SPRINGFIELD, NJ — For nurses on the front lines fighting COVID-19, nights spent in hospitals away from their friends and family have become the norm.

But at one hotel in Springfield, those nurses are the beneficiary of a project designed to provided them some comforts to make their home away from home just a little more homey.

TAPinto Springfield sat down with Hilton Area Director of Sales Jill Cerchio, Hotel General Manager Tom Martucci and volunteers Sarah McTernan, Caity McTernan and Karen Bocian to learn more about how the donation effort came to fruition, and how the nurses came to be at the Hilton Garden Inn in town in the first place.

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As Martucci explained, the reason behind the nurses staying at the Hilton was becuase of joint program between Hilton and American Express. The hotel chain donated one million rooms for nurses, which were paid for at a discounted rate fee by the credit card company.

“It’s a real honor to be able to house these nurses. Cerchio said. "To give them a nice, comfortable place to come back and rest their head and get some sleep in between their really long hours. We’re honored to be able to do it.”

As for the donations, Sarah explained the project was started as a result of a family friend coming to stay at the hotel.

“We have a personal family friend who is from upstate New York, and we found out she was going to be staying there.” McTernan said. "She works at a hospital in New York. She actually contracted COVID-19 herself, recovered, then went and spent a couple of weeks in Morristown, and then just texted us one day and said she was going to Springfield. So Caity and I were talking and wanted to put a care package together.”

After discussing with Bocian, the group of volunteers hit upon the idea that there may be more nurses stying at the hotel as well, and they went to work. Both Sarah and Caity posted in their respective social media channels, and within hours, had donations coming in. As of press time, Sarah estimated she had raised almost $2,000 from the community.

For Bocian, who lives in Berkeley Heights, and coaches the summer swim team in town, the need to help was clear. She chipped in with a donation and also helped hand-write the cards that were attached to the front of the bags, thanking Springfield for their donations.

“Springfield is my home away from home, and I love it like it is my home,” Bocian said. “The McTernans are family to me and I’ll do anything to help. It started with one small idea, helping one person and within an hour or two, it had become into a much bigger thing.

"It was just great to be a part of it. It was great to plan and think about what kind of things could [the nurses] make in the microwave, that they could heat up and have after a long day.”

Along with the thousands in donations, the hotel also received posters made by Springfield families, as well as Daisy Troop 40112 and Junior Girl Scout Troop 40871.

“We were just very excited, and then when it arrived it was adorable," Cerchio said. "The posters that were made that lined the hallway, we put them all up, so when [the nurses] walked in the door, they saw all these beautiful posters, which just really made you smile."

“The few nurses I did see, they all said it was an awesome surprise," Martucci added. "Most of them had been here a week already and this is the first time they were able to get a donation or something form somebody, and they were all very appreciative.”

While the initial donation went exceedingly well, Sarah noted she still has money coming in, which she will look to put towards future donations. She also said that painting the bags with Caity was a fun and rewarding experience.

Throughout the whole process, Caity was in communication with the family of the nurse who kick started the whole project.

“I’m really close with our friend who's the nurse," Caity said. "I’m really close with her younger sister. And I was kind of updating her every couple hundred dollars, and she was like, 'that’s amazing.'"

Caity added that in moments like this the charitable nature of the town shines through, saying, “I’ve lived in Springrield my whole life, so I’ve kind of always been able to see it, but seeing it from the outside. Just reiterating [sic] how amazing it is, it was so cool to see that."

And when it comes to the charitable sprit of Springfield that has made everything possible donation-wise, Bocian said that the town's generosity truly shines through when the need is greatest.

Springfield is incredible,” Bocian said. “I teach locally as well, and there’s something about Springfield that is just so special, and that’s why I keep coming back for all these things, because the people in this town never cease to amaze me.

"Every time I think that they’ve done the most that they could possibly do, they come up with something more ant hey blow it out of the water, and it’s really awesome to see it."

In order to contact Sarah McTernan about making donations, email her at themcs123@aol.com