HACKENSACK, N.J. — Uplifting music blared and rays of brilliant sunshine shown down on the City of Hackensack Saturday morning on rows of cars that lined Central Avenue and 1st Street to obtain turkeys and grocery bags and boxes filled to the brim with food ahead of Thanksgiving. 

This year, the Hackensack Jr. Basketball Team teamed up with Mount Olive Baptist Church to present their Fourth Annual Thanksgiving Turkey (and Trimmings) giveaway for city residents in need. While the basketball team typically hosts their turkey giveaway at Carver Park, a drive-thru was organized with the church where residents with vouchers pulled up to the Life Center of the church to obtain one turkey in addition to one bag of groceries, which contained non-perishable items to make stuffing, gravy, and cans of chicken broth, and even paper products. Hundreds of turkeys and grocery bags were distributed at the event, which were all donated by numerous local businesses in town, the Bergen County Food Security Task Force, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Mount Olive Baptist Church, among many others.

According to Deacon Potts, who is a member of the Bergen County Food Security Task Force, Mount Olive Baptist Church holds a food drive every month and that the day’s event was another special one ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday. Also in attendance was Reverend Carl Phipps, executive director of Hope for Ex-Offenders, a social services organization in Hackensack who was one of the event’s many sponsors. 

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“This year, due to the pandemic, Hackensack joined hands with Mount Olive Baptist Church,” said Deputy Mayor David Sims. “I’m overwhelmed at the turnout. It’s a blessing to feed over 800 people from the community.”

Volunteers from the Delta Sigma Theta and Hackensack High School were on hand with Congressman Josh Gottheimer to hand out the bags of groceries and turkeys to the smiling motorists who pulled up. Gottheimer's stop in Hackensack marked the first of three visits. He also headed up to River Edge to St. Peter the Apostle Church and United Methodist Church in Hillsdale to assist their turkey drives.

“It’s a part of our mission and the efforts of the sorority,” said Gerri Craig, president of the Bergen County Delta Sigma Theta. “It means giving back to those who are less fortunate, especially during Covid. Many brothers and sisters are without jobs and resources. We’re here to be a blessing to those who wouldn’t have a great Thanksgiving if it weren’t for this giveaway opportunity.” 

Volunteers uttered the words “gobble, gobble” and “God Bless” as they handed bags of turkeys and groceries to city residents before they drove away.

“For all who donated, we give you thanks,” said Deacon Robinson.

Feed the Hope

Down the road on First Street in front of Hackensack High School, members of Emmanuel Christian Church held their own giveaway. To the sounds of Christian music, cars lined down the street to pick up a 40-pound box of food enough to feed a family of four. The event was held in conjunction with 13 other east coast churches in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania who, among them, distributed a half-million pounds of food to area individuals in need in a program they call “Feed the Hope.”  

Each box, which bore the words “Hands of Hope” and a quote from scripture, contained a holiday meat, fresh vegetables and fruit, milk, eggs, orange juice, cartons of chocolate milk, canned goods, and a variety of non-perishables. Volunteers from the church and the Bergen County Sheriff's Office were on hand to distribute them. 

The coalition of Christian churches works to bring hope and restoration to the most vulnerable communities to serve those who are hurting, isolated and disenfranchised, according to Feed the Hope’s official website. 

“It sprung out with the need in the community during this pandemic for food, and the hope is our communities has grown so much over the year,” explained Christine Fiortelli, youth leader and volunteer coordinator at Emmanuel Christian Church. “People have lost their jobs, and they’re afraid, and we want them to know that Jesus loves them and is providing their needs, and we’re there to bring that message to them.”

Those who are in need of food and were unable to make Saturday’s event, can participate in Emmanuel Christian Church’s Harvest to Hope program at ecchackensack.org/h2h