Food donations in Atlantic City welcomed by out of work casino employees

The cars stretch almost a mile out. Some arrived two hours early to be in line before the food drive opened.

“A lot of these people depend on this food every two weeks,” said volunteer Patrick McGurk. “It’s very sad. It’s an unprecedented thing for Atlantic City, as is with all over the country. Most of us are still out of work right now.”

McGurk says the majority of the people he sees are casino workers. All nine casinos in Atlantic City were ordered to shut down on March 16.

All but one, Borgota Hotel and Casino, reopened last week with the mandatory 25% capacity limit with no indoor dining.

“It’s been rough on people. I mean, people are getting the extra $600 unemployment, so that’s helping them out a lot but that’s going to stop in a few weeks. As you can see, we have more cars than usual for the food drive,” he said.

It’s especially tough for McGurk, who has worked at Borgata as a waiter for 20 years. He doesn’t blame the casino for its decision but it doesn’t make it any less difficult.

About a third of the 26,450 full- or part-time people working in Atlantic City’s in March have been called back to work.

Arcangel Gomez wasn’t one of them. He worked in the banquet hall at Golden Nugget for 14 years. He says his job depends on the restaurant opening.

Maria, a mother of two and a casino kitchen worker for 35 years, says she is back part-time but that it’s still tough to pay the bills.

“A lot of people need this,” she said.

“Most of the people here are trying to feed their families,” McGurk said.

Roughly 1,400 cars, some families even carpooling, each collected two boxes of non-perishable goods, two boxes of fresh produce and some additional dairy items.

More than 177,000 pounds of food was collected and handed out. It’s all thanks to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Atlantic City casinos and local unions. Many who have a stake in the game pulled together to help the more than 2,000 families in need.

“It’s good to do good for people. You have to find things in the pandemic that are going to make you feel good,” McGurk said.

The group plans to host another food drive in two weeks.