FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) of Chatham-Madison is a non-profit organization* that began as a direct response to the 2020 COVID19 pandemic. The mission is simple: send meals to those working on the front lines, while simultaneously providing much-needed business to local restaurants who are struggling financially due to social distancing and other COVID19-related issues.
It all started on March 19, 2020 with one Facebook post. Liz Bernich, of Chatham, NJ, posed a question to the community asking if there was interest in coming together to provide meals to the local hospital during the onset of COVID 19. The response was immediate, and with the first few donations, Liz actively planned a meal delivery to the local ER at Morristown Medical Center. The next day, Liz found a partner in the form of a stranger -- Gina McGuire, from the neighboring town of Madison. Gina knew the idea of lifting spirits of frontline workers coupled with preserving the integrity of the many restaurants that lined Main Street would greatly appeal to her community and that the two big-hearted and charitable neighborhoods could make a huge impact. Liz and Gina joined forces, and they came up with the name FLAG - Front Line Appreciation Group.
The women each appealed to their communities for donations in support of their mission. Next, after careful coordination with their local hospital to see how they could be most helpful, they contacted local restaurants to get them on board as well. For many, FLAG proved to be a lifeline for their small business. The outpouring of community donations was overwhelming- raising over $100,000 in FLAG’s first two weeks!
Inspired by a wave of good-news sharing on social media, many proactive individuals in surrounding towns have since launched efforts to support their own communities. Thrilled to see the kindness spread, Liz and Gina shared information, and common practices, as well as the FLAG logo, so others could benefit from their early traction and success.
As a result, FLAG has become a nationwide movement, with 100+ other community-based groups that serve over 100 hospitals and front line workers across 27 states. These groups operate independently from one another but share a common mission.
On April 12, 2020, approximately three weeks after FLAG of Chatham-Madison’s initial launch, FLAG groups combined reached a major milestone -- exceeding $1M raised nationwide. On April 27, 2020, they achieved another major milestone -- exceeding $1M paid to local restaurants nationwide.
The future state of FLAG has yet to be planned or written. FLAG was formed in the eye of the COVID-19 storm, and Liz and Gina are committed to continuing their efforts to support the front lines, and the local restaurants, through the worst of this battle, provided that funds are available.
For more information, including news and locations of other FLAG groups operating around the United States, please see FLAG2020.org.
*FLAG is recognized by the State of New Jersey as a non-profit corporation effective April 8, 2020, and is operated exclusively for charitable purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. FLAG has applied for recognition of its 501(c)(3) status by the IRS, which, if granted, would be effective retroactive to April 8, 2020.
**Although FLAG provides a link to each of these organizations on its website, each of them is currently operating independently and is not affiliated with or endorsed by FLAG in any form. However, as the activities of FLAG and these organizations expand, it is possible that FLAG may form a relationship or connection with one or more of these organizations in the future.