CRANFORD, NJ — As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, COVID-19 case numbers are continuing to rise in New Jersey, leading Gov. Phil Murphy to warn of another possible lockdown. Because of safety concerns, Cranford Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 335 Commander Col. Drew Burns explained the precautions the VFW would have to take when it comes to festivities for Thanksgiving, even considering the possibility of foregoing any events altogether.
“Due to COVID-19, 25 people are allowed upstairs at a time, while downstairs is less than 20,” Burns said on Saturday, Nov. 7, concerning the VFW building. “We usually do something for Thanksgiving every year, but this year, unless there’s really great weather, there’s nothing planned for Thanksgiving. Hopefully, Gov. Murphy will not enforce a lockdown.”
Burns was not the only person concerned about the upcoming holiday. Julie Carroll, a board member of the Cranford Family Care Association, discussed what Cranford Family Care is planning for Thanksgiving and listed an array of activities for the coming weeks.
“Cranford Family Care, in conjunction with local organizations and businesses, is providing food for residents in need for holidays,” Carroll said on Friday, Nov. 6. “Boy Scout Troop 75 of Cranford is running their annual Scouting for Food Drive on Saturday, Nov. 14, for the benefit of Cranford Family Care.”
Carroll said that Cub Scouts were to distribute empty bags during the weekend of Nov. 7. “It is requested that residents donate nonperishable food items in these bags, which should be left on their doorstep on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 14, before 9 a.m.,” she said. “The Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts will pick up the donations before noon and take them to Cranford Family Care. Donations may also be brought directly to Cranford Family Care at 61 Myrtle St. in Cranford on Nov. 14, between 9 a.m. and noon, or anytime during regular business hours, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.”
The Girl Scouts have an additional activity planned for the upcoming holiday.
“Girl Scout Junior Troop 40194 is running ‘Adopt a Senior for Thanksgiving,’” Carroll said. This will take place on Monday, Nov. 23, at 11 a.m. “The Girl Scouts will be collecting nonperishable Thanksgiving items for Cranford Senior Housing. Adult volunteers will pass out Thanksgiving fixings to residents. Volunteers will be available to go door-to-door to drop off bags. Other Cranford Girl Scout Troops, including Daisies and Brownies, are making Thanksgiving boxes filled with their favorite Thanksgiving food, crossword puzzles and snacks for Cranford seniors and families.”
Committee Chairperson and Scouting for Food Coordinator for Troop 75 Dennis Brown, who has a great deal of experience coordinating the food drive, also spoke on this initiative.
“I coordinate the food drive between the Cub Scout packs, the Girls Scouts and the Boy Scouts in Troop 75,” Brown said on Monday, Nov. 9. “The adult volunteers in Troop 75 make it possible for the success of this event. This is an annual event that has been coordinated for well over 20 years, and I have coordinated this event since 2004.”
“This is an annual event and part of service to the community promised by the Boy Scouts,” Brown said. “This year requires additional coordination, to make sure that all COVID-19 protocols are followed. Regarding food and what will be donated, we usually collect several tons of food that include any canned foods and some food in cartons, such as pasta and cereal. We receive the collection bags from Patriots Path Council and the bags are donated by ShopRite.”
Even though this year’s event will be different, he said the goal is to help the community.
“Service to the community is one of the principals in scouting,” Brown said. “The generosity of the community is overwhelming. The Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts all look forward to participating in this event. Our goal is to help Cranford Family Care fulfill their mission to assist families in Cranford, especially for the Thanksgiving Holiday.”
According to Carroll, restaurants Venue 104 and Garlic Rose, which are located in Cranford, will be making Thanksgiving dinners for Cranford families in conjunction with Cranford Family Care. Many other organizations and neighbors will be donating turkeys, pies, stuffing, etc.
Owner and chef of Venue 104 Franco Vitella said that it feels great to help.
“I felt honored that they asked me to be part of their team with other companies,” Vitella said on Monday, Nov. 9. “To do that, I know right now, we’re all in this situation together, one way or another. I’m glad to help out, even if it’s in a small way, whether it’s about Thanksgiving menus. For example, what we used to do was buy a pasta, give a pasta. We’ve done that before. So anything that I can do to chip in as best as I can, I would love to do that with anyone. Especially within Cranford organizations.”
The owner of Garlic Rose, Cranford resident Marc Corello, echoed Vitella’s sentiment.
“Thanksgiving is a time of year to be thankful,” Corrello said on Monday, Nov. 9. “We’ve been in town for 19 years, and we’ve been in business since 1996. We’ve done something prior to this, when we did the Taste of Cranford, and all of the proceeds that we gained that evening we gave to Cranford Family Care. This is a good cause, and they do a lot for the people in town. This is the time of year you should be thankful for things and to remember that it’s nice to do things for other people.”
“We are very lucky to live in a special town. This is truly a neighbors-helping-neighbors initiative.” Carroll said.
Within the township, MAX Challenge plans to partner with another local organization to create an initiative for the Cranford community.
“The MAX Challenge is a 10-week transformation center,” MAX Challenge of Cranford Studio Manager Marissa DeWitt said on Monday, Nov. 9. “We provide our members with fast and lasting changes to their health, fitness and overall appearance through our motivation, fitness and nutrition program. Our members are a part of a community that not only focuses on health and fitness, but what it means to be part of a team of like-minded people looking to inspire and achieve results.
“We are participating in the food drive with Cranford Family Care, because we feel no one should go hungry or must struggle through the holidays,” she continued. “We also are opening our center Thanksgiving morning and the morning of Black Friday for in-center and virtual classes, because holidays can be difficult for those who are lonely.”
A great deal of food will be donated this year through the food-drive initiative.
“We called Cranford Family Care and asked them what they needed and created our own ad to cater to their needs,” DeWitt said. “From Nov. 11 to Nov. 20, we are asking for donations of children’s snacks and condiments, as that is what they are running low on and in desperate need of. The week of Thanksgiving, from Nov. 23 to Nov. 25, we are asking for fresh veggies, potatoes and other produce, to donate to local struggling families, so they can cook fresh Thanksgiving meals at home.
“As a community, it is so important to have people donate. Our members and the Cranford community are incredibly giving,” she continued. “In addition to our food drive for Cranford Family Care, we host a MAX Day of Giving every year in every MAX Challenge location. Each MAX Challenge location across the country chooses a local nonprofit and raises money/awareness for them.”
She said MAX Challenge is extremely passionate in its efforts of helping others.
“Currently, we are running this event on our own and will be grassrooting throughout the Cranford area via digital marketing and print marketing to raise awareness,” DeWitt said. “We also have a Facebook member secret group with 1,000 members, where an event is being shared, and an additional event is being created on our public Facebook page. We hope to partner with the community at large to make this event a huge success.
“We are extremely passionate and excited to help the families who have been affected by COVID-19 and the changes in the economy since March,” she continued. “As a local business who has fought hard to keep its members on track and positive during a very stressful time, we are committed to helping people stay healthy physically, mentally and emotionally, at a time where they need to stay active. We hope this event generates a sense of hope and awareness that we are all in this together.”
Photos Courtesy of Cranford Family Care