A $250,000 naming gift from Ed Russo and the Russo Family Foundation of Russo Development helped the Meadowlands Area YMCA raise $846,000 at its annual Heart of the Meadowlands Gala last week.
The event, held at Il Villaggio, was intended to highlight the food insecurity issues in the Meadowlands community. More than 100 companies and individuals made contributions.
The Russo gift helped the Y easily surpass its goal of $700,000. As a way of thanks, the group will rename its food pantry to the Russo Family Food Pantry.
The gala honored Ed Russo, John Saraceno Jr. of Onyx Equities, Jose Lozano of Hackensack Meridian Health and Table to Table, out of appreciation for their commitment to the Meadowlands community and their generous donations to the food pantry.
Food insecurity in the metropolitan area is a sign of the times. Since the start of the pandemic, the Meadowlands Area YMCA food pantry, largely coordinated by volunteers, has distributed more than 2.5 million meals.
The YMCA food pantry primarily serves Bergen and Hudson counties with weekly service, whereas its monthly food distribution program has a broader geography and is open to anyone who gets in line, which is frequently 300 cars long.
Meadowlands Area YMCA CEO David Kisselback said the money raised will have great impact.
“After the gala, we will continue to cultivate support for the food pantry, as our intention is for it to operate in perpetuity,” he said. “We want to make sure we satisfy both cohorts because we see license plates from out of state that will wait in line for three hours to get a $20 box of food, and that shows how drastic the situation has become.”
Ron Simoncini, chairman of the YMCA for the past 11 years, said the impact of the Meadowlands Area YMCA is great. He thanked all of those who helped.
“The Y is a lot of things to a lot of people, and, within six years of opening our doors, we’re not only a center for fitness, wellness and day care — we are one of the largest social services agencies in Bergen County,” he said. “Our goal of 240 attendees was as important as our fundraising goal, and the fact that we will host more than 300 is very gratifying.”