Today we are featuring the moms behind FLAG: Liz Bernich and Gina McGuire! FLAG, or Front Line Appreciation Group, is dedicated to helping feed our front line health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic while also keeping our local restaurants in business. Read on to learn more about these amazing local moms!

How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
Liz: My husband and I have two children, Kelly is 15, Ben is 12 turning 13 in 3 weeks (quarantine birthday! – guess it’s time to start planning!)

Gina: I have 3 boys: Michael, 16, Jack, 14 and Luke, 12

How long have you lived in (your town)? What made you decide to live here?
Liz: It will be 15 years this summer. We moved here for the community and schools, as well as the access to the midtown direct train line. I work in the city (normally), as an executive recruiter for Caldwell Partners, a retained search firm, and one of my colleagues “recruited” me to move to Chatham when he knew we were looking for a new home. He hit it out of the park when he said “this is your place”.

Gina: I grew up in Maplewood, so when Brian and I were looking for a place to raise our kids I knew I wanted to have that same tight knit community feeling that I had growing up PLUS a Norman Rockwell downtown. We moved to Madison 14 years ago and couldn’t be happier – not only is the downtown perfect and the sense of community strong, like I’d hoped, but the people are truly what make this town amazing.

What’s your favorite family activity Chatham, Madison or Summit?
Liz: I personally love anything involving the schools — the plays, concerts, art shows, and the sporting events. There is so much talent and appreciation for those extracurricular activities, which I am a strong believer in as a way to give someone the chance to try new things, meet new people.

Gina: There are so many family activities in Madison- among our favorites are the Christmas parade down Main Street followed by the countdown to the tree lighting, as well as Bottle Hill Day, St. Baldrick’s and Opening Day for Madison Little League.

Where’s your favorite place to eat and/or shop Chatham, Madison or Summit?
Liz: Oh there are so many!! We are definitely lucky to have so many amazing restaurants — there’s something for everyone. I am always in for pizza, sushi, and ice cream, and a yummy breakfast at one of our restaurants is one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend morning.

Gina: I could never pick favorites – downtown Madison is filled with the best of the best when it comes to restaurants and shops! However, my boys (and maybe even my husband) would say McCools 😉

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Liz: I’m not sure I have any real big surprises here. I have a lot of interests, so anytime I can tap into something new, that’s amazing. I read a lot of nonfiction, educational type books and magazines, and am a recipe hoarder. I love to cook, even if I’m medoicre at it. I like music of most types, including classical and christian rock, but I am 100% in on current music, too. I love crafty projects, gardening, or anything I can get my hands into. I used to be really into photography, including developing my own pictures. My dad thought I’d starve if I pursued my career in the arts, and I’m sure he was right.

Gina: For some reason it is surprising to people that I’ve never had a cup of coffee and we don’t own a microwave (for no other reason than my husband, who is the cook, doesn’t like the way food tastes reheated in one and it takes up too much counter space). What many people might not know about me is that I used to work in television- so I’ve had a lot of unique experiences and have met a lot of news & note-worthy people. One experience that stands out to me is riding along in one of the Clinton administration Presidential motorcade cars as part of the press pool.

Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
Liz: I think parenthood is a journey best taken with a massive network of people to lean on. That said, my husband is the one who I would thank, a milllion times over. He has been an incredible partner to share the journey with.

Gina: Undoubtedly deserving of thanks are my own parents and my husband, Brian.. but I’d also like to thank my kids (haha) They are pretty good so far so I’m very thankful for that!

Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor, or in the corporate world? Please share!
Liz: I co-founded FLAG with Gina McGuire, which is a group that is focused on supporting our local healthcare workers and other front liners (police, fire, postal, etc.) – and supporting our local restaurants.

Gina: Ha.. sometimes I feel like I’m involved in everything.. probably like most moms. Most recently, Liz Bernich and I co-founded FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) of Chatham-Madison as a direct response to COVID19. FLAG is focused on getting meals to our front line workers and also giving much needed business to our local restaurants. I’m currently working with some friends to launch Junior Flag as a way to get kids/teens involved in volunteer efforts that will benefit our front line workers as well and I’m excited to get that out to the community soon!

In addition, I work at Madison High School – normally in the Main Office, but now from a desk in my house. Under normal circumstances my post is such a fun place to be – getting to interact with the kids and seeing first-hand what our teachers do on a day to day basis is nothing short of amazing. Now, with distance learning in place, it is even more impressive to see our teacher’s level of enthusiasm, commitment and ability to be there for our students in such an unprecedented way. It’s also incredible to see the students taking this on with such grace and in stride. The entire education community is working so hard and it’s just one of the many things that makes Madison such a special place.

How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
Liz: It’s been an incredible 6 weeks – the community’s support for both the front liners and restaurants has been nothing short of amazing! (And by “community” I mean Chatham, Madison and Florham Park specifically for our found chapter of FLAG.)

There are so many amazing people who’ve jumped in to help the effort, between financial donations, donations of “products” (like snacks, water, utensils to go along with meals for restaurants who don’t have them available, Girl Scout cookies), awesome fundraisers (donations in exchange for a product or service someone has provided), helping get us news coverage to spread the word, helping pull together our logo, website, managing our Twitter and Instagram accounts, keeping track of the other FLAG chapters, deliveries, YOU NAME IT! There are so many awesome people helping!

We know we are making a big difference in the lives of the front liners and the restaurants – and our community gets to give back and help others, too, which is not so easy to do given our current quarantine situation! We have a ways to go so we hope there will be continued support to keep the flow.

Gina: This community has been totally responsible for the success of FLAG, that’s for sure. I feel so grateful to live in a place where we all support each other and have such a great sense of hometown pride.

What’s your favorite form of self care?
Liz: I love getting a mani/pedi and massages, both of which are off-limits right now which is sad, but it’s more important to stay healthy and safe. I am happy right now being at home, and helping others is honestly more fulfilling than anything I can think of.

Gina: Currently, since massages are not an option (see Michele W. at the Woodhouse Spa for the best massage!), I’d say music is my form of self-care. That, and doing fun things like the Dirty Dancing lift with my husband on the front lawn.

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