Giving has become rather contagious in Secaucus this winter, as residents extend helping hands to those in need who live locally and outside of the town’s borders. Last week local resident Dr. Ruchi Mehta helped organize an event to distribute over 400 winter coats. Mehta and a group of volunteers from her pediatrics group worked with Operation Warm, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that provided them with new winter coats for distribution.
With help from the town in connecting to neighboring shelters and organizations that work with youth, Mehta and the volunteers handed out hundreds of coats on Jan. 26 at the Secaucus Recreation Center. Local officials and volunteers also helped deliver coats to a number of organizations.
“This year has been a year where a lot of people have stepped forward,” said Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “The last few weeks have been frigid.” He noted that some of the individuals who received a winter coat did not have one for their child.
“I thank (Mehta) for what she did,” said Gonnelli. “This wouldn’t have happened without her.”
Meeting a need
While a basketball game took place on the courts at the Rec Center, volunteers stood by on the indoor track with small juice boxes and sweets to welcome parents and children. Jackets in various sizes and colors were spread out on a row of tables. During one part of the afternoon, parents affiliated with Woodcliff Community Reformed Church in North Bergen arrived with their children. Some children immediately put on their coats. Others watched as their parents sorted through different colors and patterns and sought the right size. One mom from West New York, Isabel Black, found coats to suit her four children, who all suffer from asthma.
“Some very young kids will have warm coats for the winter.” – Win Powers
“Some very young kids will have warm coats for the winter,” said Win Powers, director of Woodcliff Christian Harvest in North Bergen. His food pantry helps distribute food to 500 families on a daily basis. He said that the recent contributions that have come in from Secaucus have been, “an avenue that is helping many families.”
The resident-led effort arose out of a desire to help individuals post Hurricane Sandy, which caused an unprecedented tidal surge and severely flooded homes throughout Secaucus. Mehta and her husband Nirmal live on Koelle Boulevard and were among those who experienced flooding. Following Sandy, Mehta sought to help families in need and researched companies that would donate coats. She discovered Operation Warm, which works with local communities to deliver coats, in large and small quantities. Mehta also enlisted the support of her staff at All Star Pediatrics and Sports Medicine and her husband’s staff at Secaucus-based Microexcel to help with outreach and volunteer efforts.
“For me, it’s fun to give back to the community,” said Mehta. “The staff was as eager as I was to help.”
She also helped distribute coats in Belleville.
“I am just helping her (Mehta),” said Nirmal Mehta. “She is true to her profession.”
The coats last week were distributed to children ages four to thirteen from Secaucus, North Bergen, Union City, Jersey City, Little Ferry, Moonachie, Weehawken, and Fairview among other towns.
Officials lend a hand
Behind one of the tables filled with coats stood Councilwoman Susan Pirro, who had arrived an hour before the event to help out that day. She took requests from parents and helped individuals find the right size.
“It is wonderful to provide jackets to residents in Secaucus and other towns,” said Pirro. “People are so appreciative.”
“It is heart-warming,” said Councilman Gary Jeffas. He was at the event and volunteered to help distribute additional coats to three organizations. “This is one of the best things we do.” He noted that it was great to see the community get together to utilize their contacts and resources in a giving effort.
Councilman James Clancy and Deputy Mayor Bueckner also attended the event.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.