North Hudson duo delivering meals for ‘frontline heroes’ during COVID-19 crisis

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A North Hudson duo has made it their mission to deliver food for “frontline heroes” during the COVID-19 crisis, serving approximately 250 meals to date.

A message from the Hackensack University Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Maria Izquierdo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Everybody’s been wonderful. We’re getting nothing but positive feedback: it’s overwhelming. I’ve never seen people come together like this,” said Maria Izquierdo, who works at the West New York Board of Education and started the effort with a Facebook page.

She said the effort, which includes North Bergen resident John Bender, has been ongoing for about two-and-a-half weeks, delivering breakfast, lunch, and dinner to police and fire departments in Hoboken, West New York, North Bergen, Cliffside Park, Fairview – among many other departments in Bergen and Hudson Counties.

Izquierdo also indicated that they have visited all the area hospitals, including the Hackensack University Medical Center and the Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, as well as the COVID-19 testing centers in Secaucus and Union City.

To date, the effort has raised just short of $6,000 online, with another $1,000 being contributed privately.

Furthermore, while she believes the food is being handled as safely as possible, in the event that meal deliveries are no longer possible, they will use the money for PPEs and other medical equipment.

“If there comes a time where we can’t do the food, we will use the money to purchase other essentials,” Izquierdo added.

Bender, who works at the North Bergen Board of Education, has been making a number of deliveries in person and posting some of them on his personal Facebook page.

“When I saw the hours that all the first responders were putting in I thought ‘what a great cause.’ I contacted Maria and said I wanted to help. As I started to deliver the pizza, I saw how hard and how scared these people are and thought ‘this is what I want to do until we get back to normal,'” Bender explained.

“As the donations started to come in, we were allowed to serve more people and that was  an adrenaline rush. You don’t realize the effort the people working in the hospitals are making. When you talk to them, they say this might be the only thing we eat all night. They are so busy they don’t get a chance to eat. The same goes for the cops on the midnight shift.”

Bender continued that they have also dropped off meals off at housing authorities, as well as for EMS and Department of Public Works employees – along with security guards.

He also credited Nonna Maria Brick Oven Pizza in North Bergen, as well as his daughter Reann, for being great partners in this effort.

This afternoon, the New Jersey Department of Health announced that there are now 58,151 COVID-19 cases and 2,183 deaths statewide, including 6,851 cases in Hudson County and 183 fatalities – the third most in the state by county.