SOMERVILLE, NJ - The greater Somerville community is engaged in a classic role reversal on a grand scale, stepping up to take care of the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset who are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
Several initiatives are under way to purchase and deliver meals to entire departments, with websites and sign-up lists - one of those lists is booked with meals for the next two weeks. The effort is also helping to bring business to the restaurant community in downtown Somerville. Several restaurants are listed with phone numbers and links to their websites where donors can order from the online menu and have the restaurant prepare the order for pick-up by the donors.
"Food for RWJ Somerset Staff" began delivering food to the hospital on March 27th, with donors including churches, the executive director of the YMCA, state Sen. Kip Bateman, the Somerville Mom's Club, school teachers, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, individuals and families.
The link to sign up is https://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090d49aaa92eabf85-food.
The site, created by Shawn Temple, Danielle Bowden and Jessica Dale, offers suggestions and provides direction to donors:
"Hi! We are looking to deliver food to RWJ Somerset to feed them and boost morale during this very difficult time. Please remember, no homemade food. It has to be from a restaurant - hospital rules.
Here are steps to help:
1. Pick a date and time you would like to bring/deliver food to the hospital staff;
2. Call a local business who would be willing to deliver (or you can pick up and bring over yourself);
3. Order whatever you wish and pay for it (we are not accepting Venmo etc. at this time). There are about 20 people per unit, but anything is honestly appreciated, so don't feel the need to get all 20 people a full meal;
4. Deliveries must be made to the lobby of the hospital on Rehill Avenue. The front desk will have a staff member pick up the order and deliver it to the designated floor/department.
5. Know that you are SO appreciated and the staff appreciates all that you do for them."
The second initiative was launched by Temple on Wednesday, with help from Irene Caldararo.
FLAG - Front Line Appreciation Group of Somerville - is an offshoot of an organization in Chatham/Madison, where Temple was raised. A friend put her in touch with the organizer, which led to the Somerville group.
FLAG differs in that it collects donations directly and takes care of ordering and delivering.
"Local restaurants will appreciate the support when you order your delivery from them," Temple said.
Ordering and paying for 10, 20 meals is not affordable for everyone, Temple explained. FLAG allows smaller donors to combine their donation with others to pay for a larger order.
"Twenty dollars is a lot of money for some people who might have lost their job or have big families," she said.
"One, two or more families can unite in this effort for one meal," she added. "The more people the better."
By 8 p.m. Wednesday, FLAG of Somerville had raised over $600 online in less than 10 hours, according to Temple.
"This group was started because of the overwhelming interest to support both our healthcare professionals and staff at RWJ Somerset," Temple said. "In addition, we are trying to support our community restaurants who are suffering due to the virus. We are trying to support our community by helping both the local businesses and the hospital staff.
"Our goal is to collect money to send meals to the staff at RWJ Somerset," she continued." Right now there are five COVID units and many more staff - lab, respiratory therapists, maintenance staff, security guards - who are working diligently to protect us. If you help us with donations, we will order food and plan delivery for the hospital staff."
Donations to FLAG of Somerville can be made online: paypal.me/flagsomerville