#GirlTalkTakeover’s Music, Meals & More fundraiser aims to boost spirits as Newark Beth Israel fights COVID-19

In these extraordinary times, a nonprofit that normally focuses on raising up inner-city girls has turned its attention to health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

The group, #GirlTalkTakeover, announced Tuesday that an emergency fundraising campaign has raised more than $20,000 in a week for Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, to provide its workers with both locally sourced meals and much-needed stress relief in the form of recorded musical performances.

The founders of #GirlTalkTakeover, Angela Simmons and Kerri Berson Levine, started the Music, Meals & More campaign on April 7, in partnership with Newark Beth Israel and its parent, RWJBarnabas Health. In its first week, the campaign was able to provide hospital employees with more than 1,450 individually packaged meals, as well as needed supplies — and special recordings by JoJo and Austin Brown.

“I am so excited about the level of support we’ve seen in such a short time,” Simmons said in a prepared statement. “It’s not just Newark coming out for Newark; we’re seeing love from the whole state, and across the country. The heroes on the front line, battling this horrible virus, need us more than ever. It’s time for us to give back to them.”

Already, donations should enable Music, Meals & More to deliver another 1,500-plus meals to Newark Beth Israel, #GirlTalkTakeover said. Newark’s Mercato Tomato Pie and Roseland’s Rezza are providing the meals.

“If we’re really going to acknowledge the heroic efforts of health care workers risking their lives for all of us during this pandemic, it’s crucial that we commit ourselves to responding to their very real and very pressing needs,” Levine said in a statement. “A verbal ‘thank you’ isn’t enough.”

Simmons said other musicians from Newark and other parts of the state and nation have offered to help.

“Music is an incredible stress-reliever,” she said. “We are thrilled to have JoJo and Austin perform for our local health care heroes. There is interest from all corners of the music industry, and we’ll shortly announce future performers.”

The recordings were shared through Newark Beth Israel’s intranet.

Simmons and Levine said they hope companies in the Newark area will support their effort through matching grants, even as campaign teams fundraise. Real estate firm Fidelco made a $4,000 matching gift Tuesday, benefiting Simmons’ campaign team, which had raised $5,600 by that morning.

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