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During the COVID-19 Pandemic & Beyond, Bellmawr Cares for Its Own

It wasn’t long after Governor Murphy’s COVID-19 Executive Orders became effective – where non-essential businesses were forced to close and social distancing protocols were put into place — when Bellmawr Borough Clerk, Frani Wright, noticed that the phones at Borough Hall began to ring — and ring a lot.

“The calls for help just kept coming in,” she said. “The need seems to be increasing weekly.”

Before the pandemic, Wright and Mayor Chuck Sauter knew that there were people within the Bellmawr community who needed help and they’ve been working to try and find ways to help meet some of those needs.

One idea was to open a food pantry in town. As a way to test the waters and to gauge community response, three “Little Free Food Pantries” were constructed.  Little Food Pantries are like Little Free Libraries, but instead of being filled with books, Little Free Pantries contain non-perishable food items for people to take what they need.

The Little Food Pantries are also a joint venture with the school district. At the beginning of the school year, Wright brainstormed with School Superintendent, Annette Castiglione, about the logistics of  installing one Little Food Pantry at each of the three schools in town.

“Our Borough workers built the Little Food Pantries and installed them at Bellmawr Park, Ethel Burke and Bell Oaks,” Wright said. “Students held a food drive to make sure that the pantries were stocked.  Mayor and Council also approved a purchase to replenish the Little Food Pantries through the Borough’s Needy Fund Account.”

The Little Food Pantries were well received, so two more Little Free Pantries were built and installed  — one at Borough Hall and the other at St. Joachim Church.

Because of the coronavirus, needs in the community have intensified. “The need for food and assistance is so great,” Wright said, “Bellmawr tries to take cares of its own.  Around the holidays, we have ‘Bellmawr Believes’ to try and make sure every child has something for Christmas. We call this outreach “Bellmawr Cares.”

In March, Bellmawr Cares volunteers were able to help connect senior citizens with generous platters filled with food donated by the Club Diner. When the diner was forced to close because of Governor Murphy’s Executive Orders, the diner’s owners were left with a sizable amount of food that they didn’t want to waste. They wanted to find a way to donate it to the community.

Immediately, the seniors at Bellmawr Senior Housing came to mind because many residents don’t drive and the Bellmawr Shuttle Bus cannot make runs to grocery stores because of the coronavirus. Some seniors aren’t able to get out to buy food and groceries as regularly as they used to.

Bellmawr resident and volunteer Anna Maria Stolfo and her daughter, Jamie, stepped up without hesitation and picked up the food from the Club Diner. They divided it up and made containers full of food and delivered it to Bellmawr Senior Housing.  The donations were met with gratitude, Wright said.

Wright also learned from speaking with Bell Oaks Guidance Counselor, Brian Reilly, that many families in the district have been hit hard during the pandemic.

The first week food packages were made, 16 families and 14 seniors were served.

Last week, donation packages were made for 51 seniors at Bellmawr Senior Housing, nine packages were made for seniors who still live at home, and 26 packages were put together for families in town. Donation packages can vary, but include mostly shelf-stable items such as bread, boxes of mashed potatoes, rice, cereal, pudding, peanut butter, jelly, toilet paper, juices, and canned chili. They also include some lunch meat and cheese.

Above and below are some of the food that were divided up into packages. (Photos provided)

Wright says people have been so kind and generous. She told a story about how she and another volunteer, Lisa Young, had been recently shopping for over an hour at Aldi. “Our cart was filled to the top. We were wearing masks and couldn’t breathe. As soon as we hit the parking lot, we ripped our masks off.”

“While we were unloading, a woman reprimanded us from across the parking lot for not wearing masks,” Wright said. “Then, the woman questioned us about why we had so much food and groceries in our cart.”

Wright assured her that they just taken their masks off after having been in the store shopping for so long and then explained that the groceries were for residents in town who need food.

“We talked with the woman for a few minutes about how food packages are put together for families and senior citizens, then she asked us how she could make a donation,” Wright said.

