NEWTON — In a show of appreciation to workers on the front line of the novel coronavirus crisis, members of Christ Episcopal Church collected dozens of snack items and drinks and donated them to employees at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center facilities Friday.
Father Robert Griner and Andy Van Orden, a member of the church vestry, were on hand at the church Friday morning to load the collection of chips, candy, water and other items into Van Orden’s truck for transport to the two buildings in Andover Township. Amid the pile of items was a poster expressing gratitude for the job employees have done continuing to care for COVID-19 residents.
According to Van Orden, the church’s donation effort stemmed from a recent conversation he had with Caroline Grosso of Atlantic Home Care in Morristown. While Grosso was happy to see the many organized collections for doctors, nurses and other hospital workers, she expressed concern that employees at long-term care facilities were not being given the same recognition.
Van Orden immediately thought of Andover Subacute, which has seen more than 200 COVID-19 cases and 63 total deaths between the two buildings, according to data released by the state Department of Health Friday. He got in touch with Laura Diaz, Andover Subacute’s director of recreation, who was “over the moon” when she learned of the church’s donation effort.
“Anything like this is so appreciated and just does so much to boost morale,” Van Orden said. “You get a snack and a drink in your PPE bag, she said it just really lifts everybody's spirits.”
Griner, who contributed to the collection of items along with the rest of the church and other community members, saw a parallel between the generosity toward Andover Subacute workers and the overall message he preaches in his weekly sermons.
“Jesus is always going after lost people, forgotten people, people cast to the sidelines,” he said. “I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to work in that place with so much suffering and grief and loss, and at the same time to kind of feel like a leper or an outcast.”
Van Orden said he is hopeful that Friday’s donation was just the beginning, with the church continuing collection efforts for Andover Subacute on a weekly basis for as long as the pandemic continues. Regardless of whether there will be more donations moving forward, he was glad to be able to benefit the workers in some way.
“We want the staff over there to feel like they've got the support of all the neighbors in Sussex County. There are a lot of people thinking about them,” Van Orden said.
Kyle Morel can also be contacted on Twitter: @KMorelNJH, on Facebook: Facebook.com/KMorelNJH, or by phone: 973-383-1292.