is discounting the meals that will be paid for by FLAG.
"We're trying to make it work and stay within their budget," he said.
"It's been working out great," Proske said. "Everybody wins, and it definitely brings out the good in a lot of people."
"It's a wonderful thing, what she's doing for the restaurants and the medical staff at the hospital," said Pat Mannion, owner of Mannion's Pub & Restaurant,150 W. Main St.,
"It's appreciated by all the restaurants, it's a huge help; we're all trying to stay in business and every lit bit helps," he added.
FLAG is continuing to accept donations at paypal.me/flagsomerville.
Follow the group's progress on Facebook at FLAG (Front-Line-Appreciation-group) of Somerville.
"The thing that got me today in talking with a lot of the restaurants is how thankful they are that we would help them," Temple said. "They've been so gracious. People want to support those who support others. That's what they want to do,"