Several Bellmawr residents and Borough employees have made “very generous donations.” One person even donated eight hams.

Shopping for groceries and keeping the Little Food Pantries stocked is no small task.

Wright said that there are about nine volunteers who regularly help. “We have enough volunteers to shop, box up the food, and deliver. However, people can get involved by donating. The greatest needs are cleaning supplies and non-perishable items.

Groceries are brought into the courtroom at Bellmawr Borough Hall where food donations will be put together for those in need.

Bellmawr Cares is truly a team effort, Wright continuously emphasized, “We are purchasing truckloads of food at a time and our Recreation Department guys are a huge help unloading the groceries when we go shopping. All of our Borough workers keep their eyes and ears open in the community if they learn someone needs assistance.”

“Some people are too proud to request help, so we are finding out through their neighbors or friends. In some cases, our Borough workers learn of a need from simply speaking to residents on the phone,” she said.

How to Help:

Donations of non-perishable food items and cleaning supplies are accepted. Drop off locations are at the main entrance to Borough Hall. To arrange pick-up from your doorstep, email: bellmawrwecare@gmail.com. Monetary donations are accepted via venmo at Borough Bellmawr@Borough-Bellmawr

Residents in need are asked to send an email to:  bellmawrwecare@gmail.com or leave a message at 856-933-1313 ext. 1209.

Many generous donations have been received. (Photo provided)
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Bright Side Recent News

AG Grewal &Colonel Callahan Praise New Jerseyans for Complying With Social Distancing Rules Despite Crowds at Parks & Beaches

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan today thanked and praised New Jersey residents for their overwhelming compliance with social distancing rules at newly opened parks and beaches this weekend.

Law enforcement in all 21 counties of New Jersey reported that, while there were challenges occasioned by the large crowds visiting many parks and beaches, there were no significant enforcement issues, and the re-opening of recreational areas came off largely without incident.

Police dealt with huge crowds at state, county, and local parks, which required the closure of some parks to additional visitors after they quickly reached capacity. In addition, some people had to be reminded that picnicking is not allowed under the emergency orders, and that, consistent with CDC guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID-19, team sports and the use of playgrounds are also prohibited.

Nonetheless, law enforcement reported that the vast majority of people were compliant with social distancing rules, once they were told what they could and could not do.

“After a month of staying at home, it was no surprise that families needed some fun in the sun and quickly filled parks to capacity, creating challenges for law enforcement,” said Attorney General Grewal. “What is heartening is the overwhelming degree of compliance reported by police, who found people social distancing and needing only gentle reminders to fold up their picnic blanket or keep their children off of beckoning swings and slides. People kept safety in mind this weekend, and I encourage everyone to keep up the great work so that we continue on this road to recovery.”

“New Jersey residents continue to serve as a national model for best social distancing practices, and that could not have been more apparent than this past weekend when the vast majority of our residents enjoyed our state parks and beaches responsibly,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The very reason we have been able to begin reopening is because our citizens have chosen to put the greater good of the public first, but the only way we will be able to keep moving forward is if we continue to stay the course.”

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NJM Insurance Group Commits $400,000 to COVID-19 Relief Efforts

WEST TRENTON, NJ – April 28, 2020 – NJM Insurance Group, a leading property and casualty insurer in the Mid-Atlantic region, has committed $400,000 to COVID-19 relief efforts to assist families, businesses, and communities impacted by the pandemic. The funding will go toward non-profits serving essential needs, health care providers, emergency responders and coordinated statewide efforts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“Community support and corporate giving are essential in times of challenge and uncertainty,” said Mitch Livingston, NJM President and CEO. “Our commitment to these relief efforts is rooted in NJM’s core principles. During this very difficult time we will remain true to our pledge to support the communities we are privileged to serve.”

As part of its commitment, NJM will provide support to area non-profits in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that bridge gaps in essential areas, including technology needs, and food and shelter for children and families. The funds will also go to small business relief and recovery efforts, including the statewide New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, to support efforts to address the complex medical, social, and economic impact of COVID-19.

