Meals for Heroes
By Helen Yang
Jai Narula and his mother Marisa "MJ" Narula are making the town proud with their Meals for Heroes drive during the pandemic.
Jai, a rising Montgomery High School sophomore and a Boy Scout with Montgomery Troop #850, is working on his Eagle Rank. Marisa is the owner of Code Ninjas in Hillsborough and an avid community volunteer. Together, they sought a way to help the community and give back to local healthcare heroes.
Meals for Heroes was founded by two Hillsborough High School students, Navleen and Raj Boparai, in early March. They asked Jai, a fellow Code Sensei at Code Ninjas Hillsborough, to join their campaign by founding a Montgomery branch of the initiative. The Montgomery branch partnered with Genteel’s Pizzeria in Skillman to provide hot meals to the COVID units at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick. The mother-son pair collect community donations through Venmo, and use the Meals for Heroes Facebook page to connect with donors and to share their progress.
Marisa and Jai have raised $8,500 to date, providing 800 meals to the staff at St. Peter’s. The Narulas raise and collect the funds and coordinate with St. Peter’s staff for the meal delivers. James Genteel, the owner of Genteel’s, makes the meals while his wife, Dawn, packs up the meals and delivers them.
A hospital spokesperson said the first delivery of meals were taken to the ICU and were ‘badly needed’ by the healthcare workers fighting on the frontlines of this pandemic.
The Meals for Heroes fundraiser has expanded to Edison, Basking Ridge, Monroe, and even Queens, NY.
Jai says, “I’d like to thank all those who contributed and made this possible, and my friend Raj Boparai for creating the Meals for Heroes parent initiative that stretched across NJ and NY providing over 3,000 meals statewide.” All branches are organized by local teenagers, with their parents assisting in the operations.
The Narulas, along with the community, helped make this operation successful. “We did not expect it to be this big,” Marisa says. “Montgomery is an amazing place to live with neighbors who truly care for each other. So many people helped make this happen and we are so appreciative. Special thanks to James and Dawn Genteel for partnering with us to bring the St. Peter’s staff healthy and delicious hot meals.” ■