Woody’s in Sea Bright has been giving meals to local hospital workers. Woody’s is no stranger to corporate citizenship – during Superstorm Sandy, it provided about 200,000 meals in the first eight weeks, and later went on to raise nearly $2 million to help businesses and families get back on their feet.  Courtesy photo
Woody’s in Sea Bright has been giving meals to local hospital workers. Woody’s is no stranger to corporate citizenship – during Superstorm Sandy, it provided about 200,000 meals in the first eight weeks, and later went on to raise nearly $2 million to help businesses and families get back on their feet. Courtesy photo
" Now, more than ever, we should be looking at business practices and whether they stand for the same Catholic values in which we profess to believe.  "
To hear Chris Wood tell it, his business plan is pretty straightforward.

“We are doing everything we can not to exacerbate the problem that this crisis is presenting.”

Wood is the co-owner of Woody’s Grille in Sea Bright and Tinton Falls, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s helping keep his community fed and his employees paid – both of which he believes is his obligation as a business owner.

“We’re in a position where we can help,” says Wood, who attended Holy Cross Academy, Rumson, and its sponsoring parish. “I think it’s our responsibility to do so, no matter how little that might be.”

When the coronavirus began shuttering businesses across the state, Wood had to close his Tinton Falls eatery but kept Sea Bright open, instituting a pay-what-you-can model in these tough times. He then started getting calls from other local businesses offering to underwrite food costs if Woody’s would supply meals to the hospital workers fighting COVID on the front lines, which it did.

“By keeping this business up and running, we’re helping keep the wheels of commerce turning – our employees, our vendors, our suppliers.

“It’s pretty simple,” he says.

Maybe in theory, but reading and listening to the news can tell a different story: price gouging on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Safety complaints from employees concerned with overcrowded workspaces and limited disinfectant wipes.

Then, there are states having to bid for masks and ventilators. As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a few weeks ago, “I’ll contract with a company for 1,000 masks. They’ll call back 20 minutes later and say, ‘The price just went up,’ because they had a better offer. Other states who are desperate for these goods literally offer more money than we were paying. It’s a race that’s raising prices higher and higher.”

Closer to home, Performance Supply LLC of Manalapan is being sued by industrial company 3M after being accused of passing itself off as a 3M supplier and attempting to sell N95 respirator masks to New York City at a 600 percent markup.

Now, more than ever, we should be looking at business practices and whether they stand for the same Catholic values in which we profess to believe. We have a consumer responsibility to research the companies from which we purchase and make sure they are looking out for the common good, our fellow man, and not just at the bottom line and “me and mine.”

In his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis says, “We must regain the conviction that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world.” (Ch. 6, Par. 229)

And on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Pope said, “Let us welcome this time of trial as an opportunity to prepare for our collective future,” because without a vision that embraces everyone, “there will be no future for anyone.”

So ask yourself: During the pandemic, did my favorite stores continue to pay wages – even if it was reduced – like Microsoft? Did they give to their community, like Prudential Financial in Newark, which donated 153,000 face masks and 75,000 respirators for health care workers – emergency preparedness resources it has kept on hand since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks? Did companies such as Amazon, Walmart and eBay do their best to report third-party sellers on their sites who were overcharging?

Do the research: Do the corporations and businesses I give my money to use any of their funds to help my community, my state, my country, the world?

Wood, who worked on Wall Street for 25 years, and co-owner Peter Forlenza, who’s still there, believe looking out for their employees and their community is a “win-win for everybody.”

“If they [the community] has to choose between paying rent, utilities or food, we’ll help alleviate part of the food problem as long as we can,” Wood says.

Yes, it’s not always easy to discern which businesses to patronize, and sometimes our budgets dictate where we shop. But we must keep our eyes open and try our best to be responsible consumers.