NJ small businesses have had a tough time during the pandemic and many people in our very own neighborhoods are still struggling after a year when we’ve lost jobs, income and worst of all, some of our loved ones. Because Jersey takes care of its own, it’s not surprising that many local communities have started initiatives and organizations with the purpose of getting their downtowns and their neighbors back on their feet.
In Summit, The Summit Foundation recently launched its “Better Together” campaign to mark the one-year anniversary of the COVID shutdown. The Sustain Summit Fund, started last spring, provided emergency assistance grants to small businesses facing COVID related hardships.
“We are grateful and thankful for the community we live in,” says Summit business owner of La Pastaria, Phil Angelo. “In the beginning, we had no idea what would happen, which was really scary. Things are not as scary now. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the shutdown could have been devastating. The grant was a lifeline, and it came at the perfect time. I had to take care of longtime employees. Some of them have been working here for as long as 30 years.”
In Ridgewood, the Feed the Frontlines Helping Those In Need Initiative is a call-to-action to provide ready-to-eat meals prepared by local Ridgewood restaurants to first responders, community groups and people in need during the pandemic. In Spring 2020, it was an organized way for people to help feed local healthcare workers, first responders and people in need while supporting local restaurants who have been hit hard economically.
At Mac Murphy’s, known as the “Cheers” of Ridgewood, owner Eileen Smith says that the Feed the Frontlines income kept them afloat in the beginning of the pandemic. They make 50 meals a day to give to neighbors in need. “It takes a village,” she says.
The foundation was awarded $1M for 100,000 meals from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) in February 2021 to feed those in need in Ridgewood and Bergen County.
Teaneck’s Holy Name Medical Center Foundation received $2 million from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s “Sustain and Serve” program. It was the largest grant given and the businesses that benefited said it not only saved their livelihoods but also for many, the restaurants they have called home for many years.
In Princeton, Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project allows generous neighbors to add on meals and products at checkout at their favorite local spots for our neighbors in need during COVID. They’ve supplied warm meals purchased by neighbors to those in need, bags with hygiene products, household supplies and more and even surprise gifts to make isolation a little more bearable. Founder Blair Miller says she was inspired by Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood which she watched growing up.
“What a wonderful thing you do!” one commenter posted on their social media. It’s true that when it comes to helping each other in times of need, New Jersey businesses and neighbors really do have each other’s backs.