ESSEX FELLS, NJ — Tim Hughes, Essex Fells resident and owner of Shughes Entertainment and Shughes Studios, recently used his expertise as a videographer to highlight the many acts of kindness and hope that West Essex residents have witnessed over the last several weeks within the community.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit New Jersey, the father of three said he has been discouraged by all the "doom and gloom" being seen in the news and wanted to do his part to document the many inspiring initiatives that residents and businesses have implemented.
"When I started the video, I had gone from working every day to suddenly being out of work," said Hughes. "With large gatherings being restricted for the foreseeable future, the video project helped me stay motivated and get through this challenging and uncertain time."
Hughes said he could not have anticipated the overwhelmingly positive response he has received and the impact his video has had on the community.
He noted that one viewer contacted him to express that the video brought the viewer's family a great deal of comfort after recent struggles and that another community member told him the video changed her outlook on the situation and allowed her to keep pushing forward.
Some local businesses highlighted in the video include Zest, which has been donating food to those in need; Fortes Ristorante, which donated pizzas and food to workers at Saint Barnabas Medical Center; Cloverleaf Tavern, which donated meals to local first responders; Rock N Joes, which is currently known for the big rainbow hanging in the window as a symbol of hope; Claremont Distillery, which is using its own spirits to produce hand sanitizer for those in need; Manhattan Bagel, which founded the Rocco Donatiello Foundation; and other businesses that Hughes and his family have frequented during this time.
"My brother in law is a Newark police officer, and when he couldn’t get hand sanitizer, Claremont Distillery stepped up and distributed to their first responders," said Hughes. "I also knew Rocco and frequented Manhattan Bagel. I truly appreciate the organization carrying on the legacy set forth by Rocco.
"Regarding Saint Barnabas, I have worked for them and all three of my kids have been born there. To see the hope they are providing and the work they are doing is amazing."
The full "West Essex Strong" video can be seen below.