More than 14 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the impact of that Tuesday morning in 2001 continues to have a ripple effect in the Garden State. That includes a Basking Ridge-based nonprofit whose members have become pillars of strength in the Somerset County area.

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The initial idea behind Heartworks, which has now been active in the community for over a decade, was to pass along the same kind of compassion and acts of kindness that founder Megan McDowell's family experienced after 9/11. McDowell's brother-in-law, John Farrell, died at the World Trade Center that day.

"I lived at my sister's house for about six weeks after the attacks, and basically witnessed the world showing up at her doorstep," said McDowell, who is also the executive director of the group.

Women comprise the overwhelming majority of Heartworks' membership, but anyone in a family in need -- whatever that need may be, and whatever the cause -- can benefit from the services the group offers.

"We serve our direct community in terms of bringing meals to people, driving people to doctor's appointments, walking people's dogs, delivering gifts," McDowell said. "We try to meet people's needs in as personal of a way as possible, and we can really help anyone that is going through an illness or grief."

Not only have local residents responded positively to the foundation's outreach efforts, but businesses have also taken note. One of those is Diamond Dream Fine Jewelers in Bernardsville, which will celebrate 30 years in business from Oct. 24 to 31. The jewelry store, which is rebranding itself Diamond Dream Jewelry and Apparel during that week, plans to donate a portion of the anniversary proceeds to Heartworks, and will also make an additional contribution at a private celebration.

"The proceeds from the night are going to come directly to Heartworks, which is awesome," McDowell said. She adds that the generosity shown by Diamond Dream aligns with the mission of her organization: "Living life with gratitude, not taking anything for granted, giving when we're in a position to give, and receiving when it's our turn to receive."

To find out more about Heartworks and the people they serve, go to

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.