When the coronavirus pandemic first began, Jai Narula looked for a way to aid those on the frontlines of the pandemic.
He found it through a new initiative called Meals for Heroes. The Montgomery High School freshman would focus his efforts on providing hot meals to medical staff at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick.
Meals for Heroes was founded by two Hillsborough High School siblings, who are friends with Jai. They suggested that he join their effort, which spurred him to create Meals for Heroes-Montgomery, Jai said.
“My friends Raj and Navleen Boparai are from Hillsborough High and we volunteer at my parents’ business Code Ninjas and they asked me if I wanted to do Meals for Heroes with them,” Jai said. “For me and my family, service to other people is really important for us, so this was easy for to be a part of. I just love helping others.”
Jai, 14, has raised more than $5,000 in funds and helped provide more than 400 meals.
“We are posting on Facebook at the Meals for Heroes page and others and [are] asking people to donate money through Venmo to my mom,” Jai said.
He partnered with Genteel’s Brick Oven Pizza and Ristorante in Skillman to provide the hot meals to the medical staff in the seven COVID-19 units at Saint Peter’s.
“For every $10 that we raise will be able to provide a meal and drink to the medical staff,” Jai said. “James Genteel, owner of Genteel’s, makes the meals. His wife Dawn packs up the meals and delivers them to the front entrance of the hospital. The staff then collects them and distributes them.”
Jai said James Genteel approached him about partnering in the new effort from Montgomery. Both of Genteel’s daughters were born at Saint Peter’s and the family lives in Piscataway.
“That is our connection to the hospital. We wanted to get involved with feeding the hospital. We found out about the Meals for Heroes out of Montgomery through Facebook,” James Genteel said. “We are providing everything from pizza pies, salad, salads with chicken, sandwiches and drinks. We switch it up so the medical staff is not just eating pizza.”
He added that being a part of Meals for Heroes is a way for the restaurant to give back, and it also helps small businesses who may need the help.
“We are still signed up and still taking donations from whoever wants to make the donation to this effort. We are still going forward with helping those at Saint Peter’s hospital on [the] frontlines of the coronavirus.”
Meals for Heroes-Montgomery will continue its effort of providing hot meals for the foreseeable future, Jai said. Meals for Heroes primarily uses Facebook to connect with potential donors and to showcase what the group has achieved, according to MJ Narula, Jai’s mom.
“Because they are minors the parents handle the Venmo money. I helped create the Facebook page Meals for Heroes. We use that medium to promote and connect with those who are looking to help,” MJ Narula said. “We are going into different community board and groups and show them what we are doing. We show the receipts of the meals being purchased and delivered.”
She added that they have received a great community response.
“We did not expect it to be this big. It has just been amazing to see how many people have been helping us. The medical staff are working long shifts, not getting much sleep and not really having that much time to eat. They have so much to think about,” MJ Narula said. “For us to be able to provide a hot meal is one less thing they have to think about. This is the least we can do, so they can have the energy to keep going.”
For more information about Meals for Heroes, visit www.facebook.com/mealsforheroes.