“We’re like everyone else,” said Tom Kozempel, president of the club. “We’re sheltering in place. But the idea of Rotary is Rotarians in action.”
As the pandemic continues into its second month in South Jersey, the Rotary Club is taking action through a new program designed to feed health care workers in the township.
Shortly after the start of the pandemic, the club began delivering free meals to health care facilities in the township once a week. The Rotary partners with Wedgewood Country Club — host of its club meetings — on the program.
The Rotary Club pays for the cost of all meals and handling the administration of the program, organizing a list of facilities where it plans to donate meals. Wedgewood is responsible for the cooking and the delivery of food.
“There’s a number of facilities in addition to Jefferson Hospital who are dealing with people who are high risk,” Kozempel said. “We decided to prioritize those groups.”
The free meals are provided to one health care facility in the township once per week; the number of meals averages between 30 and 50 per week. Instead of delivering large trays of food to the facilities, Wedgewood creates individual meals and hand packages them in individual containers.
“They come with a sticker that (says) this is provided by your local Rotary and the catering group,” Kozempel explained. “It has a message on there thanking the staff for all they are doing.”
Kozempel believes the free meals are as good a gesture as the Rotary Club can provide during the pandemic. In the first few weeks of the program, meals were delivered to the staff at Elmwood Hills Health Care Center on Woodbury-Turnersville Road and Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.
Kozempel said the Rotary plans to continue meals for the health-care workers’ program indefinitely until the pandemic subsides. The club hopes to provide meals to more facilities in the township in the coming weeks.
In addition to the meal program, the Rotary Club continues to support Mother’s Cupboard — a food pantry based out of the Washington Township municipal building — in order to continue providing food to families in need during the crisis.
The pandemic has not slowed the Rotary Club when it comes to having meetings and continuing its operation. The club now holds its weekly membership meetings and monthly board meetings virtually.
“We have to make adjustments, but we’re adhering to normal Rotary practices and policies to all of these things and we’ve been able to add the new program,” Kozempel said.
The Rotary Club is also still planning one of its biggest events, the Washington Lake Park Wine Festival. The festival is scheduled to take place on June 13, but Kozempel noted the date will likely have to change if the pandemic continues to prohibit large social gatherings. But Kozempel reiterated the club’s commitment to host the event at some point this year and believes it could be a great way for the community to come back together and celebrate when it is safe to do so.
Last year’s wine festival drew about 2,000 people to Washington Lake Park. Proceeds from the festival paid for a new ADA-compliant playground at the park.
“Once people are allowed back out, it’s going to be a great event,” Kozempel said.
For more information on the Rotary Club of Washington Township, visit www.wtrotary.org.