Matthew Zarozny, meat manager at the Genuardi's in Egg Harbor Township, has it pretty good.
Yes, the imminent closing of the grocery store Dec. 15 will put him out of his job, but Zarozny is one who knows how to count his blessings. He has a beautiful wife and two lovely daughters. He has a roof over his head and food on his table.
Zarozny recognizes his own good fortune, but he's also aware that not all are so lucky. On Nov. 20, Zarozny and store manager Paul McCloskey teamed up to purchase 50 Thanksgiving dinners for Atlantic County Habitat for Humanity families who have been hit hard by both the economy and the hurricane.
"I've been blessed throughout the years with my health, a beautiful wife and a family that loves me, and everything else," said Zarozny, who lives in the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township. "It's really, truly what this holiday is all about, and really, the holiday coming forward. It's about giving, not receiving, not taking back, and I mean, it's just what I wanted to do."
The store has held holiday collections for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey-Southern Branch each year for the past five years, but Zarozny and McCloskey thought such a drive would be ill-advised, considering the store's imminent closing.
Zarozny got the idea to give to Habitat when he saw a customer with a cart filled to its brim with food. He asked her why she was purchasing such a quantity, and the woman, a Habitat volunteer, explained that many of the organization's families were in great need this holiday season.
Zarozny went to McCloskey with the idea of donating turkey dinners, and the pair agreed to pay for the gift out of their own pockets.
Zarozny reached out to Habitat Atlantic County director Debbie Van Sant, who said she was touched by his and McCloskey's generosity.
"When I talked with Matt and found out he wanted to do this, personally, it actually brought me to tears, that two people cared enough to distribute, to pay for and to do it themselves," Van Sant said. "It's not a store project. It's a personal project."
The dinner boxes, which were distributed from the store's location Nov. 20, included a frozen turkey, a pumpkin pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes and canned vegetables. Each cost about $25, Zarozny said.
Calixto and Alida Chinchilla, a Habitat family who live in Absecon, were among those who received a Thanksgiving box. Calixto expressed his gratitude: "That's real nice. People need it. Some people need it. We're just grateful."
As families struggle with the economy and the hurricane, the organizations that serve them strain to meet this increased need, and Habitat is no exception.
Still, Van Sant has pledged to do everything she can to continue to help those in the area who are hurting, and the generosity of people such as McCloskey and Zarozny goes a long way in helping get the area back on track.
"Our Habitat families are really struggling, because many of them, their hours have been cut," Van Sant said. "Some have been without work, and it's encouraging to us to know there are people who still give just because they're so blessed, and feel so grateful. I think that in many ways, this superstorm Sandy has brought out the best in people, and this is one example."
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