June 21, 2024
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June 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

JFCS Battles Food Insecurity, One Mile at a Time

(Courtesy of JFCS) Volunteers and staff members from Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey (JFCS) arrived at Spectra Labs in Rockleigh, New Jersey, with the rise of the morning sun. The pink and orange sky illuminated the grounds as the crew began to prepare for one of the agency’s largest fundraising campaigns of the year: the 11th Annual Wheels-for-Meals—Ride to Fight Hunger. Due to the pandemic, last year’s event was virtual and there was no communal gathering. This year, JFCS was able to host their Ride in person following a change in CDC safety guidelines. All of the past riders were happy to be back.

The Ride’s proceeds support JFCS’s programs and services, which help homebound seniors, individuals with disabilities and disadvantaged families. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of families supported by the Corner Market Food Pantry increased by 400% and the Kosher Meals on Wheels (KMOW) program saw a 30% increase in deliveries. JFCS has been a lifeline and safety net for many who had nowhere else to turn in times of crisis.

At 6:30 a.m., with their tire pressures checked by Sandie Reilly, “The Bike Lady,” seats adjusted and helmets fastened, the first riders of the day, the brave 50-mile cyclists, departed from the start line. At staggered times throughout the morning, bicyclists left for their 50-, 25-, 10- and three-mile routes. Families, teams and individuals who had spent months fundraising and training for the event pedaled ambitiously down King Road as they embarked on their two-wheeled pledge to fight hunger.

In addition to the bike routes, the event also hosted a hike guided by Rachel Erlich, and bike-riding lessons taught by Shephard Grinker of the Tenafly Bicycle Workshop, a new addition to the Wheels for Meals event that proved to be a great way for families with younger children to be involved in the day.

Over 30 teams fundraised and rode in the event. Three teenagers, Willa Becker, Ben Ashkenase and Zachary Krohn, celebrated their bar and bat mitzvahs at the ride, making their big day a great vehicle for doing a mitzvah for those less fortunate. “It was such a wonderful way for Zachary to have fun with his friends and family while helping people in need,” said proud mother Nava Krohn. “JFCS took care of every detail to make it a perfect morning for Zachary.”

This year’s event was noticeably more critical than in years past. With the rise in COVID, JFCS has recorded significant increases in monthly food pantry appointments, KMOW deliveries and emergency financial assistance requests. One of the event’s committee members, Joe Westreich, commented, “The event was a great opportunity for people of all backgrounds and ages to come out and unite to raise money and awareness for food insecurity in our local community. It felt even more important to come out this year in light of the increased need for food due to the pandemic and the toll it’s been taking on local families. The ride was fun and challenging, and adding to that, the success in raising money for people in need. It’s sure to be a staple in our family’s calendar for years to come.”

As the day wrapped up and the riders trickled back into the Spectra parking lot to eat from a kosher boxed lunch donated by Holy Name Medical Center, a sense of relief seemed to wash over all of those involved: They did it. The Ride to Fight Hunger earned nearly $180,000 from registrants and donors alike.

People in our community turn to JFCS for support in many different areas, whether it be food, mental health counseling, older adult services or family case management—all made more urgent by the pandemic. Reflecting on this, board member Shira Feuerstein said, “This was the 11th annual ride, and now, more than ever, people in our community struggle with food insecurity every day. Each year we raise more money and awareness for JFCS and the amazing work that the agency does. We appreciate all of the support.”

It’s not too late to donate to the Ride to Fight Hunger. JFCS is 99% of the way to their goal and the donation page on the Wheels for Meals website is still accepting donations. Donate at www.ridetofighthunger.com.

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