BY DONALD WITTKOWSKI
They are known as the Monday Mahjong Madness Club or the Monday Mahjong Girls.
This civic-minded group of mahjong-playing retirees includes women from Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Strathmere, Avalon and some of the surrounding mainland communities of Cape May County.
They have been limited in their usual fundraising efforts this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but they have found another way of giving back to the community by making donations each month to a food bank run by the United Methodist Church in Sea Isle. Their next donation to the food bank will be on Monday.
“It’s wonderful what they do,” Chris Donohue, a mahjong player from Sea Isle, said of the church’s efforts to provide food for families in need.
Members of the mahjong club are expected to load boxes of food into two hatchback SUVs in the parking lot at the VFW Post 1963 in Sea Isle and then drive the donations across the street to the church, Donohue said.
She explained that some of the food comes from collection boxes that mahjong members Barbara Doring of Sea Isle and Wendy Dougherty of Strathmere place outside their homes.
“People know to bring it to them,” Donohue said of Doring and Dougherty.
The pantry at United Methodist Church is part of the Cape May County food bank network, so it serves people throughout the county, not just in Sea Isle. A room inside the church at 4102 Central Ave. has been converted into a pantry offering free food.
Melissa Doyle-Waid, the church pastor, explained in an earlier interview that demand has been heavier at the food bank amid the pandemic.
The importance of the food pantry has grown dramatically in Cape May County as businesses have shut down and workers lose their jobs during the pandemic’s economic crisis.
Other household staples are needed, too, Doyle-Waid said. The food cupboard also gives out such things as toilet paper, laundry detergent, shampoo, toothpaste, diapers and baby formula.
Local residents, businesses, civic organizations and other donors have been stepping up to help the church replenish the food bank as demand has increased, Doyle-Waid pointed out.
Donohue said the mahjong members have been making monthly donations to the food pantry for about three years.
Once they are done helping to restock the shelves of the food pantry, the women will stay together for a Monday mahjong-playing session at an outdoor gazebo overlooking Sea Isle’s municipal marina on 42nd Place.
“There is enough room for 12 of us. We wear masks,” Donohue noted of the outdoor games at the gazebo.
Although the women are playing outside during the pandemic, the VFW has offered to give them space when they are ready to move indoors.
“We appreciate them giving us the room at the VFW,” Donohue said.
In addition to their prowess in playing the Chinese tile-based game, the mahjong members also have demonstrated a skill for charitable fundraising over the years.
For instance, they have donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Coalition Against Rape and Abuse in Cape May County, an organization that helps victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
The pandemic, though, has prevented the mahjong members from holding their traditional fundraisers this year, Donohue said.