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Apr 05, 2020

Feeding the Frontlines from Fair Haven: A Community Effort

By Melissa Acquaviva

What started as a Facebook post by a local Fair Haven deli prompted a massive fundraising and hospitality effort by three Fair Haven residents.

When Beth Sanville, Mary Maas and Amanda Lukof learned that Fairwinds Deli on River Road was struggling with patronage, it occurred to them that so many of their beloved hometown small businesses were facing the same obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through discussions about the concern for small business owners’ future, they came up with the idea of fundraising, while not only helping these stores, but also those who are closest to the pandemic, the medical workers on the frontline. Their idea to feed the frontlines was born.

Fairwinds Deli owner Warren, with an employee

Bagged meals ready for delivery from Tavolo Pronto

“Mary, Beth and I got to talking right away, and we came up with the idea of our neighbors to sponsor meals that would be fulfilled by Fairwinds and other local restaurants,” Amanda Lukof said.

The initial goal was to try and keep meals around $10, a price-point people could easily conceptualize, and could be paid electronically via Venmo for easy tracking and planning. Integrity was also important in fundraising, as the women posted pictures of the receipt with each mass purchase to accompany their Facebook posts.

Their appeal began on a community Facebook page called Fair Haven Needs, with sharing onto other pages such a Fair Faven NJ and Fair Haven Moms and Dads.

Though the initial #FeedTheFrontlines effort was to focus on the those in the medical community, reaching out to hospitals such as Riverview Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center, their list of recipients grew larger each day.

Essential workers in the community are also on the frontline. They soon reached out to ACME grocery markets, as well as the Fair Haven Police Department to offer their meal support.

Fair Haven Police Officer Lagrotteria receives a box of donations from a volunteer

“Our focus is on frontline heroes and neighbors in need. The expansion of the groups we are serving has happened organically as more people ask to get involved, and we learn about our own neighbors on the frontlines,” Lukof explained.

The women said they are overcome with gratitude and with the response of their community. The initial response to their #FeedTheFrontlines efforts was so successful, they had to ask donors to slow down while they delivered the meals.

They feel the community in general is coming together as one and that residents are looking to help to the best of their ability from their homes.

“People seem to look forward to the posts and being able to see exactly where the impact is being made,” Lukof said.

The group has raised more than $14,000, with about $5,000 of that spent on food so far. Hundreds of meals, as well as pastries from Cups & Cakes and bags of chocolate-covered pretzels from Daisy’s Chocolates, have been donated and delivered to essential employees.

Local businesses such as Lupo, Tavolo Pronto, in addition to Fairwinds Deli, Daisy’s and Cups & Cakes, have all contributed as a community to help, helping to fund more than 400 meals in one week. The Cellar liquor store of Fair Haven was also generous with its $500 donation.

The effort has also attracted the community youth, as it’s notable that Girl Scout Troop 60556 donated more than five cases of cookies to show the girls’ appreciation and to help bring smiles to the frontline.

The women have been particularly careful when it comes to safety and social distancing, which could be a concern when you have massive donations of food. Preventing contamination of foods has been priority number one since day one. They ensure that all meals are self-contained, explaining that is why they don’t endorse the use of catering platters or sternos.

Their meals are grab-and-go style for when workers are starting or ending shifts. All desserts are individually wrapped to ensure safety throughout the process.

“It has taken some creativity from our local restaurants, but they’ve been doing an incredible job working with us on that objective,” Lukof explained.

Masks, gloves and social distancing to the best of their ability are essential during the delivery of meals to ensure the safety of not only the workers, but the donation volunteers as well.

The organization will continue to help, until the need is no longer.  To learn more about #FeedtheFrontlines, and how you can help, visit the Fair Haven Needs Facebook page.