Initiatives seek to keep Thanksgiving alive in Summit

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SUMMIT, NJ — Summit is gearing up for Thanksgiving under different-from-normal circumstances, thanks to the increase in COVID-19 cases. It will host the Other Fellow First Foundation’s 13th annual frozen turkey drive on Sunday, Nov. 22, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the Summit Diner, 1 Union Place. The event will help families have a wholesome Thanksgiving dinner this year.

“Other Fellow First Foundation, known as the OFFF, runs the 13th annual frozen turkey drive for the benefit of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey,” said Brett Haire, board chairperson of the Other Fellow First Foundation, on Monday, Nov. 9. “Over the last 12 years, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, in front of the Summit Diner, from 1 to 4 p.m., we have raised $99,000 in cash, 33.5 tons of turkey and 19.5 tons of bagged groceries.”

“Our turkey drive is one of the most productive in the state of New Jersey,” he continued. “For a tiny foundation, we are very proud of how generous our community has supported us for the last 12 years. This year, for obvious COVID-19 reasons, the demand for turkeys, groceries and cash is through the roof.”

Haire then elaborated on how COVID-19 had forced changes this year.

“All volunteers will be wearing masks,” Haire said. “Additionally, donors will be encouraged to remain in their cars and the volunteers will take the donations from the trunk. There will not be as many volunteers as last year, to make sure social-distancing guidelines are observed.”

Coming together in partnership and sponsorship for this initiative, many organizations have joined the cause.

“The Summit post of the American Legion, the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad, the Community Foundation of New Jersey and BRAVE Family Advisors underwrite all the costs,” Haire said. “Other food is being donated, in addition to the frozen turkeys. Bagged groceries and cash or check donations are welcome. The volunteers involved in this initiative are the Other Fellow First Foundation board and the members from the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad.”

As more families will be helped for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the event aids the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, as well.

“The 13th annual frozen turkey drive helps the Community FoodBank of New Jersey because it will help feed countless hungry New Jersey families,” Haire said. “You make a living by what you get and a life by what you give. The OFFF is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and this annual event is going to be our gala. Our turkey drive gives Summit families an opportunity to feel good by helping others in dire need.”

Summit will also continue to run the Summit Free Market FreeCycle for residents who are in need of household items.

Summit’s chief communications officer, Amy Cairns, mentioned how much of an asset this initiative is to the Summit community.

“Founded in 2008, the Summit Free Market is a volunteer, student-run program that works to reduce the amount of reusable material that enters Summit’s waste stream,” Cairns said on Monday, Nov. 9. “At events held on the second Saturday of every month at the Municipal Transfer Station, Summit residents can donate yard-sale–quality goods that they no longer need and provide them for other residents to take for free.

“Residents can also come and ‘shop,’ or browse what others in the community have donated, in search for free, high-quality items like sports equipment, outdoor furniture, appliances and kids’ toys. Efforts have kept an estimated 165 tons of waste out of the waste stream in the 13 years that the Summit Free Market has been in action.”

The students currently running the Summit Free Market are high school juniors Sophie Malik and Gillian Hiemple.

“They organize the event and recruit other high school students to volunteer,” said Cairns. “I, along with Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School teacher Christine Lijoi, serve as adult advisors. Events are usually held on the second Saturday of every month at the Municipal Transfer Station on 40 New Providence Ave. in Summit. This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions and increasing spread, events may be canceled until spring 2021.”

Aiding those who are in search of much-needed household goods, the initiative teaches the residents within the community to “shop local” for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

“It is a great and very affordable way for people to get the items they need for the holidays,” said Cairns.

“The Summit Free Market is an incredibly popular and successful city of Summit initiative,” she continued. “Hundreds of students have volunteered since its inception in 2008 and thousands of items have been shared. As a volunteer, it is truly wonderful to see people find items they need. We have had residents furnish entire apartments with items they received from the Summit Free Market, and it is always fun to see a kid take home a fun toy or new bicycle.”

Photos Courtesy of Amy Cairns

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