With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread across the United States, citizens across Maplewood and South Orange have been hard at work to try to mitigate the potential harm it could cause to hundreds of families in town.
Maplewood Township Committeeman Greg Lembrich has been working alongside The Parenting Center’s Karen Weiland, Rent Party’s Christopher Dickson and South Orange Trustee Donna Collier to fight food insecurity. At this point, over $17,000 has been raised to support families both with food insecurity and financially as more and more people are put out of work to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Lembrich said at the last TC meeting. The parenting center has already distributed four weeks of food among the 1,000 families who qualify for free and reduced lunch in the area.
“It’s really been inspiring to be a part of the communities pulling together to help some of the most vulnerable among us,” said Lembrich. “I just want to wish everyone well and to please stay safe at this time. Those of you who can afford to be generous at this time, please be generous. We have a lot of local businesses that are really going to be in peril over the next couple of weeks if they don’t get support.”
To support senior citizens of Maplewood and South Orange, Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis has been working alongside South Orange Village President Sheena Collum to raise money through GoFundMe. Their efforts have already raised just under $20,000 as of Thursday night. The money will be designated towards transportation of the elderly and to combat food insecurity amongst them as well. Food shopping and food drop-offs have already begun throughout the community to ease the pressure put on senior citizens to practice social distancing.
Maplewood’s Community Service Director Melissa Mancuso and Art Director Denise Hayden are also working to create online art classes for senior citizens. Social distancing can begin to take a toll on a person’s mental and emotional health, so they hope to provide a creative outlet to help fill their time and provide an artistic outlet for the elderly.