Carolina Moratti organized a collection of prom dresses that were distributed to New Brunswick High School seniors last spring.
She was the driving force, with the support of the Middlesex County Commissioners and other organizations, behind the city’s Mexican flag-raising ceremony and festival in September.
She spoke about escaping a violent relationship at the 21st Annual March and Rally Against Domestic Violence organized by the New Brunswick Domestic Violence Awareness Coalition in October.
She donned fuzzy red boots, a Santa hat and a big smile when she posed for photos with residents as Mrs. Claus in December.
She’s planning to host another free-of-charge community store next week for pregnant moms and other women at coLAB Arts’ space in the First Reformed Church on Bayard Street.
The role of community organizer doesn’t come with an employee manual, but rather it boils down to springing into action when there are people in need, says Moratti, one of TAPinto New Brunswick’s People to Watch in 2024.
“When I came here (from Peru), obviously it wasn’t easy,” she said. “I went through a lot of things. One thing that was always getting my attention was people saying, ‘You don’t have to help people. They have to learn on their own.’ That wasn’t right, to me.”
Moratti is inspired by the moments of kindness people – even complete strangers – have shown her.
There was that time she was sick, and this single mom didn’t have a car to go to a doctor or a credit card to place an order on the phone. Yet, a taxi driver volunteered to make a stop at a pharmacy and bring her some medicine.
Now, the proud single mother is eager to pave the way for others in New Brunswick who may not be aware of various services in the city. And if there is no specific service, she’ll do it herself.
That’s how she launched the Birthday in a Box program during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She saw a social media post from a frustrated mom who wished she had more to offer her child on his birthday than a tortilla. Through the power of her personality, she urged others to help.
“So, I went to Facebook and I posted online and said, ‘I need a cake. I need this. I need that,’ ” she said.
Soon, kids across New Brunswick were waking up on their birthdays to find a box with a cake, toys, party favors, candy and other items.
As Moratti continues to care for the city, she has also focused on self-care.
Her weight-loss journey began four years and 150 pounds ago.
“I was very ill,” she said. “I was diabetic. I had a fatty liver. I would get tired. I couldn’t even breathe. I had sleep apnea.”
The turning point came when she was short of breath and had to call an ambulance. She remembers how the incident scared her son Abraham.
Moratti lost a lot of weight, then had a gastric sleeve inserted in her abdomen.
“My brother, my sister, my cousin, we grew up working in the family restaurant,” she said. “We speak the language of food. For all of them, the first surgery worked out. But for me, it did not. So I had to have a second surgery, gastric bypass.”
She lost so much weight through 2023 that people at the community events sometimes didn’t recognize her at first.
“Since I did lose 150 pounds, I was like, ‘I hope they still call me to be Mrs. Claus again,” she said with a laugh.
Moratti, who works as a phlebotomist, has plans to expand her community commitments in 2024, like continuing to make videos demonstrating to the community how to take unfamiliar products that might come from a pantry and turn them into a delicious meal.
That continued work is important because there’s a lot of people across the city who need a helping hand. But also, she hopes she is serving as a role model for Abraham, a junior who is in a dual-enrollment program at the East Brunswick Magnet School that helps him earn credits at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He also harbors dreams of going to school to get a law degree.
“I’m not hoping Abraham takes over the community work,” Moratti said. “I am hoping to be a person who is sensitive and respectful and who understands community, who understands inclusion, who understands and celebrates diversity.
“So, if I’m able to get my son to be sensitive and respectful, and understand and respect everybody, that’s all I want.”
Story Credit: Chuck O'Donnell
Photo Credit: TAPinto New Brunswick