Select And Collect

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A group created to support health care workers and first responders who deal with the coronavirus got some extra help this week from a 12-year-old girl who donated all her birthday money.

First started as an organization to help feed hospital workers that have been on the front lines of the coronavirus battle for more than two months, the grassroots “Strangers Helping Strangers” movement has expanded to help provide snacks and meals to nursing home staffs, first responders and even seniors in the city.

Founded by middle school teacher Chris Braitsch, the volunteer group was a way to help others in the community and it just took off from there.

“I started this group about 10 weeks ago,” Braitsch said. “I just put something out to see if people wanted to get involved and it really picked up.”

The group provides a number of services that include purchasing meals for health care workers at nursing homes and hospitals and delivering groceries to city residents who can’t shop for themselves.

Hundreds of city residents have become involved, but one recent helper stands out.

Brianna Geer, a student in Braitsch’s sixth-grade class, used her social distanced 12th birthday to get involved.

She donated her birthday money to the group she first heard about through her mother’s involvement. Brianna said she chose the group because she was so impressed with the volunteers’ efforts.

Brianna would normally have asked for a party to celebrate, her mother Amanda said, but as that’s out of the question during the pandemic, she asked for money gifts she would then pass on to the group.

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“We would have thrown a party so she asked that the money that would have been spent on the party we weren’t having could be used to help that organization,” Amanda said. “We posted the fundraiser on Facebook asking for donations instead of gifts.”

The fundraiser generated about $300, which Brianna’s parents matched. The $600 and two vans worth of groceries were donated to “Strangers Helping Strangers” in honor of Brianna’s birthday.

The city issued a proclamation in her name to thank her for her generosity. She also enjoyed a drive-by parade for her birthday.

Brianna said she’s not done being generous. Accompanied by her mother, she donated personal protective equipment to the medical staff at Valley Hospital on Monday night. She also bought playing cards and puzzle books for the Paramus Memorial Veterans’ Home.

“This girl’s heart is just amazing,” Braitsch said.