In early April, Riverside resident Amy Jacksic was on the telephone talking to her healthy and still-working 74-year-old father, Rich Jacksic, who lived in northern New Jersey.
They discussed how many people were losing their jobs and hurting financially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They talked about how many people were likely falling through the gaps of governmental aid efforts and how everyday citizens could help their neighbors until government programs began functioning.
Just a couple days later, on April 7, Rich Jacksic started feeling ill and was having trouble breathing. His son was driving him to the hospital that same day when Rich Jacksic suddenly stopped breathing and died as result of somehow contracting COVID-19.
When Amy Jacksic got the call, she knew she couldn’t go to New Jersey for a funeral or memorial because of social distancing requirements. Instead, Jacksic decided she could do what she and her father had talked about, helping neighbors.
She posted a message on the Riverside Community Facebook page seeking donations to help needy fellow Riversiders.
“I started since the day I got the call about my dad,” Jacksic told the Landmark. “We had been talking about it like two days before. That’s just how he rolled; he would give money to anybody who needed it. He was just a great guy.”
The response to the Facebook post was immediate.
“Within hours money was pouring in,” Jacksic said. “I could not believe how much money was pouring in.”
In just three weeks Jacksic has raised just over $10,000. She decided to use the money to buy gift cards to Riverside Foods and give them to those in need.
“At the end of the day, I really wanted the money to go back into the community,” Jacksic said.
As of April 27, Jacksic has distributed 28 gift cards totaling $6,000, benefitting 82 residents of Riverside.
The effort is now being called the Riversiders in Need fund.
While most donations have been small, typically in the $25 to $50 range, some have given much more. Riverside realtor Rory Dominick has donated a little more than $2,000 through her Front Porch fundraiser, where photos are taken of Riverside families on their front porches in return for a $25 donation.
Jerry Owens donated $1,000 from his Quarantunes fundraiser, an online concert series. Another local couple who wanted to remain anonymous donated $1,500. Riia O’Donnell, who is sewing face masks for local residents, is donating whatever contributions she gets for her masks.
Most contributions are made through PayPal or Venmo although Jacksic said that she also accepts checks.
Those wanting to contribute or needing help should email Jacksic at email@example.com or contact her via her Facebook page at facebook.com/amy.jacksic.
“We’ve never said no to anybody,” Jacksic said.
Jacksic is the only person who knows the identities of the gift card recipients. She personally delivers them in a touchless manner.
“It’s completely anonymous,” Jacksic said.
Recipients must live in Riverside. Jacksic said that it has been tough to turn down requests from those in in surrounding communities, but the fund was started to help Riversiders, and she feels she must keep to that original mission.
“It is heartbreaking to say no to people,” Jacksic said. “But we set the mission at the beginning. Let’s help our neighbors. … There are plenty of people in Riverside who are asking for assistance.”
Right now contributions to the fund are probably not tax deductible, because Jacksic is doing this all informally by herself and has not set up a formal nonprofit.
“I don’t have time to set up a 501c3,” Jacksic said, adding that the help is supposed to be short term until government programs kick in.