The Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey’s 11th annual Wheels-for-Meals — Ride to Fight Hunger began early in the morning of Sunday, June 13, as volunteers and staff members arrived at Spectra Labs in Rockleigh.
The ride last year, in the middle of the pandemic, had been virtual, and necessarily there had been no communal gathering. This year, CDC safety guidelines allowed JFCS to host its ride in person; everyone was happy to be able to be back.
The ride’s proceeds support JFCS’s programs and services, which help homebound seniors, people with disabilities, and disadvantaged families. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of families supported by the Corner Market Food Pantry increased by 400 percent and Kosher Meals On Wheels had a 30 percent increase in deliveries. JFCS has been a lifeline and safety net for many who had nowhere else to turn in times of crisis.
At 6:30 a.m. — with their tire pressure checked, their seats adjusted, and their helmets fastened — the first riders of the day, the brave 50-mile cyclists, began their ride. At staggered times throughout the morning, other riders left for the 25-, 10-, and 3-mile routes. Families, teams, and lone riders, who had spent months fundraising and training, pedaled down King Road as they embarked on their ride to fight hunger.
That day, JFCS also offered a hike guided by Rachel Erlich and bike-riding lessons taught by Shephard Grinker of the Tenafly Bicycle Workshop; that new class gave families with younger children a way to be involved in the day.
Three teenagers — Willa Becker, Ben Ashkenase, and Zachary Krohn — celebrated becoming bar and bat mitzvah at the ride, making their big day a great way to do a mitzvah for those less fortunate. “It was such a wonderful way for Zachary to have fun with his friends and family while helping people in need,” his mother, Nava Krohn, said. “JFCS took care of every detail to make it a perfect morning for Zachary.”
As the rides finished, riders trickled back into the Spectra parking lot for their kosher boxed lunches, which were donated by Holy Name Medical Center. This year’s Ride to Fight Hunger brought in nearly $180,000.
People in our community turn to JFCS for support in many different areas, whether it be food, mental health counseling, older adult services, or family case management. The pandemic made all these needs even more urgent.. Reflecting on this, board member Shira Feuerstein said, “This was the 11th annual ride, and now, more than ever, people in our community struggle with food insecurity every day. Each year we raise more money and awareness for JFCS and the amazing work that the agency does. We appreciate all of the support.”
It’s not too late to donate to the Ride to Fight Hunger. JFCS is 99 percent of the way to its goal, and the donation page on the Wheels for Meals website still is accepting donations. Donate at ridetofighthunger.com.