Bill Bunting is a relative newcomer to Cherry Hill, but that has only deepened his commitment to help those who need it during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bunting recently put together the Frontline Response Foundation, a network of volunteers, business owners, nonprofits and distributors dedicated to serving those most affected by the crisis.
Bunting has partnered with local establishments — both small businesses and franchises — to make weekly dropoffs of donated food for hospital workers, police and other front line workers as they work long hours to keep the community safe.
“Right now we’re on our eighth (dropoff) of the month. Three times a week, we’re typically out and we service around 20 to 25 hospitals a week, and roughly 50 departments between them,” Bunting said during a face-to-face meeting — complete with masks and distancing of 6 feet — at Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital on a dreary April 21.
“This was the biggest number of nurses who came out so far; there were like 10 of them and usually there are three or four,” Bunting added. “They know who I am; a lot of them follow me on Facebook. You see the growth just from them talking back and forth with each other.”
Bunting arrived for a late-morning dropoff in his Nissan Rogue, its trunk packed with sandwich trays, pretzels, donuts, chips, candy and a whole load of goodwill. As soon as he pulled up to Jefferson’s emergency room entrance, a flock of nurses, clad head to toe in protective gear, eagerly awaited their reward.
“We always do the ER and ICU departments, which are our front-line personnel,” Bunting explained. “Today, I was in Philadelphia’s Jefferson first, and this one now. We will be heading to Cooper and to Our Lady of Lourdes Virtua after this. We typically go to Virtua Marlton and Virtua Voorhees when we do all of these (dropoffs) together.”
Not bad for a venture that had its genesis only 23 days before, and has seen exponential growth.
“We formulated the idea on March 30 and then kicked it off April 1,” Bunting said. “We also have a front-line operations homeless shelter program, so we’re feeding roughly 750 homeless meals between Cathedral Kitchen, Joseph’s House as well as Philadelphia’s (homeless) populations. “We hit them three times a week as well. We started with the idea of 50 meals (a week) and we’re at 750 meals already.”
Born and raised in Collingswood, Bunting moved around in his early adult years before settling in Cherry Hill. Stints at Widener University and in flight school fizzled out, and he made a 180-degree turn into the entrepreneurial world.
Bunting works as a consultant with Premier Franchise Solutions — a company that helps business owners grow brands and franchise — and also acts as a business broker. Connections formed through those ventures locally allowed his foundation to tap into a wide range of small businesses and known franchises, like Philly Pretzel Factory and Dunkin’ Donuts, which provided part of Tuesday’s feast.
“Because I live so close, this is my biggest hospital,” Bunting said about Jefferson.
“I’ve always loved the town. My sister lives here. It’s got a good school system, so when I have kids, it’ll be great for the kids. There’s beautiful neighborhoods and great upkeep, and it’s safe.”
From that comforting launch point, Bunting said the foundation’s effort will last as long as COVID-19 causes health-care workers to stay in harm’s way and food shortages to hit underserved populations.
“We’re going to keep giving back to first responders. We might not do it 100 times a month, but we’re still going to be out there, and we’re also going to be on the front lines of organizations in Camden and Philadelphia, giving back to the homeless,” he revealed.
The foundation is also beginning to reach out to food pantries that are being hit hard as links in the food supply chain are severed due to a number of factors.
“I’ve always wanted to bring people together,” Bunting concluded. “So having business owners, franchise owners all involved in the process, we’re getting every part of the community involved. I’ve gotten to see not just one sector of the community, but I see the whole community come together.”
For more information on FRF, including how to donate and how to volunteer, visit its website at: (www.frontlineresponsefoundation.com), or visit its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/frontlineresponsefoundation/.
In addition, a GoFundMe page has been set up, that can be accessed here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/frontline-response-foundation-inc-nonprofit.