Facebook photo/Aunt Chubby’s Luncheonette.

A grassroots campaign started last week by a Hopewell resident raised more than $13,000 to support borough restaurants during the Covid-19 crisis.

David Friedrich, the principal of Hopewell Elementary School and the person who orchestrated the campaign, posted the results of the effort to his Facebook page today. Friedrich says that more than a hundred people purchased more than 225 gift cards worth more than $10,000. In addition, contributors pledged more than $3,000 to support restaurant staff members whose hours have been negatively affected by the crisis.

After Gov. Phil Murphy ordered restaurants to close except for take-out and delivery service, Friedrich created a Google doc and shared it locally on social media. Contributors who accessed the document could buy gift cards or donate money to support restaurant staff. Friedrich was “blown away” by the response.

“Our local restaurants are really the backbone of the community,” Friedrich says. “When my family experienced a house fire two years ago, the restaurants were among the first to step up and help my family personally with complimentary gift cards. And as a local principal, I can tell you that our restaurants regularly step up and provide complimentary services. And I felt it was time to give back to them.”

The campaign lasted for two days last week and afterward, Friedrich visited each restaurant to buy the gift cards and then deliver them to the contributors.

“I felt like it was so important for two reasons: number one, our restaurant owners needed some cash flow coming in. But just as importantly, they needed to see that the community was behind them,” Friedrich says.

David Friedrich. (2018 file photo.)

He says the conversations he had with the restaurant owners while picking up the gift cards — always at a distance in order to observe social distancing protocol — were heartfelt and extremely moving. “If we were allowed to embrace, that would have occurred in nearly every restaurant,” he says.

He also received handwritten notes from many of the people to whom he delivered the gift cards. “It served as yet another opportunity why I feel so blessed to be a part of this community,” he says.

Boro Bean and Aunt Chubby’s Luncheonette were two of the area restaurants to thank Friedrich and contributors online for their support.

“We are beyond grateful and humbled for the outpouring of love and support for our little luncheonette,” reads a message on the Aunt Chubby’s page. “Thank you to everyone who bought gift cards and donated to our business. It is our commitment and Aunt Chubby’s legacy that keeps us open to help those in need. We are here for you.

“We would also like to give a special shout out to David Friedrich, who organized this fund drive for borough restaurants. Thank you David for your commitment to helping local restaurants in a time of need. We are extremely grateful. We love this town and the people who call it home.”

Boro Bean owner Ellen Abernathy shared a similar message on the Hopewell Pennington Update group page. “David E Friedrich, we already loved you and your commitment to this special town, but this effort has really moved us at Boro Bean,” Abernathy wrote. “In these really uncertain times, it is so wonderful to know your community is behind you! Thank you to everyone who donated and bought gift cards. It truly speaks volumes. We love this town and the people in it.”

Friedrich was keen to express that the campaign’s success is due to the entire community coming together to show support for local restaurants.

“The community rallied together in one of the most challenging times we’ve ever experienced and clearly demonstrated to our restaurant owners that we’re with them and ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with them,” he says.

This article has been updated to add some direct quotes from David Friedrich.

Have members of your community gone to extraordinary lengths to help those in need at this time? Send us your stories: news@communitynews.org.