In addition to financial contributions, NJM has donated 15,000 personal protective equipment items to area frontline health care providers and emergency responders, and is providing warehouse space to Mercer Street Friends, enabling the expansion of the non-profit’s essential food bank operations in Mercer County, New Jersey.

“Our communities are fortunate to have so many organizations that are making a positive impact at a time of unprecedented hardship for so many,” said Livingston. “NJM is proud to support these organizations and we are sincerely grateful for their efforts.”

More information about NJM’s response to the pandemic is available at njm.com/covid.

About NJM Insurance Group

Founded in 1913, NJM is a leading property casualty insurer in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Company offers workers’ compensation, auto, homeowners, renters and umbrella coverage in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Headquartered in West Trenton, NJ, NJM employs nearly 2,500 workers and operates in a mutual fashion for the exclusive benefit of its customers. For more information, visit njm.com.

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Community Foundation of South Jersey Announces First Round of Grants from New South Jersey COVID-19 Response Fund

More than 20 nonprofits serving South Jersey are receiving grants aimed at helping these critical organizations weather the devastation caused by COVID-19 and serve families across the region. The Community Foundation of South Jersey (CFSJ) today announced its first round of grantees since launching the COVID-19 Response Fund in late March.

The grants total $100,000 for nonprofits serving: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem Counties. These grants address only the first 15 percent of requests received by the Community Foundation to date. Additional rounds will be announced in the coming days and weeks.

“This pandemic is devastating South Jersey communities, with the brunt of impact on our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Andy Fraizer, Executive Director. “South Jersey neighbors and organizations responded quickly to our call for help in meeting the growing need.” The Community Foundation has commitments and pledges for more than $800,000. Requests for funding total more than $1.5 million, with new requests arriving daily.

The Fund is the only such effort focused solely on the 8-county South Jersey region. It was established by a coalition of local residents, business and philanthropic partners to rapidly deploy flexible grant dollars to the nonprofit sector serving South Jersey.

Nonprofit organizations – the backbone of our communities — are on the frontlines of fighting back. They provide food, healthcare, and other crucial services where and when people need them most. “But our nonprofits are getting slammed too,” Fraizer said. “Many are laying off key staff and bleeding resources – a one-two punch that threatens the organizations and the people they serve. That’s why it’s time to help the helpers.”

The Fund is making grants in multiple rounds based on three categories.

  • Phase one: Triage – Immediate response to increased demand for services to meet economic security needs from South Jersey nonprofits.
  • Phase two: Treatment – Grants for nonprofits forced to modify their delivery modes due to COVID-19 and needing assistance to do so.
  • Phase three: Recovery – These grants will fund nonprofits facing extreme difficulty because of lost revenue due to closures and event cancellations, as well as other business model challenges resulting from the pandemic.

“We are grateful for contributions of any size from South Jersey neighbors who are able to give for immediate needs and a brighter recovery,” said Wanda Hardy, Chairperson of the Foundation’s Community Leadership and Engagement Committee.

For more details on making donations, funding priorities and how to apply, please visit southjerseyresponsefund.org.

Grant Award Descriptions

A Need We Feed Toms River
Observing an increased demand for meals and more difficulty for their clients to be able to travel and pay for food, A Need We Feed will purchase hot meals from local restaurants for distribution at social service organizations throughout Ocean County, including organizations that serve homebound seniors, veterans, homeless and children and families.

Arc of Salem CountySalem
Having to shut down day programs for clients, Arc of Salem County staff have reorganized employees to deliver services remotely as well as in person at clients’ homes throughout Salem County. Still operating group homes, they will purchase personal protective equipment for their employees to continue to deliver services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

AtlantiCare FoundationEgg Harbor Township
Experiencing an extreme increase in demand, AtlantiCare Foundation will purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for patients and staff at hospitals in Atlantic City and Pomona.

