A couple of students from Sparta High School have figured out the best-possible way to occupy themselves during the coronavirus shutdown -- helping their community's most vulnerable people get through the crisis.
At a time when most people are hunkered down inside with their families, Bhavika Dawar and Jamie Rubin have turned their attention outward. Much too suddenly, they were separated from their classmates. At the end of the school day on March 20, everybody said their goodbyes while expecting to see each other the next day. It wasn't until that evening they all found out school was suspended.
"We couldn't say goodbye," Jaime said.
Jaime and Bhavika wanted their time at home to count for something. So they started to make plans. They knew that the people in their community who rely on local food pantries would be much more vulnerable now. And with so many people suddenly thrown out of work, the need for emergency food provisions would surely grow.
The girls started with some research into the state food bank but found it was accepting only monetary donations. Bhavika and Jamie wanted a more personalized experience.
"We really wanted to see how the money would be used," Bhavika said.
So they looked closer to home. They reached out to Val Macchio at the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry ("Miss Valerie"), who said she was indeed lacking supplies. She told the girls what provisions the pantry most needed.
Jaime and Bhavika also got in touch Ms. Kopp, an administrator at Sparta High School and their Key Club advisor, and asked for help. The school's Key Club is sponsored by the Sparta Kiwanis Club, and both organizations are committed to community service.
The girls started a GoFundMe page, Feeding Sussex County COVID-19, and went about publicizing it. Ms. Kopp passed the word to people she knew. The results were "crazy," Jamie said. Where they expected to get donations of $10 or $20, they were getting $50 and $100.
"We had expected to raise $500 in a week," said Bhavika. "However, within four days we have raised $2,296. We are so happy and are so excited to help serve our community!"
The girls will bring any money raised by the weekend to the Stop N Shop, then drop off their purchases at the food pantry. They will do all this responsibly -- while wearing gloves, masks, and other protective gear and standing six feet apart from others at all times, in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control's social distancing rules.
To help Jaime and Bhavika in their mission to stock the pantry, visit GoFundMe's Feeding Sussex County COVID-19 (gofundme.com/f/sevrvy).
For more information about the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry, visit spartaumc.org.
"We are Jamie Rubin and Bhavika Dawar, Sparta High School students, who realized that many people are struggling to feed their families during the COVID-19 crisis. Many jobs have shut down and schools have closed putting a strain on many families. Those who cannot work may be struggling to feed their families and must rely on food pantries. In addition, students who rely on school for one or two meals a day no longer have that available to them, putting further financial strain and stress on the parents. Not to mention, that many companies have skyrocketed the prices of their foods.Some food pantries have shut down due to the coronavirus, but those that remain open are in desperate need as more people must rely on them. Currently, Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry is helping to support all of Sussex County with other food pantries being closed in the area. We realize that going out to the grocery store and delivering items to the food pantry individually could be especially dangerous for some people and put them at greater risk with the virus. Therefore, all funds raised in this campaign will be used for us to purchase goods and then we will deliver it directly to the food pantry once a week. We hope to get the community involved and continue donating weekly throughout this crisis!" --GoFundMe: Feeding Sussex County COVID-19