South Orange Mayor: COVID-19 Has ‘Devastating Impact’ but Community is Meeting the Challenge

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From South Orange Village President Sheena Collum:

Community Highlights: A Look Back at the Past 6 Weeks

As I reflect on the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on our community and throughout the world, I am also heartened and humbled to see how residents have coalesced to take care of each other by adhering to strict social distancing and by coming up with ways to give back to both the frontline and our neighbors in need. Below are just some examples of how people are meeting the challenge.

COVID-19: Family Support Fund

Since its inception, the COVID-19: Family Support Fund has purchased more $20,000 in gift cards ranging from $100 to $250. Here are a few ways these cards have made a difference in the lives of our residents:

  • A single mother of four who lost her income bought food and toiletries with her gift card.
  • A single father with a “gig economy” job who lost two months of scheduled employment paid for food and other monthly bills.
  • A single mother of three who is undergoing cancer treatment paid for babysitting needed in order to keep medical appointments.

COVID-19: Senior Support Fund

Established specifically to support senior citizens, this fund has raised $25,000. Requests for funds, which are being dispersed by SOMA Town Towns for All Ages, include transportation to doctor’s appointments, gift cards for food and essential supplies, and food delivery with no contact drop-offs. The fund is also being utilized for digital support groups and professional services related to social isolation during this time.

FLAG of South Orange and Maplewood

The Frontline Appreciation Group (“FLAG”) of South Orange and Maplewood is purchasing meals from local restaurants and delivering them to frontline healthcare workers at Newark Beth Israel Hospital, University Hospital of New Jersey, St. Michael’s Medical Center, East Orange General Hospital, and the East Orange Veterans Hospital.

In the four weeks since its inception, FLAG has delivered 3,300 meals, put $32,000 back into our local restaurants, and raised more than $70,000. You can donate here.

SOMA Sewing Volunteers

With more than 500 members, SOMA Sewing Volunteers have made more than 10,000 masks, using hospital-approved patterns, and delivered them to 39 hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, food pantries, health departments, and EMS departments.

The volunteers sewing the masks welcome donations of quilting fabric, flannel and cotton sheets, and donations to cover elastic purchases and mailing costs. Join the Facebook group or email

SOMA NJ 3D Printers Alliance

The SOMA NJ 3D Printers Alliance is a group of individuals dedicated to using 3D printers to help supply face visors to frontline workers. Along with providing face visors to local first responders, the group has printed/assembled more than 10,000 face shields to be used throughout the region.

Join the group on Facebook or make a financial donation here.


The South Orange/Maplewood Quarantine Assistance, Delivered Facebook group now boasts over 2,300+ local residents who have joined to provide services or to post service needs. Participants of this collaborative group quickly fulfill real-time requests and regularly share timely information, such as wait times at local grocery stores and inventory of essential items.

The South Orange Rescue Squad

Despite increased exposure to COVID-19, SORS members continue to volunteer their life-saving services to both the South Orange community and surrounding towns. The group has utilized funds from the community to enhance the safety of all residents who may need transport and to provide Personal Protective Equipment. As a testament to these volunteers, an EMT who tested positive returned to his volunteer post after he fully recovered

You can support the South Orange Rescue Squad by donating here. 

Our Lady of Sorrows Food Pantry

In order to continue to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, OLS volunteers have stepped up with new one-person packing sessions, Grab & Go outdoor curbside distributions on Saturdays (rain or shine), and home deliveries at all times. With massive unemployment affecting the state and local community, the pantry continues to be a resource for hundreds of families who are food-insecure.

How to help:

  • Food donations (download shopping list): Daily drop off at the OLS Rectory, 217 Prospect St, South Orange, from 7am–4pm Monday-Saturday, and 8am–12pm Sunday. Leave at the front door (no need to ring bell).
  • Monetary donations: By check payable to OLS Food Pantry and mailed to OLS Parish Office, 217 Prospect St., South Orange, NJ 07079; or by online donation here.
  • Volunteering: The Pantry maintains a Sign-Up Genius to organize volunteers here.

Lastly, I, along with my colleagues on the South Orange Board of Trustees, are providing gratitude meals to our local South Orange frontline, including our police department, fire department, public works department, and rescue squad. If you’d like to donate $10 (or more if you’d like) to support a meal from a local restaurant to a local frontline municipal worker, please Venmo me @Sheena-Collum.

Thank you again to everyone who is helping in this effort, and remember to please stay at home.


Sheena Collum
Village President

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