Beacon of HopeMount Holly
Observing an increase in demand for emergency assistance services, Beacon of Hope has adapted its food distribution protocol directly to clients’ homes using personal protective equipment, and is providing meals to children through surrounding schools. They are providing meals, shelter and clothing to families throughout South Jersey.

Christian Caring Center Pemberton
Christian Caring Center will provide food through a drive-thru pantry, diapers, shelter (through motels and two managed shelters), and case management services to families in Burlington County.

Community Food Bank of New JerseyHillside
CFBNJ is seeing increased demand for food and a decrease in food donations. As a result, CFBNJ has streamlined its food distribution process, but must still purchase additional food to meet the demand. With this grant funding, CFBNJ will continue ongoing distribution to clients and agency partners through its Community Assistance Pantry, distribute Emergency Meal Kits to partner agencies in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May and Cumberland counties and coordinate large-scale distribution of food and essential goods to high-capacity partners.

Community Medical Center FoundationToms River
Serving the second-highest senior population in the country, RWJBarnabas Health’s Community Medical Center (Ocean County’s largest healthcare facility), is experiencing an extreme increase in demand for healthcare services. With grant funding the organization will purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for patients and staff.

Eim Leah Lakewood
Eim Leah will deliver fresh daily meals to postpartum mothers and their families in Ocean County.

Family Promise of Southwest New JerseyGlassboro
Observing both an increased demand for services as other shelters close and the need to modify facilities to allow for social distancing, Family Promise of Southwest New Jersey will purchase food, paper products, toiletries, laundry materials and other necessities for families in Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

Gateway Community Action Partnership – Bridgeton
Designated as the Community Action Partnership (CAP) for Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties, Gateway CAP will replenish food banks emptied due to increased demand and continue to distribute food to individuals, families and seniors throughout South Jersey.

Help & Hope Ministries – Millville
A partner of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Help & Hope Ministries will purchase additional food to meet increased demands for food from families who have lost jobs due to COVID-19.

Lakewood Community Services Corporation – Lakewood
Observing an increased demand for its senior meal program and outpatient mental health services, LCSC will deliver meals to seniors in Ocean County who are isolated at home and unable to travel.

LUCY Outreach – Camden
In response to COVID-19, LUCY Outreach has transitioned services for youth and families in Camden County from in person to remote delivery. LUCY Outreach will directly help families with access to food assistance, prescription medication, housing, utilities support, furniture, toiletries, feminine products, baby food and diapers.

Mid-Atlantic States Career & Education Center – Pennsville
Having had to close work-readiness and high school equivalency exam preparation programs, MASCEC has modified its food distribution process to meet the food security needs of families in Salem and Gloucester counties, as well as disabled veterans in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties too. MASCEC will purchase additional food, supplementing donations from organizations to meet increased demand.

Parkside Business & Community in Partnership – Camden
PBCIP will expand its Food Bucks Prescription program to additional Camden families, to be redeemed for fresh produce from local corner stores, mobile food markets and food pantries.

Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey Chapter – New Brunswick
Observing increased stress from parents experiencing a loss of income due to changes in their employment, Prevent Child Abuse will provide diapers to families participating in evidence-based home visiting and teen parenting programs. Providing diapers not only meet a basic health and hygiene need for children, but also reduces parental stress (the most common reason a child may be neglected or abused).

Revive SJ – Bridgeton
Observing an increase in unemployment experienced by families from the Hispanic immigrant community in Cumberland County, Revive SJ will provide emergency relief funds to families affected by COVID-19. These funds will help cover the costs of medication, food, gas and transportation and other necessities.

Salvation Army Kroc Center – Camden
Observing a rise in clients as other pantries close or scale back, and as more people need help, the Salvation Army Kroc Center has modified its operations to provide contactless distribution at its Choice Food Pantry. The Kroc Center will support these modifications with additional food and staff, as well as personal protective equipment.

