Nominator: Jen Giattino
What was their service?
On day one of the pandemic in March 2020, Toni reached out to community leaders and said ‘we need to make sure people have food.’ Over this year, she built the volunteer-led Hoboken Food Pantry and addressed the growing needs of Hoboken’s hungry and underserved, in particular Hoboken’s 1,800 low-income seniors. She serves as a founding board member of the Hoboken Community Center which runs an SRO providing safe housing for 96 men who would otherwise be homeless. She also is a Hoboken hospital board member, appointed and reappointed by two Hoboken mayors, twice leading the fight to save Hoboken’s hospital.
What motivated them to serve/volunteer?
Toni’s words when asked “for me the privilege of an education that permits me to understand the duty of social justice has informed my beliefs back to high school… It’s one thing to see a need and a completely different thing to ….believe one has the ability to address it.” Toni, who is battling stage IV cancer, says when she is at her lowest, as long as the needs of others outweighs the relief she gets from service, she feels morally bound to figure out a way to keep going. She is the definition of a “woman for others”.
What did they achieve/how did they make a difference?
As a Hoboken Community Center board member, Toni started the Hoboken Food Pantry out of a closet in December 2019 to address food insecurities of the 96 low-income men living in the HCC’s SRO housing. This quickly expanded to provide food to the most vulnerable senior citizens in public housing. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the HFP scaled its operations to meet a yet unidentified and growing community need. Toni established partnerships with the City of Hoboken and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and within two weeks, on March 25th, the HFP began collecting and distributing thousands of pounds of food each week. In one year, Toni inspired over 220 engaged volunteers who worked 1,750 hours and 1,200 partners and donors. With this support, the HFP provided 11,615 bags of food to 1,280 households, averaging 350 households twice monthly. The HFP also expanded its offerings to provide 90 families with non-food items such as diapers, toiletries and cleaning products. Toni sources items from the Community Food Bank of NJ, Hudson County, and other private and non-profit food resources. And what the HFP doesn’t use, she personally delivers to other area shelters and charitable organizations. In Toni’s humble words: “The ability of the HFP to serve … is due to the unwavering support provided by many individuals and organizations in our community. It has saved, for example, our senior citizens from choosing between medicine or food and has helped families keep nutritious food on the table”.