Service clubs unite for food drives

Photos Courtesy of Megan Giulianelli and Alyssa Carlberg
At the Feb. 14 food drive, are Women’s Club and Kiwanis members, from left, Brian Wilkes, Lynn Oliver, Page Frohling, Barbara Weston, Jackie Yustein, Anita Agarwal, Alyssa Carlberg and Councilwoman Debbie Mans.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Glen Ridge Women’s Club and Kiwanis Club are joining forces along with 11 other organizations in town for semimonthly food drives, filling the Glen Ridge High School parking lot with donations that will go to Montclair food banks Toni’s Kitchen, Human Needs Food Pantry and Mary’s Pantry at St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish. The first of the collections, on Feb. 14, brought in two and a half carloads of food, $170 in donations and helped out five families that needed food. The donations from Glen Ridge are a boon to the food pantries, which have been working in overdrive since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The food pantries get an incredible amount of support around the holidays, but once January comes around donations begin to dry up,” Alyssa Carlberg, the Women’s Club’s Community Service Committee chairperson, said in an interview with The Glen Ridge Paper at the event. “Their need has quadrupled this year.”

The Women’s and Kiwanis clubs plan to run food drives at GRHS on the second and fourth Sunday of every month for at least the next few months, with help from Mayor Stuart Patrick and the Glen Ridge Town Council, Glen Ridge Congregational Church, the Glen Ridge Rotary Club, the Glen Ridge Girls Club, the Glen Ridge Environmental Advisory Council, Christ Episcopal Church, Friends of the Glen Ridge Library, Glen Ridge Key Club, Glen Ridge Volunteer Ambulance Squad, Boy Scout Troop 55, and Glen Ridge Democratic Club. They’re hoping the joint effort of all 13 organizations will spread the word faster and farther.

“If we can get everyone involved, it would be easier to reach people,” Kiwanis Club President Jackie Yustein said in an interview with The Glen Ridge Paper at the event.

Donated food should be nonperishable, and the pantries are always looking for specific items. Yustein said peanut butter, tuna fish, canned meats, pasta sauce and milk with a shelf life are useful. So are canned fruit and cereal.

Organizing any kind of event, even one as vital as a food drive, in the age of the coronavirus is completely different than it would have been even a year ago at this time. All of the sponsors have been using social media and email blasts incessantly, filling in the gaps that used to be reserved for in-person word of mouth.

“It’s all been emails, Facebook, Zoom,” Yustein said. “I’ve asked people how they heard about it, and it’s been a broad group of people.”

The inaugural collection day at GRHS was the first time Yustein and Carlberg had met in person, despite having worked together from their own homes for months to plan this initiative. Even while wearing masks and standing outside in 37-degree weather, they welcomed the limited gathering.

“This is a social event,” Carlberg said. “We can be outside, and we can be together.”
The next food drive will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28, in the GRHS parking lot. The drives will continue at the same time and place on every second and fourth Sunday of the month. Organizations from Glen Ridge that would like to get involved can visit or, or call 973-748-5459. Volunteers to help collect food are also needed.

“This is the first time we’ve been together, and we’ve been working together for months,” Carlberg said. “That’s extremely poignant now. We still have so much we can do together, and that is a side effect that we’re hoping for.”