Metuchen community proves #OneMetuchen in wake of pandemic

Traveling down Main Street in Metuchen, it's hard to miss the banner and Metuchen Forum Theater with the words "#OneMetuchen." It's a social media hashtag borough officials have encouraged residents and local businesses to use to come together as a community in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.PHOTO BY KATHY CHANG/STAFF
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Traveling down Main Street in Metuchen, it's hard to miss the banner and Metuchen Forum Theater with the words "#OneMetuchen." It's a social media hashtag borough officials have encouraged residents and local businesses to use to come together as a community in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.PHOTO BY KATHY CHANG/STAFF

METUCHEN – Traveling down Main Street in Metuchen, it’s hard to miss the marquee on the Metuchen Forum Theater with the words “#OneMetuchen.”

It’s a social media hashtag borough officials have encouraged residents and local businesses to use to come together as a community in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

There’s a number of instances the community has demonstrated strength and compassion during the pandemic. Mayor Jonathan Busch and borough officials highlighted some of the efforts at a Borough Council meeting via Zoom Video Communications on April 6.

Councilwoman Sheri-Rose Rubin led an effort “You Have a Friend Here” with 115 volunteers, who reached out to residents age 70 and older to check in on them. There are approximately 1,700 residents 70 years old and older in the borough.

Rubin said within two to three days they were able to gather 115 volunteers to make phone calls. Volunteers ranged from high school students to people with backgrounds in psychology and social work.

“I heard from many volunteers who completed their calls, while some numbers were disconnected, might have been the wrong number, or hang ups, a very large number of our seniors appreciated the phone call and enjoyed the conversation,” Rubin said.

The volunteer callers attended a training session via Zoom before their phone calls. Callers shared the borough website for resources. If the resident did not have access to the internet, they shared the phone number for Cathy Ostermueller, director of the Metuchen Senior Center.

“If a volunteer encountered someone in a more desperate situation, we had professionals available to help,” Rubin said.

The councilwoman said they are discussing what their next steps will be as they move forward.

Councilman Daniel Hirsch led the effort “Food for Frontliners” through social media. The efforts raised over $10,000, which was used to purchase take out meals from local businesses and donate them to police, fire, emergency medical services, and JFK Medical Center in Edison.

Funds were also used to provide Easter baskets and food donations for the homeless.

Busch mentioned resident Oscar Valera, who is an English as a Second Language teacher at Kearney High School. The mayor said Valera has been making masks in his basement with his 3D printer and has received requests around the country.

In addition, Council President Linda Koskoski and Borough Clerk Susan Jackson have sewed masks for employees at Borough Hall.

“Someone told me when you’re in a crisis, you realize which people are ready for action,” Busch said. “I haven’t seen anyone in the community shy away from the crisis.”

For more information, visit metuchennj.org. To contact Ostermueller, call 732-632-8524 or email costermueller@metuchen.com.