Shore Medical Center – Somers Point
Primarily serving Atlantic and Cape May counties, Shore Medical Center is experiencing an extreme increase in demand for healthcare services. Funding will purchase personal protective equipment for its frontline healthcare workforce.

Temple Lutheran Church – Pennsauken
Experiencing a 50 percent increase in clientele at its Lida Knaus Food Pantry, Temple Lutheran Church will purchase additional food from its partner, the Food Bank of South Jersey, as well as provide fresh produce, eggs, diapers (adult and baby) and toiletries to Camden County residents. Grant funds will also allow the pantry to increase the frequency of food distribution, from once to twice a month, for families in need.

Urban Promise Ministries – Camden
Urban Promise Ministries helps Camden and Pennsauken families secure needed resources through the Emergency Family Fund. Urban Promise will provide families with emergency support such as food, diapers, sanitizing supplies or utility assistance.

Volunteers of America Delaware Valley – Camden
To continue serving clients in emergency shelters, affordable housing communities, reentry programs and homeless prevention programs across Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties VOADV will purchase needed personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies and emergency food supplies.

Your Place at the Table – Mullica Hill
Despite observing growing needs for food from families, Your Place at the Table was forced to cancel food drives typically held with local partners. These drives normally supply the food necessary to feed Gloucester County families, seniors and single parents, so Your Place at the Table will purchase food for families in need.

About the Community Foundation of South Jersey:

The Community Foundation of South Jersey (CFSJ) envisions an eight-county region thriving where all neighbors aspire, succeed, participate, and give.

The vision is realized as CFSJ inspires generosity, manages and deploys permanent charitable assets, and exercises collaborative leadership to create a more equitable region.

CFSJ works with South Jersey philanthropists, local nonprofits, and neighbors to build capital, contribute assets, and create permanent endowments for impact in perpetuity.

By aligning donor interests and using the investment earnings on each of its endowed funds, CFSJ makes grants and builds leadership within the community to create thriving, equitable, and livable communities for all. Currently, CFSJ manages assets of more than $23 million. CFSJ has issued more than $9 million in nonprofit grants and scholarships.

Learn more about CFSJ at CommunityFoundationSJ.org.

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Making a Difference: Donors Give $250,000 to JFS During COVID-19 Crisis

Margate, New Jersey (April 24, 2020) – This is a time of uncertainty all over the world. Although we can’t all be together, we can all work together. Our community members, businesses and supporters have joined together to ensure people receive support during this difficult time. More than $250,000 has been donated to Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties to assure community members can receive the support needed through our programs and services.

AkPharma, Kessler Foundation, Antoinette & Eric Wood, Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Morris Bailey & Family who are the owners of Resorts Casino Hotel, and Emily Marchese have all generosity given to COVID-19 relief efforts.

From delivering groceries to homebound seniors to feeding families to helping individuals to wellness and recover, JFS continues to provide essential support to the communities most vulnerable populations.

Hafetz & Associates employees donated $10,000 to assure seniors are safe and healthy. Their support assures Village by the Shore services including Kosher Meals on Wheels, transportation to essential doctor’s appointments, virtual socialization and grocery delivery to the 200 seniors who rely on JFS.

With many affected by unemployment and grocery shelves empty, people are turning to the JFS Food Pantry to make sure their families are fed. The NJ Pandemic Relief Fund, OceanFirst Foundation and Beth Israel Sisterhood are among the generous financial supporters. Thanks to the generosity of our neighbors, the collection bins located at the Pleasantville Police Department, Linwood City Hall, Ventnor City Hall and the JFS Margate office are being filled with donations. Countless people have contributed hundreds of pounds of non-perishable food to ensure the pantry is stocked throughout the past month.

“The current economic environment is difficult and now more than ever people need assistance,” explained Andrea Steinberg, JFS Chief Executive Officer. “We are thankful for every donation to our agency. The generous financial support of our sponsors and donors enables our work to remain at the forefront today, tomorrow and as this crisis continues.”