Yogi Hiltner received a text message to look out the front door of his Margate home earlier this week.
There on the steps were a couple of sandwiches courtesy of Steve Marchel, one of the co-owners of the Water Dog Smoke House in Ventnor.
Hiltner will turn in 70 in May. He’s trying to stay indoors as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m sure Steve probably had a bunch of drop-offs on his list,” Hiltner said. “Unexpected gifts are always the greatest.”
Water Dog is one of several Atlantic County restaurants doing its best to serve the community while the new coronavirus has disrupted the food lives of many individuals and organizations.
Restaurants are already integral parts of their communities. Through their network of customers, they might know better than any other business who needs a helping hand.
In the past week, Water Dog delivered produce to the Southern Branch of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Egg Harbor Township, six turkeys to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City, and on Tuesday, Water Dog delivered sandwich trays to the nurses at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s Mainland Campus in Galloway Township.
Marchel said the restaurant is committed to delivering a hot meal to anyone who needs one.
“We think it’s an extraordinary time,” he said. “We think it’s the best time for the best of all people to rise up and help each other. Here’s the bottom line: You don’t have to look too far to find somebody else who is less fortunate than you are. Now is the time to help them out.”
Owner and head chef Carlo Marsini of Marsini’s Kitchen in Somers Point began to reach out to the community Saturday. Marsini’s has delivered meals to senior citizens and other residents who can’t leave their homes.
“We just went around talking to local people to see who was in need,” Marsini said. “It’s anybody who can’t get out of their house, the disabled, the elderly. We’re just dropping off some pasta, putting it on their front porch and putting a smile on their faces.”
Marchel, 58, lives in Ventnor and was a standout baseball player at Atlantic City High School and Yale University.
Marsini grew up in Margate. His father, Carl, owned Marsini Jewelers in Margate. His mother, Barbara, owns Marsini Cleaning in Margate.
“We need to teach our kids this is what we have to do,” said Marsini, 37. “My family has always been about giving. This is a learning experience for everyone. If we stay strong, we can get through this.”
The restaurants are also stepping forward to help others at a time when they themselves are struggling for their economical survival.
“We’re all in this together,” Marchel said. “The guys and girls that work with me, we all feel the same. It’s important that we stay open. It’s important we give whatever we can.”
The restaurants are also supplying emotional support. These are uncertain times, and sometimes an unexpected meal from a favorite neighborhood restaurant can be reassuring.
“No one knows what’s going on,” Marsini said. “All you see is negative on social media. Nobody is talking about some of the good things that are happening. Let’s stay safe, get people fed.”
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