SOMERVILLE, NJ – The employees of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset had an oversized pizza party Friday, ordering 300 pies from area restaurants - that's 2,400 slices - as their way of saying "Thanks" for the support they received during the height of the COVID-19 crisis in March, April and May.

Prima Pizza, Somerville; Joe’s Pizza, Martinsville;: Panatieri’s, Bound Brook; and Central Pizza, Somerville delivered their pies at noon Friday to George Jonkoski, director of Food and Nutrition Services/Diabetes Center at RWJUH/Somerset.

Friday was the official launch of the RWJUH/Somerset “Pay It Forward” campaign to give back to the community.

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Since March, RWJUH/Somerset has received more than $390,000 in food donations from the community. Many restaurants donated meals on their own for hospital staff. Others were contacted by the Somerville Frontline Appreciation Group (FLAG) who purchased meals to send to the hospital. When they heard the meals were going to the hospital, most restaurants went above and beyond FLAG’s order by doubling the order at no charge, providing extra items or discounting the meals.

Now, hospital employees are being encouraged to support the local restaurants who supported them over the past several months. Employees have already begun to present “Heroes Eat Here” thank you cards at the restaurants they patronize for take-out or outdoor dining. Recent Facebook posts have shown hospital employees presenting their "Thank You" cards at The Salad House, Picasso's and the Blue Sheep Bake Shop.

The hospital will continue to hold “Pay It Forward” Fridays. Employees will order take-out meals from a designated restaurant each week for delivery to the hospital. In addition, the hospital will be presenting the restaurants with a “Heroes Eat Here” certificate to display in public recognition of their support.

“The support from our community has been simply extraordinary. It lifted our spirits and helped carry us through a very challenging time,” said Tony Cava, RWJUH/Somerset president and chief executive officer. “Now it is our turn to support our community, particularly our local restaurants, who have also been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our ‘Pay It Forward’ campaign is a small way that we can give back and show our appreciation for all that our community has done for us.”

To date, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset has discharged more than 650 COVID-19 patients. The hospital began resuming elective surgeries and outpatient services in May and has implemented precautions to ensure the safety of patients and visitors, including temperature screenings at all entrances, masking while in the hospital, COVID-19 testing for surgical patients and all patients admitted to the hospital, stringent cleaning practices, social distancing and limited visitation.

To learn more about the hospital’s resumption of services and safety precautions, visit www.rwjbh.org/welcomeback.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset is a TAPinto marketing partner.