BRADLEY BEACH — Last year during the first Great Bradley Beach Food Pickup, so much food was collected for the Bradley Food Pantry that its director joked they needed “a bigger boat.”

This year, the community came out in force once again to support the food pantry, with pickup trucks filled with donations delivered to the pantry’s location on Fourth Avenue. This time, Linda Curtiss, the director of the pantry came prepared, saying “we got a bigger boat” in the form of an additional location to store donated food.

“This is beyond my wildest dreams, this is just absolutely spectacular, this town is so generous that all you have to do is ask and they provide,” Ms. Curtiss said as dozens of volunteers at the pantry helped to unload bags of food from the vehicles and store them in the basement of St. James Church.

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“We have clearly filled our shelves for weeks and weeks to come,” she said. Since the start of the pandemic, the pantry has helped around double its usual amount of customers, which come from the local area. She said that the pantry feeds 60 families a day, five days a week, which translates into 1,200 families a month.

The event was hosted by the Bradley Beach Business Community Alliance [BBBCA].

“We really couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was beautiful, spirits were high and volunteers were plenty. When we all work together, we can do great things for our community,”
Amy Hall, director of tourism and staff director of the BBBCA, said.

Paula Gavin, a member of the alliance, said the event showed the community at its best. To go along with the charity nature of the day, Saturday was also Bradley Beach Spirit Day with residents encouraged to show their community pride.

“Bradley Beach has incredible community spirit, you see it by their willingness to donate to the community, their willingness to donate their time and their commitment to making the town stronger,” she said.

Mayor Larry Fox was one of the roughly 40 volunteers who went street to street to pick up food to load onto the vehicles. In the past, the mayor has credited the food pantry with helping thousands through the pandemic, but the day would not have been possible without the volunteers and the first responder squads that helped transport the food.

“I think the food pantry is the most important enterprise in town, but as important is our fire company and our volunteer EMS,” Mayor Fox said, who walked the streets with his grandson, Evan.

Residents waited on their front porches as the vehicles stopped by to pick up donations. Most of the donations left out included canned goods, toiletries, pastas, sauce and “a little bit of everything,” Karen Scott, of Hammond Avenue, said.

“My dad has owned this house for 46 years and we love Bradley Beach, it’s just a good cause.”

Others who donated said that they know how hard the past year has been on families.

“2020 was a tough year for a lot of families, so we wanted to help out,” Colleen Lowe, of Third Avenue, said.

On March 25, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported that the state’s unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent. While unemployment remains high, the state has recovered roughly 364,000 jobs compared to this point last year, 51 percent of what was lost when the lockdown started.

The Bradley Beach Fire Department and the Bradley Beach First Aid Squad came out in force for the day, utilizing their vehicles to go through the town. Sirens blared and the fire trucks and ambulances went from street to street to announce their arrival, and for residents to leave out food.

John Zechs, the chief of the Bradley Beach Fire Company and the captain of the first aid squad, said that both of the companies he leads are proud to take part in the event and help those who had been hard hit by the pandemic.

“It’s tremendous the outpouring; you really do feel like you are doing something for the community,” he said. Two ambulances from the first aid squad and three fire trucks were used to bring food for the pantry. “We are all out,” he added.

Tim Sexsmith, who is the borough council’s liaison to the first aid squad, said he wanted to thank the generosity of the department and Bradley Beach as a whole.

“This is just another example of the great generosity in this town,” he said.

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