Giving is the Good Life

A Martinsville Teenager Discovers the Meaning of Compassion in a North New Jersey Bodega

People say that they want to make a difference, but often do not follow through. However, when you do make the effort, the rewards are great. 

I speak from experience. I am a volunteer at Benny’s Bodega, a non-profit based on Main Street in Newton. What I learned there most people would never see in a lifetime. 

This bodega isn’t your ordinary bodega. Bodegas typically have shelves stocked with convenience foods for sale. At Benny’s Bodega, everything is completely free! It’s stocked to the brim with all the essentials and even has a pet section. 

To shop here, someone only needs proof of employment or retirement. During a patron’s first visit, volunteers create an ID for them to use at each visit—like a Costco membership card, but it’s free. 

Benny’s Bodega was started by Benjamin “Benny” Davey and his wife, Heather. The bodega receives food from corporations such as Wegmans and Whole Foods that are nearing expiry, and volunteers drive their pickup trucks to the stores to pick items up. They then organize and filter through all the products to assure the best quality for their customers. 

It is completely run by volunteers, who pour their precious time and affection into it. They even send out emails to their towns to organize drives, help customers in need and provide emotional support for shoppers. They truly care about their community, and the bodega runs on their empathy and hardworking characteristics. 

On my first day at the bodega, a woman dropped off some trash bags and started shopping for groceries. When I began sorting through the bags, I discovered they were filled with baby clothes, maternity clothing and shoes. Even though this woman was shopping at the bodega, she did a good deed to help others who are in need. 

On my second day, a man walked in and asked if there were any maxi pads. Since we had not received any donations of pads, I asked him if tampons were okay? He shook his head sadly and left. I learned from a long-time volunteer that he was a recovered addict who is raising six daughters as a single father. 

People who used to shop at the bodega but are now at a better place in life continue to donate. It’s an endless cycle of compassion and empathy, which is what makes Benny’s Bodega so special. It was ranked as Sussex County’s No. 1 non-profit from 2022 and 2021. There’s a reason why this place has been successful for so many years: It relies on honesty. It is a beacon of hope for the people of Newton and its neighbors, and it will be for years to come.

To learn more about Benny’s Bodega and donate visit BennysBodega.com.

Archisha Sonig, a resident of Martinsville, is a junior at Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset. Follow her on her blog "Teen Politics," at SubStack.com/@ArchishaSonig.

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