Marlboro Diner owner demonstrates servant leadership amid pandemic
What does it mean to be human?
In part, this means to serve others instead of being served, to put others first before yourself, to give whatever you have of yourself to others especially those who need it most.
Our skills and our abilities are always best served when they can do good for the world and they come especially in handy during a time of crisis when people come together to overcome obstacle after obstacle.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is affecting many people and businesses in many different ways including financially with some places struggling to stay open due to a shortage of staff or necessities they need to keep the doors revolving.
Kara Petrou is the proud owner of the Marlboro Diner on Route 9 in Monmouth County and even though here doors were closed to the public last month, her work and commitment to the local community is still very much open for business.
While the business is closed to the public, they continue to offer curbside pickup and in certain cases Kara herself is personally delivering food to elderly residents living in Covered Bridge community in Manalapan, Marlboro Greens community and Mill Ponds in the Morganville section of Marlboro Township.
"They're scared to go out because they're more prone to getting this virus so I thought a nice way to give back is to personally deliver the meals (while wearing protective gear) and let them know that we're they're for them," Petrou told WOBM News. "I think they appreciate it because they're stuck in their house, they're scared so a good hot meal is something they look forward to."
Kara has also donated milk, eggs and bread to a local assisted living facility.
Many of the people who go to this diner are regulars and they have built a community together within the diner.
"I feel like our diner is a family oriented place and everybody there is treated like family," Petrou said. "It's hard because I'm so used to seeing all these people everyday. I feel like we owe it to them, to our community, to show them that we're here to support them and that we will get through this together."
She said that offering these services and meals is a way of bringing the diner vibe to any of their customers homes.
"I know it's just food but it's so much more than that. I'm very big on family so I want people to feel that even though we're all quarantined and not with each other right now, we are in fact family and we will be reunited," Petrou said.
Above all else, Kara and the Marlboro Diner are providing a free meal to all first responders that come in and have a uniform or a badge to confirm their line of service.
"The diner is like their second kitchen, they come in for breakfast, lunch, dinner and they know that that's their safe haven to come in have a good meal and feel at home," Petrou said. "If anyone on the front lines comes in whose been risking their lives to help us, will get the best service they can get and everything is on the house from our hearts to them."
In an effort to keep the community together in the midst of these hard times, Kara has put up signs over the windows of the diner with a number of messages dedicated to the community, small businesses and first responders.
"The signs I put up are not only to make people aware that we are open but it's to pay homage to our local community and to show that we are in fact #MarlboroStrong and we will get through this together," Petrou said. "Marlboro Strong means so many things to me, not only as a community but within the diner itself. I miss our diner family, the wait staff, management, kitchen staff...this has been such an adjustment to not be around my diner family. I just think it's very important to show everyone around that we are all in this together."
The hope is that all the local businesses will work together in supporting the community.
"If we all stick together and promote each other and show everyone that we are working together to serve the community in more ways than one, I think we can get through this," Petrou said. "I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy and with their families. The most important thing is family."
Kara Petrou is the example of servant leadership that helps the Jersey Shore overcome any obstacle by coming together for the common good.
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