NJ restaurant marks 100 days serving senior citizens during COVID-19 crisis

GLOUCESTER CITY, N.J. -- "From that day forward, we've become more of a charity organization than a business," said Michael Soll, owner of RiverPark Pub.

He recalled St. Patrick's Day earlier this year, which is historically among the biggest business days for a venue like his.

This time, however, COVID-19 was just starting to put the lock on restaurant doors across the country.

Soll, unable to serve his customers, decided to serve his community.

The idea sparked when he had a conversation with his 99-year-old grandmother.

"I'm fortunate enough that my grandmother was OK," he said. "And we have a lot of seniors around here that I thought maybe they're not provided for."

Since then, his mindset has moved away from his business and towards community service.

In 100 days, Soll has provided over 7,000 free meals to seniors in need in the Gloucester City area. He and a fellow volunteer, Daniel Monk, even make efforts to pick up groceries, toiletries, and their medications as well.

Bonnie Schmidt is one of the senior citizens Michael Soll has helped over the last few months. "It's just a life-saver, it really is. I don't know what we would do without him," she said.

RiverPark Pub has every intention of continuing their mission daily, so long as it can survive. Most of the costs are covered by Soll himself.

"I've been broke before. I've had to start over before," he said. "I'd rather see the economy die than people die."

Thankfully, some individuals no longer need Soll's services. It signals one of the two possible outcomes for the end of his mission. Either everyone is self-sufficient, or there are no more funds left to continue.

RiverPark Pub remains open for take-out in addition to their free meal program. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating can visit the RiverPark Pub Facebook page.

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