VERONA/CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Verona and Cedar Grove residents have seen their share of problematic behavior since a state-wide “stay at home” order was given by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy: hoarding of groceries. Groups ignoring pleas to isolate. Stolen packages of important supplies. But far more prolific are the stories of hope and helpfulness. Residents agree: overall, the stay at home order has brought out the best in their neighbors. 

Just ask Carolyn Rodriguez, whose twin sons are on a specialized ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy. “The food that they like most is keto cereal from a startup called Cereal School. It has 0 net carbs so it's one of the only foods I can let them have an unlimited amount of that they'll actually eat.”

When Carolyn discovered she was running low in early March, she went to order some only to find out that the cereal was sold out everywhere.

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“I decided to post on a few local Facebook groups to see if anyone had any Cereal School that they would let me buy from them. I thought it was a longshot, but I was desperate. I've never been so happy to be wrong about anything. I got a huge response from our local community.”

Carolyn spent two days picking up cereal from doorsteps all over northern New Jersey. “Some people gave us a few servings, some gave us multiple unopened boxes! Not a single person would take a dollar from me, and this is not cheap stuff! A week ago, I was afraid these dark days would be positively unbearable...I am so grateful to these strangers who stepped up to give their cereal to my boys.”

Inspired by the kindness of strangers, Carolyn started to sew masks for local hospitals and homes that are low on PPE (personal protective equipment). So she was ready when fellow Verona mom Lynn Halsey put out a call to collect homemade masks to give to area healthcare workers.

“The response has been fantastic! All the masks that have been made so far were given to local healthcare workers that expressed need,” she said. She will offer up a new set of masks to whoever needs them, otherwise she will bring them to St. Joseph's Healthcare Center. “I also ordered a little sewing machine and am going to try to make some myself!” she added. (To contribute a finished mask or materials such as 100% cotton fabric and elastics, email lynnahalsey@gmail.com.)

There are also many stories of neighbors helping their immediate neighbors. Staci Keena-Molinaro was stuck when it came to giving her son materials needed for completing art class requirements.

“I do not have 90% of the stuff that we need, so I ask my neighbors and they seem to always pull through. Between shaving cream, paper plates, paper towel rolls, chalk and crayons we’ve been able to accomplish all of the projects. Thank you to my neighbors!” she said.

Kristin Roussel, an 8th grade English teacher from Cedar Grove, knew that her neighbors might need books for themselves and their children to pass the long hours inside. She puts out a sanitized bin of books daily for neighbors to help themselves.

“Some have even come back again to donate, which is awesome,” she said. “I really think reading and grabbing a new book can help reduce stress for a lot of people.”

A common post on the internet during trying times is this Mr. Rogers quote: “In times of disaster, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

Luckily, residents of Verona and Cedar Grove don't have to look far.  

Homemade masks are being provided to healthcare workers in need. (photo courtesy of Lynn Halsey)

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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