You’re invited to explore the beauty of Hopewell‘s St. Michael’s Preserve while walking to “Stomp Out Hunger,” Sunday, November 6, 9:30 am. This 5K walk benefits The Chubby’s Project, a non-profit group that delivers food and support to those in need. The requested donation of $15 can be made online at https://www.thechubbysproject.org/event-details/stomp-out-hunger-5k-walk/ or at the preserve on the day of the event. No one will be turned away because of lack of funds.

While exploring the walking path, attendees will encounter several greeting stations featuring health and nutrition themes, and will the meet volunteers who tend the garden plot that supplies food for The Chubby’s Project.

Hopewell’s “Stomp Out Hunger” walk integrates the talents and commitments of several individuals and community groups that have joined forces to serve the common good, or, in the words of The Chubby’s Project founder Lyn Farrugia, to practice the act of “intentional neighboring”:

D&R Greenway Land Trust has donated the garden plot where the food is grown, and the Hopewell Harvest Fair donated $1,000 to cover event expenses. Several volunteer groups have signed up to collect donated canned and boxed goods that residents will place by their doorstops on November 6. These Hopewell organizations include Cub Scout Pack 71, the Presbyterian Church, the Council of Churches, the Youth Collective and other Hopewell Valley volunteers.

The roots of The Chubby’s Project go back to 2019. Aunt Chubby’s Luncheonette (a separate entity from the Project but works in tandem with it) had partnered with the Cavalry Babtist Church and the Hopewell Council of Churches to help those in need by issuing gift cards that individuals could use for hot meals at the luncheonette.

When the COVID pandemic caused the restaurant to shut down temporarily, Farrugia met the challenge by coming up with a new plan, which became The Chubby’s Project Lunch Program in use today.

The Project delivers hot meals and groceries to those in need and stocks two free food pantries in town. Aunt Chubby’s Luncheonette prepares the meals and provides them to the Project at cost. The operation is made possible through fundraising efforts like the Stomp Out Hunger event, grants, and produce harvested from the St. Michaels’s garden plot.

“So far, we’ve harvested 2,000 pounds of produce which we’ve given to the community,” said Farrugia. And while people don’t think of Hopewell as an economically stressed town, Farrugia says there are needs in the community that may not be obvious to people in general. “We have pockets of people, seniors, people who temporarily lost their jobs during the pandemic, and people who are convalescing after a stay in the hospital,” she said.

The inspiration behind The Chubby Project comes from –no surprise here—Chubby—a nickname for Carol Monetelo who was born in Brooklyn in the 1937. Farrugia thinks she was given that nickname because she was a chubby baby, and the name stuck. She grew up, in part, in a Catholic orphanage in upstate New York. As a young adult, she moved to Hopewell to work as a nanny, helping care for Farrugia and her sisters, Joanne and Michelle. She loved Hopewell and the people she met on her walks through the neighborhood, and decided to make this town her permanent home.

According to The Hopewell Valley History Project, the building that houses Aunt Chubby’s Luncheonette has existed since at least the late 1800s, and served as a site for several retail businesses over the years.

In 1979, Chubby and her friend Rose Sponholtz bought the building and founded Rose And Chubby’s, a luncheonette that they operated as a team until 1991 when Sponholtz retired from the business. Chubby continued to run the restaurant until she closed the business in 2012. She continued to live in her upstairs residence just above the business, and was known to come down to the luncheonette to drink coffee and visit with friends.

When Chubby passed away in 2015, she left the restaurant to Farrugia and her sisters. Farrugia and Michelle reopened the restaurant in 2019.

“I want this to be a place for everyone, a place for people to gather, a place for people new to Hopewell and for people who have lived here for a long time,” Farrugia says, adding that Virginia Lewis, a long-time resident and friend of Aunt Chubby, decorates the Luncheonette for all the holidays.

Farrugia speaks of Chubby as a nanny and “aunt” who helped care for her while growing up, and as a wise elder as Farrugia grew older. “Chubby always tried to be the best person she could be,” says Farrugia, adding that Chubby was “very catholic,” in the sense that she believed in and practiced being of service to others and helping those less fortunate than her.

While the Stomp Out Hunger walk provides food for those in need and has been described as a gift to the community, Farrugia says there’s more to it than that. As one who desires to carry on Aunt Chubby’s legacy, Farrugia sees it as a gift to herself.

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