NJ Woman Starts Effort To Help Medical Professionals At Frontlines Of COVID-19 Crisis

By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW JERSEY (WCBS 880) – A community is coming together in Chatham and Madison, NJ to support the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chatham resident Liz Bernich saw a Facebook post from her friend last week about a group in Huntington, Long Island that delivered food to their local hospital for the staff who are testing and treating patients for COVID-19. She shared the post with the Chatham Community Forum on Facebook to see if there was interest do the same at Morristown Medical Center. She became inundated with messages from people who were interested in supporting the initiative.

“My phone was just lighting up,” Bernich, who is a principal at The Caldwell Partners, told WCBS producer Neil A. Carousso via Skype from her home where she is working while non-essential businesses are shutdown.

Soon after gathering interest from her community, residents in Madison, where her husband works as a high school teacher, contacted her asking if they can volunteer. She launched the Front Line Appreciation Group or FLAG on Facebook to mobilize volunteers and encourage them and first responders to share their experiences with the organically growing group of community members.

Bernich contacted a local restaurant on Friday morning to order take-out for that night. The restaurant was thrilled to have business since Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all restaurants statewide be closed on Monday, except take-out and delivery services, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Friends connected her with nurses in the emergency room at Morristown Medical Center.

“We found out very quickly that a lot of the folks in the ICU units were being basically locked down in their units during their shifts, so they’re unable to access the cafeteria,” Bernich said.

Nurses and doctors working 12-hour shifts during a global pandemic were ordered not to leave their stations to prevent contamination of other hospital areas, patients and employees.

“You can tell they need the energy, they need the support, they’re stressed, they have different protocols, more to worry about,” said Bernich. “I met with a nurse…she was crying and it’s hard there.”

Medical professionals are also lacking basic supplies, including N95 respirator masks, gloves and gowns to protect themselves from the deadly and highly contagious novel virus. Bernich said she has even collected medical supplies to donate to Morristown Medical Center, but she now encourages people looking to donate supplies to hospitals to do so through government channels.

She personally delivered food to hospital workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak through the weekend. Now, local eateries suffering economically are delivering healthy dinners that FLAG members order.

“You don’t always know how many people you’re connected to that are connected to people on the frontlines until something like this happens and we’ve gotten notes left and right from mothers and nieces and aunts, grandparents, of how much good we’re doing and it just really feels good, feels great,” she said.

Bernich received more than $35,000 dollars in just three days of the Facebook group’s existence.

“Many of those donations are $10 and $20 increments,” she emphasized.

All of the funds are used for food delivery for staff at Morristown Medical Center.

Just like Bernich was inspired by a friend’s post, she hopes people will see what FLAG is doing in Chatham and Madison and spread joy to hospital workers in their communities.

“We’ve already been able to get this up-and-running in Summit, New Jersey to support Overlook hospital, and now, we’re getting this up-and-running in Wycoff, New Jersey,” Bernich said, adding, “When I say ‘we’re getting this up-and-running,’ we’re just inspiring people, we’re not doing any of the leg work, but they’re welcome to use our process.”