TOMS RIVER – A CBS news crew was in town to celebrate volunteers who give out food every Friday, and to spread the word about the program to people in need.
The Pop the Trunk giveaways are held every Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church at 1070 Hooper Avenue. The event is rain or shine, and you don’t have to be a Toms River resident to partake.
The giveaways started on March 18, 2020, just after COVID-19 closed doors of businesses and schools. This cut the income of residents in the area. Additionally, some students relied on free meals at school and those were not immediately available.
Reporter Meg Baker interviewed various volunteers, including Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill, who said that even though businesses re-opened, inflation has been hitting people hard.
“Cost of gasoline. Cost of food. Cost of clothing. So we are seeing a constant flow. It hasn’t really ebbed,” he said.
At one point, Baker interviewed Terrance Turnbach, who leads the group of volunteers, and Maria Maruca. They were both former members of the Township Council – from different political parties – who continue to work side by side at these events.
“I think what we uncovered in the pandemic was that the need was always there,” Turnbach said.
This underlines a point that economic experts have said – the system is very difficult on the average person, and all it takes is one hardship for someone to suddenly find themselves in need.
During those two years, there has been 2.7 million pounds of food given to local residents, according to Chuck Watson, Operations Manager of Fulfill.
But the volunteers are getting a different kind of nourishment as well. Maruca said that a friendly greeting goes a long way in making people feel welcome. “It’s camaraderie and socialization for some people that might not get it,” she said.
It’s called “Pop the Trunk” because the food is put in there when people drive up. This started when pandemic restrictions were stronger, and person-to-person contact was to be avoided.
But some volunteers will pop their own trunk – going on deliveries to people who are homebound or who don’t have transportation of their own, said volunteer Jennifer Howe, who is also president of the Toms River Board of Education.
How To Help
Fulfill is always open to people who want to give of their time and their heart. To volunteer or donate, visit fulfillnj.org. Sponsorship opportunities are available.
The group has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, a website that judges nonprofits on how much of their donations go to actual programs and how transparent they are. Of every dollar donated, 95 cents goes directly to feeding the hungry.