NORWOOD, N.J. -- A couple weeks ago, roughly 10 volunteer first responders gathered outside Northvale's ShopRite over the course of the partly-cloudy day, not for any emergency, but to meet two other goals.
With the blessing of ShopRite and Inserra Supermarkets, on Jan. 21, members of the Norwood EMS collected what it conservatively estimated at $3,000-4,000 worth of items for people in need, with the help of fellow community members.
"We originally came up with the idea as a way to be out in the community getting to know the residents we serve, and also as a way to support local families in need of basic household and personal care items," said Chris Barron, lieutenant of Norwood EMS.
He explained that the organization's members mostly interact with residents during emergency situations -- so "community outreach events are invaluable as an opportunity to tell residents about ourselves, the organization and what we do."
Barron said this was his organization's first such drive.
Our no-pressure appeal was simple: we greeted shoppers as they entered the store, introduced ourselves, explained a little bit about Norwood EMS and what we were trying to accomplish. Shoppers were then given a list of some of the items that are currently most needed by the organizations Family Promise of Bergen County and Greater Bergen Community Action, and asked that if they were able to do so, to please purchase any of those items and drop them off with us on their way out of the store.
Following all these conversations -- and items-collecting -- the EMS members loaded the items into an ambulance and a special operations trailer and then delivered them to two local organizations.
Through Family Promise of Bergen County, in Ridgewood, and Greater Bergen Community Action, in Hackensack, these items will help both homeless in Bergen County and those who are in transitional housing.
"They actually reached out to me," said Kate Duggan, executive director of Family Promise of Bergen County. "You should have seen the amounts of supplies that came in.
"They did such a good job, putting this together. And they delivered it in the rig, which I thought was pretty cool."
She and Barron both noted that the post-holidays season is often a time of need for service organizations, as is the summer.
"This meant a lot to us, particularly this time of year," Duggan said.
Some organizations post wish lists, with the items they need most at any given time. While some food pantries may always collect peanut butter and canned goods, sometimes the focus may be cleaning supplies or diapers instead.
If you missed Norwood EMS' supplies drive, you can view Family Promise's current wish list here -- or donate directly here. For more information about Family Promise, visit its website or Facebook page.
You can also donate directly to Greater Bergen Community Action here, and find more information about that organization on its website or Facebook page.